• Environmental Careers

    By Lori Tripoli, Academic Chair, Environmental Policy and Management Program

    As individuals embark upon their environmental career paths, they may overlook the fact that their interests are likely to change over time. Just starting out, people tend to be very excited simply to be working in their field. For the first year or two on a job, every activity is new as they learn new skills and gain greater and far more specific knowledge about their specialty.

    A few years in, though, an employee may begin to wonder, what’s next? At this point, employees are likely to appreciate the nature of their job and the possibilities for greater responsibilities and eventual promotion. However, they may also question whether this job a stepping stone to something greater or if they are stuck in a position with minimal chance for greater success. Here is where employees should begin to explore opportunities available with their current organization as well as elsewhere.

    Before deciding to switch employers, a junior employee might talk to his or her supervisor about opportunities to take on additional challenges. One should also consider looking at the career paths of current coworkers, managers, and even managers’ supervisors. What are people with 5, 10, or 15 years of additional experience in this particular organization doing? Does the employee envision himself in a similar position in a few years? What are the chances that such an opening will become available? Would the employee actually want one of these jobs?

    It can also be beneficial to consider job opportunities elsewhere within the organization but in a different specialty area. These might offer different types of responsibilities, opportunities to expand knowledge in the environmental field, or greater potential for long-term advancement.

    On the other hand, an employee might now consider making a lateral move to another organization entirely. Although a new job elsewhere might offer a similar salary and job responsibilities, the type of organization may be very different—whether it’s a different scale or location or one that may offer greater possibilities in the long term. For instance, an employee starting a career at a small environmental consulting firm may soon realize that promotion to a managerial position is unlikely unless one of the firm founders retires or sells the company. Or an employee may realize that she prefers working on sustainability matters for municipal governments rather than on wetlands preservation issues in the private sector. Further, an employee might prefer to spend more time in an office, more time traveling globally, or more time working with stakeholders to reach consensus on environmental issues. The possibilities are almost endless. The point is to make a considered decision that will best serve your long-term career goals.

    As one ponders a lateral move, whether for the same organization or to another one entirely, it may present the opportunity to explore continued education, whether on the job or at a university. By thinking before leaping, researching job possibilities before jumping ship, and contemplating additional educational needs and demands on time, an environmental employee considering a change can make a reasoned and wise career decision.

    Lori Tripoli, JD oversees the undergraduate and graduate environmental policy and management programs at Kaplan University online. She made her first lateral career move by transferring from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances to its Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, thus switching focus from pesticide registrations to cleanup of contaminated sites.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University. 

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    And if you are considering pursuing higher education we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University’s programs and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.

    It is important to note that certain career paths are growing and our degrees are designed to strengthen your knowledge and prepare our students to advance their careers. But Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Several factors specific to a student’s or alumni’s backgrounds and actions, as well as economic and job conditions, affect employment. Also, keep in mind that national long-term projections covered in articles may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.


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