When it comes time to find a new job there are so many factors to take into consideration. Whether it’s your first or fourth or ninth job in the sustainability field, you should always take the time to examine every offer.
When a potential job offer is on the table you have to think of how sustainable it will be for you, on multiple levels.
A new job is a fresh chapter in your life, but you shouldn’t turn the page simply because you want to do something different. Ask yourself questions about the new opportunity: Are you excited about what the job will provide your career? Is there room for growth? Does the salary meet your needs? And—incredibly important—do you feel like the team you will work with is a good fit for you?
Sustainability’s different meanings
1) Will the company survive into next year?
As a sustainability professional, look at whether the company itself is sustainable as it relates to your career needs. Are you someone who handles risk well? Then a a fast-paced, high risk company, like a sustainability startup, might actually be a good fit (even though it could fail and be a short term venture). Or maybe you’re looking at joining a large corporation’s sustainability team because you’d rather have some security. Be sure to double check that the industry itself isn’t nearing its natural end (Sears?).
2) Will the company’s culture suit you?
While the content of the job is incredibly important to long-term success, you also want to factor in other elements such as salary, flexibility to telework if that appeals to you, vacation time, what the vibe is within the organization and other perks that may impact your happiness. Spending 1/3 of your time unhappy, no matter what your job title is or the prestigious nature of the organization, simple isn’t sustainable.
The “cultural fit” as Rebecca Knight discusses in How to Evaluate, Accept, Reject or Negotiate a Job Offer, is an incredibly important part of every job and is one that should be explored as much as possible prior to accepting an offer. While there isn’t much you can do to change an organization’s culture during the negotiation process, you can do your best to ensure that you won’t be surprised by the attitude of your new co-workers on your first day. You may want to find out how long employees typically stay at the organization and what happened to the last person who held the position you are interested in while you are determining if it’s a good fit for you.
3) Is the work truly in “sustainability” or “greenwashing” or somewhere in between?
Some companies are hiring sustainability professionals for the right reasons, to overhaul corporate strategy, integrating sustainability principles in to reduce impact and improve social and environmental conditions. Other companies are looking to figure out how to capitalize on the “sustainability” buzz without really doing much more than talking about it. And many companies are somewhere in between.
Assess whether you’re ready to work on an established team all paddling in the right direction, whether you can stomach the empty promises but try to slowly steer the ship into a meaningful direction, or if you’re ready to do what you can with some support but a lot of room for growth.
Once you’ve determined that the role is “sustainable” on multiple leverls, it’s time to negotiate. The best strategy is as the tough, but cheerful negotiator — it’s not about what you’re asking for, it’s about how you ask.
John Lees, the UK-based career strategist and author of The Success Code, suggests approaching the process from a positive standpoint, with a request like “I am happy with the role and responsibilities, but I would like to work from home one day per week.”
In the sustainability context, something along the lines of, “I am excited about the role and the opportunities for growth, but I would like a commitment that we I will have the support to complete a full sustainability report for our company with the budget to get it done right to feel confident that I can make a difference.”
Unfortunately, not every offer is going to the right fit, and if you feel like you have to say no decline politely. Offering one of two reasons why you think it won’t work in the long run can also help the employer understand why you made the decision you did. No matter your feelings about the position, remember that you want to leave the door open — if this is your field you could potential be dealing with individuals from this company as future advisors or employers down the line.
For a more in-depth look into the decision making process, you can read two case studies at the end of Knight’s article.