Posted: January 22, 2016
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Environmental Professionals Share Career Advice


More than 16,500 students have participated in our programs, and our alumni frequently tell us that SFS ignited passion and direction for their careers. SFS alumni are environmental leaders in the worlds of academia, activism, business, and government. We asked several SFS alumni: “What advice do you have for students who are looking to get into your field?” Here is their insight.

Have advice of your own? Share in the comments below!

David Bennett (SFS Mexico Summer ’97), Sustainability and Innovation Consultant

Pursue work that you truly love doing. There’s so much good work that needs be done in the world and there are endless industries that you can be a part of in order to effect the change that you want to see in the world. Someone once asked me, “What is it that you can’t NOT do?” I think that asking yourself that question is one good way of figuring out your passions because that question forces you to examine the things in life that you feel compelled to accomplish in life. Once you know what those pursuits are and can begin working towards them, I think you’ll find a great sense of accomplishment personally and professionally.

Emma Impink (SFS Kenya Spring ’09), Program Support @ One Acre Fund

If you are an alum interested in getting into grassroots sustainable development, I say, try something that might not sound exactly like what you’re looking for… you never know how you can integrate your knowledge to address a new challenge!

Jeffery Flocken (SFS Kenya Summer ’90), Policy Officer @ International Fund for Animal Welfare

Without a doubt, I got where I am today because I am passionate and committed to wildlife conservation. I always knew what I wanted to do, and I pursued it with vigor, taking advantage of every opportunity to learn more about the field and meet people involved in it. For anyone interested in pursuing a career path like mine, I advise you to network aggressively and don’t be afraid to take chances. And most importantly, take advantage of every opportunity to get out into the field and see the animals you are working to protect. That is what keeps you motivated!

Theresa Wolfgang (SFS Kenya/Tanzania Fall ’12), Primate Keeper @ Tanganyika Wildlife Park

It is all about the experience in the zoo world. There are husbandry internships, and there are also internships that focus on training and research. The more versatile you are, the better it looks to an employer.

Kayt Colburn (SFS Kenya/Tanzania Spring ’10), GIS Developer @ Oceaneering International

I never thought I would be in the position that I’m in, I thought I would work for a lab or continue to do field work. But now I find myself working in an industry I was surprised fit in with my education and experience. My advice is to not be afraid of the unknown. Remember the first time you stepped off the plane into the new country you would call home for the next few months. You took risks, you made new friends, and you did things you never thought possible. Approach your career that way—go into the unknown, be willing to be surprised. And call in your favors—utilize your network to its fullest potential. Sending in blind resumes is great, but never underestimate the power of a recommendation, and don’t be afraid to ask.

Kate Mansfield (SFS Turks & Caicos Islands Spring ’91), Marine Scientist @ University of Central Florida

Build up strong field (or laboratory) skills—this is what helps make you marketable to field-based programs. Gain “life experience,” too. When considering taking on graduate students, I look for those who have more practical “outside of the classroom” experience.

Rob Holmes (SFS Kenya Fall ’90), Founder @ GLP Films

Work hard, follow your passion, and do whatever it takes to get there. And you’ve got to be patient. I got excellent advice along the way, like the importance of networking, being curious, and asking questions. Before I went to grad school, I sat down with a few friends of my father who were in business. The common advice was to go into sales to teach yourself how to communicate, articulate, persuade, and get out of difficult situations. Communication skills are so important.

Tania Taranovski (SFS Australia Spring ’92), Sustainable Seafood Programs Manager @ New England Aquarium

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take chances. It’s tempting upon graduation to feel like you must have a job that will start paying the bills right away, or that you must start the right graduate school immediately to get ahead. No time in the next 20 years will it be easier to just explore and take chances. And live simply, like you did during your SFS experience. It will remind you of what is really important.

→ Read SFS Alumni Profiles

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