Is career coaching for you?

By: Jennifer Wills

The short answer is “yes!” Career coaching can be a useful tool before making any significant career move, no matter where you are in your professional journey. All students in Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability graduate programs now have the option to work with a career coach to help them figure out their next career milestonemay it be a step up, a pivot, or a strategic lateral move.

Career coaching can help you identify your skills and credentials, develop an understanding about how you compare to others in the field, and learn, through research, which organizations would be a good fit. A career coach can teach you how to expand your network strategically and develop a resume that is designed to speak to your perfect future employer.

Following a process is a good way to proceed with a thoughtful inventory of your skills and making sure your next career move will be a good fit. Virginia Tech’s Executive Master of Natural Resources program has incorporated a coaching process into the Individual Development Plan part of the curriculum, where students work with experts in the field and develop a plan to move forward with their career goals. Coaching is available to our Online Master of Natural Resources (OMNR) students, as well. Here are a few points to consider.

Figuring out who you are, as a candidate  Think about your values, credentials, and competencies. Perhaps you want to incorporate travel into your career, either by moving to a new location or traveling as part of your job. Perhaps you value diversity. I believe anyone reading this values sustainability, so that’s a given! Your values can also help define the type of position you want. Do you enjoy teamwork? Independence? Are you a person who prefers a spreadsheet to a whiteboard? Or maybe you enjoy field work the most?

There are no right or wrong answers herethe more honest you are with yourself (and your coach), the more successful you will be in pinpointing what type of position will be right for you. Keep in mind that you may have skills that you enjoy using, but haven’t been able to use much in your current position. And you may have skills that you don’t enjoy using and that’s also good to know before you seek out your next position.

Research organizations that you think you’d like to work for. Identify people who’ve worked there and what their credentials and competencies are. How do your credentials and competencies compare to theirs? Should you develop new skills and credentials or seek out different career opportunities?

There are several ways to find organizations that you might be interested in (if you need help coming up with a list). For instance, Certified B Corporations are businesses that have a strong focus on sustainability and “balance profit and purpose.” You could also look at members of nonprofit organizations that focus on sustainability, such as BSRTM (Business for Social ResponsibilityTM). Another way is consulting the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s (SASB) Materiality Map to get a general sense of the areas of expertise that might be needed for certain sectors.

Reading between the (job descriptions) lines  The employment market for sustainability professionals is booming, but there is still no universal language for job titles or descriptions. How do you know that a job is right for you? You may need to do some research beyond the job description to make sure a particular position is actually a match. Researching professionals who’ve had the jobs you want is one way to start. Try to connect with one or more of those professionals for informational interviews to learn more about their experience in those jobs.  

Revamping your resume and LinkedIn profile  Whether you’ve chosen to move forward with developing new competencies or credentials or pursuing a career based on your current skill set, you’ll likely need to update your resume and possibly even tailor it for each individual job you are considering. You may want to work with a coach to determine if a chronological or functional resume (or a combination resume) is right for you. For each of these, you’ll include accomplishment statements rather than job duties. Once you are satisfied with your new resume, don’t forget to rework your LinkedIn profile to make any necessary adjustments.

Finding the job you actually want  Start by reaching out to your existing network. Then work on expanding your network. Arrange informational interviews with the people you’ve identified in the organizations of your choice to learn more about their careers and the organizations. Consider developing a bio based on the information from your resume to use when reaching out for informational interviews.

Keep in mind that not all jobs are posted. Some come from word of mouth. Others are created with a particular person in mind. Your network can help you identify jobs that might not be publicly known. XMNR alumni go on to leadership roles in a variety of fields. Tapping into that community can be an effective way to expand your network, too.

If you have questions about our career coaching services, or any aspect of the MNR degree programs, please contact our Student Advisor Emily Talley at .

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For more than 15 years, Jennifer Wills has been advising and problem solving with clients to reach their goals. She’s been an attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a Brookings Fellow on Capitol Hill. She teaches International Environmental Law and Policy in the Online MNR program and is a 2017 graduate of the XMNR program. Wanting to have an even greater impact in the field of sustainability and helping others succeed, Jennifer started her coaching business for environmental and sustainability professionals.