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Changing career

There are many reasons why a career change happens. Change in circumstances, geography, a desire to learn a different skill set. For many, it’s a personal interest in environment and sustainability issues that leads them to change paths. Changing career can happen across different sectors and roles.

Job satisfaction relates to roles being rewarding, yet challenging, and seeing the potential for opportunity, and the ability to make a difference or drive change. We are seeing an increased interest in the environment in individuals across multiple generations, and this is why more and more people are considering the role that they can play in a green future.

Women looking at laptop and communicating in sign language
Photo of Paul Field

“I’ve gone full circle in my career, from fossil fuel extraction to green manufacturing. 

I worked as a coal miner through the 1980s and 1990s until the demise of the UK coal industry. I then worked in the automotive sector during the 1990s and 2000s, retraining as a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine setter/operator.  During this period, I did an environmental studies diploma with the Open University. After several years doing modular study alongside shift work, I was appointed Health, Safety and Environment Officer.”

Paul Field (he/him)
ESG Manager

Why consider a green career?

  • Supporting the environment gives both meaning and purpose to your day-to-day role
  • You’ll be tapping into your passion every day
  • You’ll be contributing to making a positive difference to our planet and supporting future generations
  • It’s the future; green jobs are here to stay
  • There are green job opportunities across all sectors and parts of the economy, both in the UK and internationally
  • Individuals with green skills and knowledge are in demand.
Man operating a drone in a field

A changing economy, globally

What changes will we see?

The green agenda brings both risks and opportunities in terms of jobs. Some roles are becoming more vulnerable as we move away from certain industries; however, new jobs are being created all the time.

According to research published in 2022 by Deloitte into working towards a net zero future:

“Today, more than 800 million jobs worldwide are highly vulnerable to climate extremes and the economic transition to net zero…. But with coordinated and rapid decarbonization and the right policies in place, more than 300 million additional Green Collar jobs can be created by 2050.”

It’s inevitable that as we move towards a green economy, certain roles will decline, particularly those that are in high-emitting industries, or those that work in sectors that rely on specific climates (e.g., use of land). Deloitte identify the following sectors as being the most vulnerable to change:

  • Agriculture
  • Conventional energy
  • Heavy industry and manufacturing
  • Transport
  • Construction

Seeking opportunity

Although some jobs are in decline, there are also roles that are growing in demand, such as those that will support low-emissions sectors. There will also be many jobs that don’t yet exist but will emerge and be vital in our drive to a green future.

It’s also never too late to continue learning and to reskill. Deloitte highlight that: “most current workers are likely to require upskilling (i.e., on-the-job training), rather than complete retraining (i.e., obtaining a new qualification) to remain in their current job type or to gain a new job due to decarbonization.”

Many of the skills that individuals develop over their careers are transferable. According to the Deloitte research, “80% of skills required in transformed and new net-zero jobs in the short to medium term, are used in the current workforce”.

This means, for example, that those currently working in oil and gas, could find that hydrogen and carbon capture are industries where similar skill sets are required. As reported in 2022 by The Economy 2030 Inquiry, around 90% of those working in oil and gas in the UK have medium to high skills transferability in terms of moving into other energy sectors.

As technology is evolving at a very rapid pace, it’s really important for those in the workplace to upskill and to ensure that the future talent pipeline is skilled in the right areas.

Preparing to make a career change

A step-by-step process

It’s important to realise that changing career is unlikely to happen in one go. So, if you’re looking to change career, for one reason or another, what should you do as a next immediate step on the ladder to your ultimate goal?

Image of somebody walking up steps in a forest

Useful tips for action

1. Attend a free webinar, or listen to a TED talk or podcast to understand where your interest lies

2. Consider where you could upskill and take some time to develop your knowledge

3. Read our job profiles for inspiration

4. Browse current job opportunities, to get a feel for the types of roles out there

5. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and start connecting with individuals in green jobs

6. Join IEMA at one of our eight membership grades to help with your knowledge and understanding of the environment and sustainability landscape

7. Subscribe to relevant newsletters that can point you to useful resources

8. Read the news to keep up to date with what’s happening in the space

9. Consider getting a mentor or coach

10. Find out what your current employer is doing around sustainability

11. Identify your transferable skills

12. Keep your CV up to date

Note: If you are based in Wales, you can access a mid-career review through Working Wales.

Our IEMA career stories

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IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals