How to get a sustainable HR job

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What does the environment have to do with your career? As millennials begin to take up the lion’s share of the workforce, going green can mean new opportunity for HR professionals. In January this year, demand for sustainability professionals hit an all-time high, according to data from Wanted Analytics. That represents more than double the demand that existed just four years ago.

The demand is in part driven by young workers, 85% of whom say it’s important to them to work for a socially responsible company, according to Bentley University research. That’s important for careers in HR, because about half of America’s large companies now have at least one person dedicated to sustainability.

Many companies are looking for CSR people with HR expertise, since the function is positioned to understand business from a wider perspective. Sustainability advisor Shannon Houde says businesses are “often wanting people in sustainability roles that understand the business, and HR understands a bit about everything, so HR is well positioned if you want to make a transition. There’s a lot of crossover in terms of skillsets.”

Houde made the crossover from HR to sustainability herself, having begun in talent acquisition in the early 1990s. While she had dabbled in CSR in several roles, it wasn’t until 2007 at Deloitte when Houde finally had the term ‘sustainability’ in her title. Now, she helps others venture into the field. We gathered some ideas for exploring a career in sustainable HR:

Look internally According to Houde, about half of sustainability positions are filled by those already at the company. “If they are hiring from the outside,” she says, “they tend to be hired from competitors.”

Real-world experience trumps academics While many positions do require a graduate degree, “that won’t get you a job,” says Houde. “There’s always a disconnect between the academic and real-world setting . If you’re going to go back to school, make sure you’re also getting real world experience.” If you do decide to pursue a degree, pair it with focused research, internships and networking to reshape your career.

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