CSULB Alumni Inspire the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders
Finding your dream green job is not an easy task, but the journey to discovering your calling is an exciting series of twists and turns. Along the way, you are bound to make mistakes, learn more about yourself and grow both professionally and personally
On November 20, CSULB’s Environmental Science and Policy Club hosted a career panel and invited CSULB alumni to share their post-graduation journeys. Although each of the six panelists graduated with a B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy, their career paths differ greatly , proving that there are endless career possibilities for those with a passion for sustainability and the environment . Having travelled in the shoes of those searching for a job, each alum was able to offer insightful advice on navigating different career paths.
Before we dive into their career tips, let’s meet the panelists.
Cameron Jones, Class of 2016
Cameron is an Environmental Engineer at American multinational engineering firm AECOM who has working experience with water quality analysis, water treatment methods and designs, environmental remediation and hydrologic systems as a whole.
Alex Kovary, Class of 2017
Alex is the Nature Center Manager for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. She oversees the White Point Nature Center and George F. Canyon Nature Center, facilitating programming and providing quality experiences for all visitors.
Sarah Rae, Class of 2016
Sarah is a Water Conservation Coordinator at Liberty Utilities. She works to develop and implement water conservation programs and coordinate program activities with various local and state agencies. During her time at CSULB, she worked as a research assistant and contributed to the publication of the annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory to track the goals outlined in the CSU-wide Climate Action Plan.
Teresa Perez, Class of 2015
Teresa is an Environmental Health Analyst at Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. During her time at CSULB, she was Secretary for the Environmental Science and Policy Club, a member of Sustain U and a “Trash Talker” volunteer for the Compost Happens program that helps to promote new compost bins in the University Student Union.
Natalie Clark, Class of 2017
Natalie is a Senior. Environmental Specialist at AES Corporation. She performs a variety of tasks to strengthen the environmental responsibility of the company, such as preparing quarterly waste reports and annual stormwater reports for the Huntington Beach Energy Project (HBEP) and the Alamitos Energy Center (AEC). During her time as a on-campus landscape irrigation intern, she wrote recommendations to improve existing irrigation system water usage at CSULB.
Kirsten Berg, current CSULB graduate student (M.S. Geography)
Kirsten is an Environmental Specialist at Port of Long Beach. Her primary focus includes being responsible for compliance with federal, state, and local regulations in order to protect human health and the environment. Through her role, she fosters collaboration and partnership opportunities with both public and private entities in Long Beach.
During the two-hour panel, the panelists were asked a series of questions. Here is a summary of their collective responses.
What is the best career advice you've ever received?
“The stuff outside the classroom matters more than inside the classroom,” explained Cameron.
When Cameron was an intern for a small landscape company, he set up irrigation tires for a whole neighborhood and earned the title “Certified Irrigation Consultant.” The moral of his story is that actively looking for opportunities accelerates your professional and personal growth, and you never know what types of exciting outcomes or rewards can come with it.
Other tips offered by the panelists included:
- Be proactive. Show that you are always looking for opportunities to grow and move up.
- Value yourself. Know that you are capable of accomplishing anything that you set your mind to. At the same time, be sure to take care of yourself physically and mentally.
- Create meaningful interactions and relationships with your professors.
- Build on soft skills. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Many people tend to overlook the importance of soft skills, but these skills are actually very important in the workplace.
- Practice your communication skills. Being able to effectively communicate with people is essential to any career.
- Always be professional. Take pride in your work and in the way you present yourself.
- You want to have the right answer, not the right-now answer. If someone asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, don’t be afraid to say so. It is better to take the time to find the right answer instead of giving an answer that may not be accurate.
- Take more risks. Boxing yourself in will prevent you from expanding your skills and exploring other potential paths that connect to your career.
- Share your ideas with confidence. Organizations and teams need ideas to continue improving and innovating! Even if you’re feeling nervous, practice makes progress; eventually you’ll become a natural and you’ll show your employers what a great asset you can be
What do you wish you had done differently during your undergrad studies?
There are many diverse student organizations and opportunities to get involved on campus. Reflecting on her own personal undergrad experience, Teresa would have wishes she would have gotten involved with campus organizations earlier during her time at The Beach. Her role with ASI Sustain U allowed her to build on professional skills that would later help her in her career path. That being said, she strongly suggested that current students seek out roles and responsibilities within the campus community to foster professional and personal growth as early as possible in your academic career.
Here are some things that the other five panels would have done differently to boost their undergrad experiences.
- Find a professor who is doing research that aligns with your interests and ask to join his/her/their project
- Build on both your hard and soft skills skills. A great way to do this, and network, is by asking someone to mentor you.
- Take advantage of on-campus resources like the Career Development Center, Graduate Resource Center, and University Center for Undergraduate Advising.
- Pursue study abroad opportunities to broaden your worldview and explore a variety of interests that align with your career goals. Visit the campus study abroad office for more information.
What influenced the path that landed you in your current career?
Internships, internships, internships! Internships are valuable opportunities that can help influence and accelerate your career path. A common theme among the panelists experiences was that their internships helped pave the way for their current positions.
Natalie, for example, landed an internship with Jones Environmental where she learned concepts and skills that cannot be learned in a classroom. Following the internship, Jones Environmental offered her a full-time position. At the same time, she stressed the point that if you are unhappy at a place, no one is forcing you to stay. Trying out different roles at different work environments allows you to find where you feel the happiest and most fulfilled.
Looking for more tips on how to positively influence your career path? Here’s what the other panelists had to say:
- Don’t be afraid of change. Right now is the prime time to explore your interests and take that leap of faith.
- Invest in your relationships with others. People are more willing to help you out along the way more than you think. Just don’t forget to pay it forward!
- Learn how to talk the industry. Stay up to date and informed on the industries that interest you.
- Give your 110% - especially in small programs - because people will remember you.
Was it difficult to find a job after graduation?
The easy, short answer is: yes, but don’t let that you discourage you
Perhaps one of the biggest stress factors students face is job uncertainty following graduation. On the bright side, there are lots of steps you can take now to increase your chances of finding a job after graduation.
"It's your job to find a job after graduation,” said Natalie. With class and jobs and other responsibilities to juggle, it can be easy to constantly put off proactive habits that will help you in your job search.. But remember, you are important and you deserve to invest time in yourself. Take these steps to increase your competitiveness:
- Do your best to stand out at interviews. Practicing your interview skills goes a long way. The interview is your chance to show potential employers not only what you can do, but how you can be a beneficial addition to the team. CSULB’s Career Development Center provides on-campus mock interviews and holds interview workshops throughout the year.
- Apply, apply, apply. One of the panelists mentioned her experience sending out 150 resumes! Broaden your reach by reaching out to as many job opportunities as you can.
- Be organized. Create an excel worksheet to track everything from job positions, application timelines and, especially, contacts. Alex strongly stressed the importance of keeping contacts in order to boost your networking skills.
- Share your goals and interests with your professors. With a better understanding of where you want to go, professors can help send related opportunities your way.
Visit these on-campus resources to help you along your journey.
- The Career Development Center guides students through the process of educational, career and personal discovery in preparing them for success in the global workforce.
- Graduate Business Career Services at CSULB support students by focusing on enhancing the career success of our MBA and Specialty Masters students.
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) helps students meet the personal challenges associated with identifying and accomplishing academic, career, and life goals.
- CSULB Sustainability lists various job, internship, and community service opportunities.
- University Center for Undergraduate Advising provides comprehensive, effective, and proactive, academic advising, policy clarification, resource referral, and training, on academic and degree planning tools to ensure student success and timely major declaration as well as progression to graduation.
- Environmental Science & Policy Club meets every Wednesday at 10am in PH1 230