Doing an internship in sustainability
Written by Abi Ravichanthiran, MSc Environmental Management
I have worked with the Sustainability Services (University of Reading’s sustainability team) for over 3 years. I found this internship via the Reading Internship Scheme (RIS)- exclusive to Reading students on the MyJobsOnline (MJO) portal. My role includes assisting and undertaking projects to improve the environmental performance of the University. I have held three roles: Junior Energy Officer, Junior Sustainability Officer and Sustainability Assistant. Here are my top 5 reasons as to why internships (or part-time jobs) are a must for a student:
- Work experience and strong CV
As an intern, you learn and develop skills from basic office etiquette to using data analysis for supporting large-scale projects. I developed skills including time management, teamwork, communication skills and more; even evidence of engaging with students via social media at a Blackout Event has been a skill I have spoken about at interviews. You build your confidence with everyday practice in an engaging and professional environment. This not only looks good on paper (i.e. your CV) but also builds your experience and provides you with many talking points at interviews.
When working for a sector-leading University (under Sustainability services), you are given the opportunity to liaise and build rapport with other University members and external clients. Whilst you undertake such a project, you communicate with various stakeholders. Here, you are able to build contacts in your field of research, work or study. This can be for your teams or your own projects. As former GeogSoc president, I collaborated with Sustainability Services to sponsor an event whilst promoting the Student Sustainability Award. Further, the team has given me valuable careers advice and recommended and directed me to further opportunities (some I wouldn’t have normally found on traditional career sites).
- Career foundation and academic support
As a student, finding work in the field of energy, environment and sustainability is difficult. Yet from starting with engaging student with live energy data, I have been trained in the following fields with regard to contemporary laws and methods:
- EMS compliance
- Waste strategy and management
- Analysis energy data
- Policies, strategies
- Behaviour changes to environmental issues
I was able to explore different fields of sustainability as an intern ranging from the waste hierarchy to business travel. I was able to use this enhanced knowledge in my academic writings. Such skills are highly employable, and picking an internship will give you the extra plus point you need to further your green career.
- Supporting your studies financially
Through the three years, I have been able to use the money I earned towards my University field classes to Naples and Iceland. This summer, I am able to use this money to support my Master’s degree. Not only will you gain plentiful skills but also earn money to give yourself further opportunities. It’s a win-win situation. It is often hard to find paid internships, but the University’s careers team can help you through the process! They also helped me through many CV checks, interview preparation and much more to gain my internship three years ago.
- Further your opportunities
The first internship was supposed to be my only internship with the team. Nor they or I were expecting to work together for another year. However, another project regarding upgrading recycling station across campus came up and they contacted me. After my second year interning, the University introduced Campus Jobs. Now, I work as a part-time Sustainability Assistant alongside my Master’s degree. A six-month internship led to over three years of work experience, great relationship with the Sustainability team and skills I can take with me to my next job.
My time with the Sustainability services has shaped my degree as well as my professional career at UoR. I have built relationships with my colleagues who have made my work for sustainability more than enjoyable. They have mentored me over the past three years and am very grateful.
If you’re not sure how to start your green career, find an internship! Try out different fields or explore different skills. If you’re hesitant, don’t be! Book a meeting with a careers advisor to talk through options available to you. Keep a look out for such opportunities (RIS, part-time jobs and other placement opportunities)!