The intersections of an increasingly ecologically destabilised world and the precarious university are leading to more and more early career researchers looking to the environmental NGO space as a possible alternative to the traditional academic career ladder.
Recognising this trend, SEI Deputy Director Michelle St Anne, and Associate Professor Thom Van Dooren recently convened a seminar to provide HDRs with some more information about working in the NGO sector. Three high-profile members of environmental NGOs offered an overview of their experiences working in the sector and how current students can set themselves up to be appealing candidates for future hires.
The following is a lightly paraphrased compilation of the advice provided by David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific, Nathaniel Pelle, Business and Biodiversity Campaign Lead at Australian Conservation Foundation, and Alix Pearce, Campaigns Lead for the Climate Council.
Making the leap from academia into the NGO sector can take a bit of work. In order to find a way into the sector, it is a good idea to take available opportunities to become ‘part of the scene’ so that you are something of a known quantity to recruiters and their organisations. Tips for this include:
Making it easy for potential recruiters to spot you and identify what you could provide their organisation:
When you are applying for roles, make sure you take the time to translate your skills and experience into terms that make sense for the organisation you are applying to:
Do not make the mistake of assuming you have to be a subject matter expert in the area the organisation focuses on. Your skills as a researcher are transferable! It is not like academia, where becoming a niche specialist is often the goal.
Some useful links:
If people are interested in the Climate Council research volunteer program they can email firstname.lastname@example.org with their CV, and “research volunteering” in the subject line.
The SEI Employment Pathways Workshop: NGOs was held on 21 September 2021.
David Ritter is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific (GPAP). He has been with Greenpeace for 14 years, campaigning to secure an earth capable of nurturing life in all its amazing diversity. Prior to GPAP, David worked in a senior campaigns position with Greenpeace in London for five years, working on the global issues of destructive fishing, deforestation and climate change. Prior to joining Greenpeace, David worked as an academic and a lawyer in both commercial and native title practices. He is an Honorary Associate of the Sydney Environment Institute.
Nathaniel Pelle is the Business and Biodiversity Campaign Lead at the Australian Conservation Foundation, transforming the way businesses value, manage, and invest in nature in Australia. He is an experienced campaigner and strategist who has led Australian and international campaigns on sustainable agriculture, fishing, corporate sustainability policy, commodity supply chains, and oil and gas exploration. He is the former head of Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Oceans and Oil campaigns where he recently led its project to protect the Great Australian Bight, including a collaboration with SEI. He is an Honorary Associate of the Sydney Environment Institute.
Alix Pearce is the Campaigns Director for one of Australia’s leading climate communications, advocacy and research organisations, the Climate Council. Prior to this she worked as a campaigns and strategic policy consultant for a range of purpose-driven organisations. Alix has also been the Director of Policy and Campaigns for the Consumer Action Law Centre, leading a team of policy professionals, campaigners and communicators in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission. She was also Founder and Director of the Cities Power Partnership, the biggest climate and energy program for cities in the country. Alix was awarded Campaign/Marketing Executive of the year at the 2018 Third Sector awards and serves as a Board Director for Not-For-Profit Global Voices.