How to get a new role in ESG in tough times

Neil Farrell Neil Farrell
19th February 2024

Unless you are building a renewable energy battery storage in Houston, and are flooded with capital from IRA tax breaks, you are probably working in a part of the ESG and sustainable finance world which has been affected by rising interest rates, and political posturing.

While things have improved over the last six months, there are still parts of the value chain which are suffering, and it just takes ages for things to recover.

I spend as much time as I can staying in touch with people who are out of work, helping them understand what is going on out there. Feedback I often get is that it is helpful how direct I am, and how little I sugar coat things. I would want someone to be straight with me, so I know what I need to do to adapt, and to have a sensible strategy.

I often say the same things to ESG professionals, when it comes down to thinking about what they need to do to find a new job, and how to deal with recruiters.

1 – Develop a strategy. How long can I be out of work, and can I afford to wait for the perfect thing.

2 – Communicate. Depending on how long you have, you can choose how picky you are going to be. I believe the pickier you are the better. Although not everyone has the luxury, being clear about what you want gives the impression that you are a good communicator. Being a good communicator is high on the list of skills necessary for most ESG and sustainable finance roles.

3 – Create an aura. As much as I hate to say it, the more you can create the impression that you don’t NEED a job, but that you want the right ESG job, the more attractive you will be to employers. I get that this can be hard, but it is good to try taking on contracts while they wait for the right thing, and I think that might be a theme we see this year from some of the bigger firms that can’t get perm sign off, that they will look at interim.

I know this is all easier said that done, but if you can try and take on a little bit it will help in your relationship building.

Practically speaking, you can:

A – talk to head-hunters. They will all say different things, and some might tell you what you want to hear, but you will learn something with each call. Don’t be offended if they don’t get back to you, they might be busy!

B – Reach out to your network. This might be the best bet, because in down times firms try to recruit direct, and not to use recruitment agencies. This is classic cost saving.

C – Take a course. I love it when people are positive and use the time out constructively. The CFA sustainability course is a good one, but quite pricey.

D – Apply online, but don’t be scattergun. They all go to a database, and it will flag that you have applied for various different things.

D is a problem because hiring managers/teams/companies are trying to derisk the hiring process, and they are looking for certainty. They want certainty that this is the role you want, and certainty that you will stay if they hire you. Having empathy for their point of view will help streamline your process, and also help with points 2 and 3 above.

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