Living in a country like South Africa, which has the highest unemployment rate in the world, can be a very stressful experience for a graduate. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 44.4% and more than half of the youth are unemployed. Employment opportunities are scarce meaning there is a lot of competition for each opportunity. Only having a degree is not enough to get you employed, you need to improve your employability so that you may have a better chance at finding suitable employment.
Employability refers to one’s ability to gain employment, maintain employment as well as get employed elsewhere if need be. Employability is not just about getting a job; it also refers to a broader set of skills and attributes that will enable you to have a successful career throughout your life. If you are a young unemployed graduate (or even if you are employed), we have some great tips for you to improve your employability, particularly in the biodiversity or green economy.
“The biodiversity economy encompasses businesses and other economic activities that either directly depend on biodiversity for their core business or that contribute to conservation of biodiversity through their activities”
South Africa is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, therefore the biodiversity economy is the basis of employment across many sectors. Here are a few tips to improve your employability so you may access more opportunities within the biodiversity, water or environmental sector.
Improve your soft skills
Soft skills are interpersonal attributes that are required in the workplace. Soft skills help you utilize your hard skills to their full extent, some may even argue that soft skills are more important than hard skills. Soft skills include leadership skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork, work ethic, adaptability, interpersonal skills, time-management skills, etc. You may learn or develop these skills through reading books, listening to podcasts, reading blog articles, and watching online videos that are relevant to the skill you are trying to develop.
Work on your CV
Your CV is one of the most important instruments when looking for employment, make sure it is professional, clear, concise, and up-to-date! It is easy to forget what you have accomplished over a long period of time, make sure that you update your CV constantly! Keep a record of your certificates and achievements, you never know when you might need them. Make sure that you adjust your CV to the job description every time you apply for a new position. Don’t be afraid to send out your CV to trusted people that will review it and provide feedback or suggestions on how you can improve it.
Gain Practical Skills
We have already mentioned soft skills and why they are important. However, in addition to your degree, it is important to gain practical skills or hard skills. You may acquire some hard skills in university, however hard skills are enhanced through practice and repetition. You may improve your hard skills through part-time jobs, work experience placement, volunteering, fellowships, internships, etc. There are a variety of volunteering and internship opportunities in the biodiversity and green economy, always be on the lookout for these as they help you get a competitive edge in the job market (also check out the GreenMatter Fellowship opportunity). Volunteerism is a great way to get your foot in the door for any job in these sectors.
Build your Professional Social Media Profile
A lot of employers use social media to find the ideal candidate, you can use this to your advantage. Put in effort in getting noticed on social media. Ensure that you list your degree information and work experience in your profile. Follow organizations that are aligned with the biodiversity industry to keep up to date with the latest news and developments within the South African biodiversity sector (be sure to follow GreenMatter on social media). Interact with people that are part of the biodiversity sector. If your social media profiles are public, ensure that there are no posts that may decrease your chances of success. LinkedIn is the best platform for professional networking, be sure to check out important people in your field and get tips on how they structure their profiles.
Find a Mentor
Find a mentor who is also in the biodiversity economy, but also further along with their career. These people have more knowledge and a better understanding of the biodiversity economy and they can teach you invaluable lessons that you would have otherwise learned the hard way. One of the trickiest things about finding a mentor is that mentoring is often informal, which can make it difficult to find an entry point. The GreenMatter Fellowship also has an amazing mentorship program.
Grow your Professional Network
Finding a job isn’t only about what you know, it is also about who you know. It is very important to build your network within the biodiversity economy, this will be key to developing your career. You may use social media platforms to enrich your network. Be sure to create and maintain good relationships with colleagues, volunteers, or fellows when you are involved in volunteering, internships, work experience, or fellowship programs. Attend events and conferences that are in line with the biodiversity sector and take part in programs such as the Imvelisi Enviropreneur Programme.
Develop a Growth-Mindset
A growth mindset is an amazing approach to life, where one believes that their talents, skills, and abilities can be developed further. People with growth mindsets are constantly seeking opportunities to improve and grow, personally and professionally. Developing a growth mindset improves your employability because it allows you to develop positive habits and behaviors that will enhance your career success within the biodiversity sector.
Whether you are still in university, looking for employment, or are already employed, it is essential to always improve your employability. Now that you know how to improve your employability, make sure to apply this advice now. All the best!
Environmental Youth for the Future!
The biodiversity and environmental sector are a very important part of the Green Economy. Careers in these sectors are maturing and roles within this sector are evolving based on new insights about how biodiversity and environmental management fits within various organisations and sectors. As these two sectors are maturing, it is important to ensure that they have the right kind of leadership. In a world that has endearing problems such as climate change, limited resources, natural disasters etc., the necessity for biodiversity and environmental leadership has never been higher.
The social, environmental, and economic problems that world faces today are complex and do not have one clear answer, therefore ensuring that there is adequate leadership is a priority to solve these problems. Custodians of the biodiversity and environmental sector are the people that work within these sectors, that is where future biodiversity and environmental leaders will come from. This begs the question. Are you successfully preparing yourself for leadership roles in this field? To help you adequately prepare for leadership in the biodiversity and environmental sector, this blog will provide you with 5 essential skills that you need to cultivate to be a successful leader.
As a future biodiversity leader these are the 5 must-have skills that you need to cultivate:
Skill #1: Ability to Envision Solutions
The problems facing biodiversity and environmental leaders are complex and require a leader that will be forward thinking and be able to envision solutions. Good methods to be able to do is include design thinking and systems thinking. Design thinking is a method for practical and creative problem solving which is greatly useful for problems that are not well defined. Systems thinking is a holistic approach to problem-solving that focuses on how different parts of a system are interrelated and how systems work within the context of larger systems. These methods are great methods that biodiversity and environmental leaders can implement to solve issues that are currently being faced.
Skill #2: Ability to Lead Change
The biodiversity and environmental sectors are transformational sectors by nature. As an environmental and biodiversity leader, you should be to lead change. A lot of the current norms will need to be adjusted, and you will be the one to drive that change. To achieve this, you must be as tough as nails, and you must accept that you will be the most popular person in the boardroom. Change leadership requires you to communicate your vision, collaborate with others and commit to the vision.
Skill #3: Ability to Stay Motivated
Leaders need to inspire the people that they are leading, keeping the team in high spirits and passionate about their work. It therefore important for as a leader to be able to keep yourself motivated, as the teams looks up to you. There are various ways you can do this, and it depends on your personal preference. Some leaders prefer to reward themselves when they have reached their goals, this keeps them motivated to keep on smashing goals. Ensure that you have people around you that will help motivate and inspire you. Ensure that you delegate tasks, that will help you achieve a good work-life balance and keep you motivated to keep moving forward.
Skill #4: Business Acumen
Business acumen is the ability of an individual to deal with a business situation in manner that will likely lead to a positive outcome. The ability to understand business models and how companies make money is essential for a biodiversity leader. This is something that most individuals in the biodiversity and environmental sectors do not have the ability to do and will give you an extra edge as a biodiversity and environmental leader. It does not matter how passionate you may be of environmental issues, if you cannot convince a business audience in business terms you are not likely to get very far.
Skill #5: Selflessness
“Selflessness is the wisdom of getting out of your own way the way of your people, and the way of your organization to unleash the natural flow of energy that people bring to work.”
Leaders, regardless of their field of leadership, have tremendous impact on people’s lives and the way in which the world develops. It is important to be a selfless leader, especially in biodiversity and environmental leadership. Sustainability itself is an act of selflessness, it recognizes that our actions are far-reaching and do not only affect ourselves. It is therefore very important to be selfless as leader in the biodiversity and environmental sectors.
Well, there you have it! The 5 Essential Skills for biodiversity and environmental leadership. The best time to start acquiring these skills is now!
Environmental Youth for the Future!
Self-Awareness is the first step towards building emotional intelligence. It refers to our ability to recognize our own emotions and how they affect us and others.
As a leader people always expect you to have all the answers, right? You might also expect this from yourself. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were being positively criticized, but rather than using this feedback to grow and improve yourself, you opted for creating excuses and not admitting to your mistakes? Well, that is a sign of a lack-of self-awareness. Great leadership starts with self-awareness! Great leaders are not afraid of admitting their mistakes because they understand that they will learn from them.
“The easiest person to deceive is one's own self” - Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton
Self-awareness is your personal knowledge of who you are, how you behave, your capabilities and characteristics. Developing self-awareness as a leader is often the first step to developing Emotional Intelligence, which has proven to be an extremely valuable leadership skill. Self-awareness can be extremely useful, especially in climate change and environmental leadership. The global population is still quite far removed from the reality of climate change and the global shift towards sustainability. As a climate change or environmental leader, your self-awareness about how your actions can negatively impact the environment can inspire the people around you to become self-aware as well.
Signs of Low Self-Awareness
The main challenge for people that are not self-aware, is that they are not aware of their lack of self-awareness. We’ll discuss a few signs of low self-awareness below. The first sign is not being able to admit to your mistakes! Being unwilling to admit your mistakes is a sign of deep insecurity and emotional immaturity. If you feel the need to constantly criticize other people to feel better about yourself, that means you are low in self-awareness. If you are constantly trying to feel good about yourself then you do not have the time to learn about yourself. Indecisiveness indicates a lack of self-awareness. Self-aware people tend to do a lot of psychological experimenting and they are confident in their knowledge of self, leading to them be confident in the decisions they make. Another sign of a lack of self-awareness is shutting people off when they have opposing views. Most people agree to disagree on politics and religion, but not wanting to listen to the other persons views may is a sign of low self-awareness.
Benefits of Practicing Self-Awareness
How to Improve your Self-Awareness
To become an effective advocate of the natural world, you must develop self-awareness about yourself and regarding your place in the ecosystem. Here are a few tips to improve your self-awareness:
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and surroundings. Mindfulness is allowing yourself to observe and acknowledge your negative thoughts and feelings, then come up with ways to deal with them.
2. Ask for Feedback from your Friends and Work Colleagues
A great way to help you become more self-aware, is to ask those around you about what they think of your character and skills. You might get surprising responses that will encourage introspection.
3. Try Journaling
Journaling is the act of writing down your thoughts and feelings to better comprehend them. Journaling encourages mindfulness and allows you to study yourself, increasing self-awareness.
4. Learn to recognize and name your emotions
Your emotional state influences your quality of work. Being able to recognize and name your emotions enables you to better understand yourself and know how to deal with your emotions.
The Self-Awareness Theory is based on the idea that you are not your thoughts, but the entity observing your thoughts; you are the thinker, separate and apart from your thoughts (Duval & Wicklund, 1972).
Long-term sustainable solutions to climate change and environmental degradation require commitment from all stakeholders involved. Leaders that will be able to address climate change and sustainability challenges need to take bold action and inspire others. There has never been a better time than now to cultivate self-awareness to become a better climate change leader and future custodian of South Africa’s natural heritage.
Environmental Youth for the Future!
How often do you put off work until the very last minute? Have you opened your laptop, trying to get some work done, but ended up being busy on your phone instead? Or that time you realized that you are 2 hours into your 15-minute break? Sound familiar? Then it is needless to say that you are a procrastinator. Welcome to the club!
“Everybody procrastinates but not everyone is a procrastinator” – Joseph Ferrari
What is procrastination? Well, procrastination is defined as the act of delaying a task or a series of tasks until the last minute. No matter how important the task at hand is, procrastination always seems to find a way to lurk in. Why do we procrastinate? We tend to have a fear of failing the tasks at hand, therefore we delay finishing them or starting them.
While procrastination can be harmless if not excessive, we also have to keep in mind that it can have serious consequences that will effect your future as a leader in the biodiversity sector. Procrastination can lead to poor performance academically or at work. For instance, take an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Specialist that is tasked with conducting an EIA for a project. Procrastinating the start or finalisation of that EIA would likely lead to poor performance and the EIA Specialist could also be tempted to copy and paste from previous EIA Reports due to the lack of time.
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” – Benjamin Franklin
Procrastination tends to promote negative feelings, it makes us lose precious time which may lead to us not achieving our goals or blowing precious opportunities. It may also affect your reputation, if you are constantly producing work that is not up to standard, your career suffers. Take for instance a Biodiversity Officer that produces a mediocre Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for an organisation, how likely are they to be trusted with another major project? The negative impacts of procrastination can have career-changing impacts, but don’t you worry, we have some procrastination hacks that will help you deal with procrastination as part of your personal mastery for career success.
Procrastination Hack #1 – Set SMART Goals!
Setting goals allows you to have direction and an idea of your workload. Rather than knowing at the back of your mind that you have heaps of work to do, setting goals allows you to know exactly how much work you have and how to go about getting it done. It’s important to have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) Goals. “Complete the report” is a rather vague goal which is likely to lead to procrastination. “Write 500 words everyday from Monday to Friday, to complete the report by the end of the week” is smarter because it applies the principles of SMART goals.
Procrastination Hack #2 – Eat the Frog!
If your to-do list is an ocean of tasks, then it is time to prioritize! Rank your tasks on a scale of 1-10 based on importance. Start with the important tasks first! Have you ever heard of the phrase “eat the frog”? It is a simple method that requires you to do the most important task first, this enables you to use your best energy to complete the important task. (Here check out this book: “Eat the big frog first”. It will give this section some extra punch. 😊
Procrastination Hack #3 – Use Time-Management Techniques!
Managing your time effectively can help you feel more in charge of your work-load. Using time-management techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique can help. This technique allows you to work with the time that you have, for instance 2 hours, you break it down into segments (perhaps of 20 minutes) separated by 5 minutes breaks, after four segments you may allow yourself to take a longer break.
Well there you have it! Some actionable procrastination hacks to help you achieve personal mastery for career success, enabling you to make an impact and leave your legacy within the biodiversity sector!
When it comes to biodiversity, South Africa punches way above its weight. Surpassed only by the more expansive Indonesia and Brazil, South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world, according to the South African Biodiversity Institute. The country belongs to an exclusive club of “megadiverse” countries, which provide sanctuary to the majority of Earth’s biological treasures.
South Africa owes its rich biodiversity and ecosystems to its unique natural environment which encompasses the interaction of all living species, climate, weather, topography and other natural resources and processes. Apart from the incalculable benefits that we derive from the various biological species, the environment bestows upon us critical resources and services that underpin our development. The complex naturally functioning ecosystems that render invaluable services such as water and climate regulation, soil formation and disaster risk reduction are collectively referred to as the ecological infrastructure. Without a thriving and robust ecological infrastructure, all the country’s social and economic endeavours would fail, if not in the short term, certainly in the long.
Our understanding of the sensitive interplay between environmental sustainability and socio-economic development should manifest in the amount of investment in research and development (R&D) that is related to the environment. In recognition of this, the South African Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators have been measuring “environment-related” R&D expenditure since 2011. The three years of data that have been compiled to-date reveal troubling trends:
If it were not for the seven-fold increase in expenditure by the Business sector, the overall picture would have been grimmer. A country of South Africa’s standing in biodiversity ought to be spending more on R&D related to the environment. A superior understanding of the dynamics of our natural life-support systems is essential for exploring innovations that can translate into sustainable development. Learning how to manage our environment better can unlock opportunities for addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality. There is an urgent need to develop an integrated plan to respond to the need to increase the country’s investment in R&D for the environment.
A key component of this plan should include a pooling of resources towards building and transforming skills for biodiversity and the environment. Owing to the vicissitudes of our complex and troubled history, many of our young people have been disconnected from their natural environment. They lack a strong sense of connection to the flora, fauna and the biophysical inheritance that we all share. Certainly, the vast array of career opportunities in research and other high-level technical occupations in conservation and environmental management remain obscure to the youth in the townships and villages. This has to change if we are serious about transforming the country and bringing about sustainable development.
Author: Dr Sibusiso Manzini, Executive Programme Director, GreenMatter. GreenMatter is a multi-stakeholder programme that implements the National Biodiversity Human Capital Development Strategy.