Discover more from Elyse’s Sabbatical
It’s Finally Time…
for my job search to begin!
Happy July! As I enter the third month of my sabbatical, it’s officially time for me to start looking for a job. I don’t know if I ever wrote out an exact plan on this blog, but I planned to take about two months off (from work or job applications) and think critically about my past job experience and where I want to go next. I’ll then spend July and August searching for a new job.
Don’t ask me what my plans are after that.
Instead of going off to pursue working for myself (it’ll happen in a few years), I’ve concluded that I would like to get a job in conservation, sustainability, or the environment more broadly. These two months of separation from my past job have allowed many constructed ideas of myself and my career to fade away and make space for something new. I am leaning towards working with the environment because it has been a life-long interest (specifically plants and gardening) and, as a result, has been the dominant subject matter in my art.
Since I am not very interested in working a communications-heavy job again, I’ve had to realize that what I’m doing is more of a career change. It’ll require some creative thinking and outside learning to make it happen, so here’s what I plan to focus on this month.
Although I don’t feel too far behind, I am making an effort to learn more about my areas of interest and incorporate them into daily life.
While it is fiction, one of the many triggers I had to start looking in this environmental direction was reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. I loved the vivid descriptions of nature and felt so much curiosity and awe while exploring the strange environment of Area X along with the biologist. I’ve started picking up more books that allow me to engage with this curiosity — all nonfiction at this point. Here are some that I’m working on now:
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
I feel like this is essential reading for anyone working in an environmental field and after years of it being recommended to me, I am finally reading it!
Introduction to Cultural Ecology by E. N. Anderson and Mark Sutton
I found this at the library and it is an interesting, textbook resource that you could encounter in an academic setting.
Texas Lithographs by Ron Tyler
This awesome book is also at the library and illustrates early Texas history through a massive collection of lithographs made in or about Texas.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
I’ve owned this book for a long time but haven’t touched it. It is a narrative nonfiction book that records the author’s explorations of nature and life.
I’m also changing up my media diet by watching more videos and listening to podcasts about environmental science, urban studies, sustainability, and geography. I would say this diet switch is more like vegetarian to vegan, as I am already consuming quite a lot of plant-based media.
Here are the tasty podcasts and YouTube channels I consume:
Ologies — This is my new favorite podcast and I am DEVOURING it. Alie Ward interviews various -ologists and seeks to understand what fuels their obsessions, and you learn and laugh a ton along the way. PLEASE give it a listen.
In Defense of Plants — telling the stories of all plants, no matter how useful they are to humans
Atlas Pro — Geography, geology, biology, and ecology
Epic Gardening — A gardening channel that shows how to have a garden anywhere, no matter where you live
Little Spanish Farmstead — Organic gardening, natural building
RealLifeLore — Geography
SciShow — Various scientific topics
Not Just Bikes — Urban planning and experiences
CityBeautiful — City planning, urban design
Geography Now — Geography
Future Proof — Sustainability
These are also great opportunities to find even more areas of interest to send me down a Google rabbit hole.
I’m starting to sign up to volunteer at local environmental organizations in the San Antonio area to gain some experience with plants and people. I wish that I had started this earlier in my sabbatical, but the second-best day to start anything is always today! I’m still in the application process, but I will share an update on my experiences when I’m able.
Volunteering is necessary to take what I’m learning in self-study to apply it to real experiences. I could memorize the entire Introduction to Cultural Ecology book, but it will be challenging to find a career in that area if I don't have any relevant fieldwork. Also, I could end up disliking certain practical applications of a field of study, so I’d rather learn that when there is less at stake.
Talking to People
A key part of this plan is having conversations with people who work in the areas I am looking at. One might dare to call this… networking. Scary! I plan to look through some connections on LinkedIn, especially those who studied at Trinity University, and see who is working in environmental science, conservation, or sustainability. I’ll then send them a message asking if they could talk with me about their career, and we will go from there! During these meet-ups and calls, I make sure to take notes and highlight any next steps or connections I might want to reach out to. It’s important to take some kind of action once you’ve met with someone to keep your search moving. I also hope to gather some potential job titles this way to help in the job search.
Notice how I don’t have “Apply to Jobs” anywhere on my strategy? If an exciting opportunity appears on LinkedIn or an organization’s website, I will apply. Otherwise, I think it’s best to hold off on a job application spree for as long as I can (or avoid it if that’s possible). Looking back on my initial job search in 2020-2021, I had the most success conducting informational interviews with a ton of people and learning about their current jobs and careers as a whole. This is mainly because I’m nosy and like to learn a lot about people, but I was also able to obtain actual, solid recommendations of companies and specific jobs to apply for.
Based on my previous experience of job searching fresh out of college and fresh into a pandemic, I have very little faith in the traditional job application process. I would rather learn about a bunch of people, resources, and organizations than submit 10 applications for jobs I might be a fit for every day. That might eventually be necessary, but in the meantime, this is what I’m going to stick with. I understand that the job search process will likely take longer than a month and won’t always be the most fun, but I’m going to do my best to use this as an opportunity to grow in the way that I want to and that is more sustainable. We’ll see how it goes!
It’s also important that I stay upbeat throughout this process and have a spark for what I’m working on inside of me. At no point so far have I gotten “the ick” from these areas I’m interested in, and if I ever come up against that, I’ll ask myself: Do I not want to do this because it might be challenging but will push me forward? Or is it something I don’t want to do? I’m working on asking myself this more frequently in general and calibrating my ability to listen to myself. I’ve been ignoring Elyse for the past few years, and that needs to change!
I would love to hear from you if you:
are in a similar boat as me, a few years out from graduation. How are you doing?
have other awesome, alternative methods of job searching you’d like to share.
know someone working in my areas of interest who would be great for me to talk to.
are a professional working in conservation, the environment, or sustainability and want to hire a very cool gal who is an excellent employee with solid organization and project management skills 😎.
know a professional working in conservation, the environment, or sustainability that wants to hire a very cool gal who is an excellent employee with solid organization and project management skills 😎.
I will make sure to report back on how this strategy worked for me!