As it is Sustainability Careers Week, we are going to be writing a series of blogs, one from each member of the team to share our experiences, how we got where we are today and offer some advice about establishing a successful career in the sustainability industry.
Today we are going to find out about Sara Aziz, the Sustainability Projects Officer at QMUL!
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi everyone! I’m Sara, the Sustainability Projects Officer at QMUL. I have a varied role here at QMUL as I work on lots of different sustainability projects on campus. This ranges from biodiversity to waste and recycling and everything in-between! I lead on sustainable transport, water management and sustainable catering at the university. I started here in September 2015 as Sustainability and Energy Project Assistant and have worked my way up to my current role.
What was your first job?
My very first job was in my local Co-Op, I worked there on the weekends whilst at sixth form. I then worked at a local catering company which catered for weddings and did this when I came back from university during the summer too. Both jobs gave me a great opportunity to build my confidence and meet lots of new people as I was quite shy when I was younger.
How did you get to where you are today?
When I was growing up I never knew what I wanted to do. I remember getting worried when I was at school because loads my friends knew exactly what career they wanted and how they were going to get there and I had no idea. I knew I wanted to go to university but I wasn’t sure what to study, in the end I decided to study geography because I loved the subject at school and I figured if I enjoyed it then something would come up that I’d enjoy and want to pursue. Luckily enough, it did! I applied for a summer internship at a sustainability consultancy near Manchester where I was studying and this really confirmed to me that I wanted to work in sustainability. I also got work experience at Manchester City Council whilst studying and when I finished my studies, I eventually got another internship at a sustainability consultancy in London. After working in a couple of consultancies I decided that this wasn’t the route I wanted to go down so focused on looking for sustainability roles within various organisations.
What is your educational background?
I studied Geography at the University of Manchester and graduated with a 2:1. The year I graduated was also the first year that the university offered the integrated masters for my course. This meant that I was able to study for another year and still get a student loan to fund the extra academic year. I decided I wanted to convert my integrated masters into a full masters in the end so used my savings to pay for the remaining months (June-September) – although still expensive it made doing a masters an option which I think has really helped me secure my job!
What extracurricular activities do you do/have you done in the past?
I was a member of a couple of societies at university but to be honest didn’t get as involved as I wish I had done now! I love exploring new places as well as going to the theatre as much as I can. I love to travel and enjoy cooking too.
What do you want to do when you grow up/in the future?
I definitely want to stay working in sustainability, I’d like to work my way up to a more senior position. I love how my job incorporates all aspects of sustainability and I’d like it to stay this way for the foreseeable future. Completely unrelated but I’d really love to own my own business at some point. I’m still working on that one though…
What are you top tips for students who want to establish a successful career?
- Don’t give up! Rejections are normal, don’t let it stop you from applying to other roles.
- Start early – apply for work experience/internships as early as you can and build up your CV as much as possible.
- Keep an open mind – sometimes the best opportunities are those you’re perhaps a little hesitant about. Don’t rule anything out to begin with, all experience is good experience (most of the time)!
- Keep busy – there’s nothing worse than being stuck at home whilst applying for jobs. Make sure you get out and about, work part time or volunteer otherwise you’ll lose motivation.
- Network – get chatting to people when you have work experience, you never know how valuable those contacts might be later on!