Students often approach faculty in the Institute for career preparation advice, which we are happy to provide. Here are some key things to think about, including links to a wealth of resources you can use to prepare yourself for your future career.

Students working in a river1. Demonstrate responsibility and competence 

  • The best way to demonstrate responsibility, reliability, and competence in your chosen field to potential employers is to apply yourself and get good grades. They show that you have the necessary intellectual ability, but getting good grades may be more about grit: showing up to meetings (classes), completing tasks thoroughly and in a timely manner, and having the necessary organizational skills and drive to manage a busy workload while producing effective results.
  • A secondary advantage of getting good grades is that you will have an easier time getting a good reference from one or more of your professors, assuming that you've taken the necessary steps to develop a professional relationship with repeated interactions ( and preferably with the opportunity to demonstrate your responsibility and ability) with them.
  • Also consider applying for scholarships, some of which are merit-based and are another way to demonstrate competence. If you are a freshman or sophomore who has outstanding grades and is involved in service activities, please consider applying for a prestigious scholarship. Contact the IES Director for more information.
  • If you are struggling academically, there are numerous support services available to you. Always start with your professor to get help in particular courses, but also take advantage of the numerous services offered through the Center for Academic Success Programs, college success seminars, supplemental instruction, and tutoring. intellectual skills development, and the writing center.

2. Get relevant experience and be engaged

As best as you can and within your own personal set of constraints, try to get experience relevant to your field or area(s) of interest. There are a number of ways to accomplish this:

  • Look for relevant jobs or internships
  • Many organizations, from businesses to state and federal government agencies to non-profits, often look for students to fill internships or regular positions.
  • These positions can take place during the academic year or be restricted to a particular time of year (e.g. summer) and maybe full-or-part-time.
  • The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability regularly send out information to its students when it learns of available positions and works with a number of local organizations (e.g. the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Kalamazoo Land Bank, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy) to develop work experience opportunities for our students.
  • There are numerous places to look on the internet for relevant jobs. We've compiled a list of useful sites on which you can search for jobs, but also make sure you search widely and find your own opportunities.
  • Consider getting credit for your internship or work experience: Students who arrange so in advance may, with faculty supervision and in consultation with the host institution, develop a specific project to receive credit for ENVS 4200 Environmental Internship. This is a great way to get professional experience and academic credit at the same time! Please contact the IES Director for further information. 
  • Pursue certifications. Certifications offer opportunities to develop practical skills for a specific outcome or skill set, can help you stand out from a crowd of applicants, and may be required for certain jobs.
  • Volunteer for a local or national organization relevant to your field and carry out meaningful activities that you can use to demonstrate competence, reliability, and responsibility. Here on campus, consider getting involved in a relevant student group such as Students for a Sustainable Earth (SSE), the BioClub, or get involved as a volunteer with the Office for Sustainability (OfS). Better yet, apply for a Student Sustainability Grant and carry out a project (and consider doing so for credit using ENVS 4200 Environmental Internships or ENVS 4300 Environmental Projects; contact the IES Director if you are interested).
  • Through any experience you have, pay attention to the opportunity to develop beneficial soft, professional skills such as time management, how to work well in groups and deal with a diversity of personalities, how organizations are structured and function, and how to communicate effectively with superiors/subordinates/customers/clients. Always look for opportunities to develop professional relationships that can lead to references for future job applications.

The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability is committed to facilitating beneficial experiences for our students. Please contact the IES Director and faculty for help and advice. The Institute may also be able to facilitate experiential learning for our students with financial constraints.

3. Educate and prepare yourself for your future job applications

Please don't wait until you're about to graduate to take steps to prepare yourself for your future career.

  • Do some career planning. Research the field(s) you may be interested in pursuing (you can research jobs here) and determine what the minimum and preferred requirements are. Valuable information on ecological careers of various types is provided by the Ecological Society of America. Do your own searches on other careers you may be interested in.
  • Then ask yourself how you'll make yourself competitive- are you doing everything you can to meet those requirements? Are you taking the necessary courses? Have you made a plan for how you're going to get the required work or volunteer experience, training, certifications, etc.?
  • Here at WMU, we have excellent career development support for students through Career and Student Employment Services. You can get career advising and career counseling, search available jobs and internships by program, including those on campus, find lists of employers of our graduates, get help with resume and cover letter writing, and learn how to prepare yourself for interviews, including practice sessions.

The sooner and more often you work on becoming a future professional, the more likely it is you will be successful in landing those all-important jobs as a student or graduate of our programs.