Kate Sheridan is Associate Director of Career Development for the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment.
How long have you been at Chatham, and what brought you here?
I have been at Chatham for almost two years, having come from Carnegie Mellon University, where I provided leadership and organizational development for staff members. I really enjoyed it, but working with students is a much better fit and more vibrant space for me.
What services do you offer Falk School students?
My job is to provide a full-service professional development experience, from traditional services (e.g., resume and cover letter writing, interviewing strategies, job search resources) to opportunities such as workshops, student employment, and internships. I also work with our Employer Relations Manager to develop partnerships and host networking and other events.
Perhaps my favorite part of our approach is helping students explore and define their professional identities and the ways in which our careers can be an extension of ourselves and the values we hold.
What’s most exciting about your job?
There are many things I love about my job, and all of them relate in some way to its evolving nature. The position is new to the Falk School, so I get to help create and define it. But in addition to that, the professional landscape is changing rapidly–our alums will have a direct impact on what jobs in sustainability and food studies will look like, and how they will create lasting change for our local and global communities.
I take so much pride in each job or internship students embark on, not because of any involvement I may have had– our students truly do the work of landing these opportunities – but because the potential for impact in these positions is so significant, and to know that I am even the smallest blip in the unfolding professional journeys of this population of students is easily the most gratifying and inspiring part of my job.
Is job-hunting for sustainability professionals in any way unique?
The biggest challenge is that it is still evolving, and jobs fit such a wide range of skills and experience. Sustainability professionals need to demonstrate not only technical knowledge but also what are sometimes referred to as “21st century skills”: interdisciplinary problem solving, the ability to integrate a range of perspectives, engage systems thinking, and work in truly collaborative spaces.
Students need to have an entrepreneurial spirit, be assertive and able to manage ambiguity in positions that might not be clearly defined, and develop large networks to advance professional opportunities. There is a lot of groundwork involved in job searching within these fields–I encourage students to attend as many industry events as possible, volunteer for every opportunity they can, and conduct as many informational interviews as possible to get insight into jobs and organizations, and also grow their networks.
What is a misconception that people tend to have about landing a job or an internship?
That they will find them in traditional ways–seeing a position on a job board, blindly submitting an application, and getting a call. Certainly this does happen, but tapping into our networks, reaching out to organizations and individuals whose work inspires you, and attending events to meet professionals in your field are all important practices in finding that next opportunity, especially when it comes to internships, and particularly within fields related to food studies and sustainability.
Academic programs in the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment produce sustainability leaders through the Master of Arts in Food Studies (MAFS), Master of Sustainability (MSUS), Bachelor of Sustainability (BSUS), the dual-degree Master of Sustainability-Master of Business Administration (MSUS-MBA), and the dual-degree Master of Food Studies – Master of Business Administration (MAFS-MBA).