The environment, health, and safety (EHS) profession is a fast-moving and changing field. With its roots dating back to the early 1970s, EHS has become increasingly intertwined with business operations—which has young professionals like yourself entering the field both deliberately and by happenstance.
But regardless of how you’ve found yourself in a junior EHS role, like any position early in your career, it’s daunting and overwhelming at times. Not only is everything new, but the stakes are high. After all, you and your team have the all-important task of safeguarding employees, the environment, and the business from risk and injury.
The good news? Veteran EHS practitioners are ready and willing to take you under their wing.
As our organization has grown over the past three-plus decades, we’ve seen this first-hand. And in the spirit of helping the next generation of EHS professionals find success, we asked some of our seasoned EHS experts to share pieces of sage advice.
Read on to see what they had to say.
4 Experts’ Pearls of Wisdom for New EHS Professionals
1. Strive to be a “go-to” team member — but also master the ability to collaborate
Scott Recker, Senior Consultant and Environmental Remediation Practice Leader, has nearly three decades of industry experience. His focus area is the strategic development and management of multi-disciplinary project teams, which work to solve environmental business problems.
He says that unique individual skills coupled with the ability to work collaboratively are areas you should look to hone early.
My piece of advice has two parts. First, you need to have or develop a base of skills that can help you become a “go-to” person. Of course, part of that skill development should also help ensure you deliver for your internal and external clients every time. Second, you need to master the ability to work across as many offices and people that you possibly can. This skill is not only highly useful, but also highly valued by organizations.
2. Resolve to be a lifelong learner
Donna Lynch, Senior Consultant and Health and Safety Practice Leader, is a 15-plus year industry veteran, specializing in risk management and occupational health and safety. Her best piece of advice for up and coming professionals is to never get comfortable with your expertise or skillset, but to be a constant learner.
While in college, seek out internship opportunities. Once you get into the workforce, go to work anywhere to get some practical experience, and focus on excelling both your written and verbal communication skills. And as you progress, always seek out continuing education opportunities — I’d suggest at least one or two classes each year. In addition, become a member of your local professional or trade association chapter and participate in events. Finally, find a mentor in the field — but someone who is outside of your organization. They’ll be able to lend you practical guidance, as well as an outside perspective.
3. Embrace your curiosity and focus on creating a top-notch client experience
While Raimond Baumans holds the title of Chief Marketing Officer these days, he spent his early years on the practitioner and consulting side of the industry. His experience in many different roles has spanned nearly three decades, giving him unique insights into finding your niche and growing into new roles.
My sage advice would be to take advantage of your natural curiosity; ask questions, invest in yourself by researching and learning, look to engage in development opportunities offered by the firm. Seek out informal mentors. Make sure your manager and other key stakeholders recognize and appreciate your thirst for more knowledge and understanding of what the firm does, how it seeks to differentiate itself, and who it views as its customer base.
In addition, seek to understand early on how your assignments connect to the customer or client — whether they’re internal or external. This understanding provides not only helpful context, but an appreciation that your work and efforts are an important part of a value chain.
You should also seek to translate your assignments to value that your firm is aspiring to create. Whether it’s sampling monitoring wells, writing audit reports, or answering phones — if you make the effort to try and understand how these efforts tie back to the customer and their experience, it will enable you to ask deeper questions of your managers and colleagues, steer you to responding more contextually to their questions, and ensure you’re engaged as part of a broader team. It may even put you in a position to offer sound, constructive recommendations for improving the status quo.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
With more than 20 years of EHS experience under her belt, Peylina Chu, PE, wears many hats within the Antea Group organization, including Vice President, Technology Segment Leader, and Director of HPRC. Like our other seasoned experts, Peylina encourages you to get experience by taking on new assignments and hard projects, while also building your internal and external networks.
But her most profound piece of advice is to advocate for what you want and need — something she says is especially important for women.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned throughout my career, it’s that you can’t be afraid to ask for what you want. From my own experience, as well as what I’ve observed, this can be especially hard for women to do.
In my first job at a privately-held company, I wanted to be a shareholder, which was invite-only. After a few years, I asked one of the VPs — also a woman — how one gets invited into the shareholder circle. Her response was: “I didn’t know you wanted to be one.” And the road to becoming a shareholder started from there. All I needed to do was ask for an opportunity.
Learn. Grow. Excel.
The big takeaway here? You hold the skill and power to be successful as an EHS professional. Be confident, work hard, take advantage of learning and growth opportunities, and—above all—be your own biggest fan.
Looking to start or further your career in the EHS field? Check out our Careers Page to learn more about our open positions, as well as what it’s like to be part of the Antea Group team.
News CategoriesEHS and Compliance