Stockholm World Water Week – Building your water and climate career
The authors of this article, Luca Jendrek and Maria-Alexandra Constantinescu, are two young climate and water professionnals and participants of the YWC Programme, from Hungary and Belgium.
There could have not been a better ending to the Youth for Water and Climate Program than a youth-led session at Stockholm World Water Week!
On August 28th, the 20 young professionals of the Youth for Water and Climate Program participated in Stockholm World Water Week, the leading conference on water topics, which brought together many stakeholders from each sector, be it public or private – and more particularly – the youth.
These young professionals led a session entitled “Building your water and climate career”, where there were discussed fundamental challenges and solutions regarding career paths and entrepreneurship in the water sector
The session gathered more than 60 participants who were not discouraged by the Sunday morning time and cloudy weather of Stockholm.
Very well-known by the enthusiasts of the water sector – Josh Newton, PhD and founder of Josh’s Water Jobs – opened the event by sharing his career path and highlighted the importance of engaging young people in water and climate careers.
He went on by reminding the audience that the WASH sector will soon lack human resources as today’s seniors will retire and there will be a burning need for youth representatives, especially young women who are underrepresented in the sector. He also pinpointed the need to attract people with diverse and multi-disciplinary backgrounds (engineers, finance and insurance specialists, risk management, research, social works, economics) with strong skills in negotiation, languages, program management and communications. Finally, he highlighted that youth not only bring enthusiasm, energy and different perspectives into the sector, while their sense of urgency regarding water and climate issues make them even more committed than the previous generations.
Further on, the YWC Program was presented as a key example of an innovative solution to help young professionals develop and master the previously mentioned skills. Elysa Vaillancourt, Project Manager at the International Secretariat for Water, introduced the program and showcased the different components including the online modules, in-person workshops, community of practice and mentorship guide.
The panel discussion which followed aimed at highlighting the challenges faced by young professionals and the perspectives of two senior experts, Michael Kropac, Co-director of cewas and Dani Gaillard-Picher Senior Specialist, Global Processes at Global Water Partnership, on this subject. The youth voices and insights were presented by two participants of the YWC Program: Rania Louafi, student in hydrology and water resource management in France and Shashank Bhattarai, recent graduate in Infrastructure engineering and start-up co-founder. The panel was animated by Neea Nieminen, consultant in Strategic Water and Wastewater Management at WSP, also a member of the YWC Program.
Rania highlighted the major challenges that today’s young generation faces when it comes to job hunting and shared her key takeaways with the audience. Firstly, Rania mentioned that the water and climate sectors are very complex and thus require a set of diverse skills to integrate the job market. However, young professionals usually lack the knowledge and guidance on what are the fundamental competencies needed. Secondly, the job market within these fields are highly competitive andthe youth encounter rejections too often that that discourage them to keep on: in this sense, tt becomes difficult to maintain a positive and motivated attitude until finding a job. Moreoverthe job market itself hides certain challenges: there are not enough entry level jobs and most of them require a couple of years of experience for a starting position.Even more important,there is a lack of consensus on the right pattern for drafting one’s CV and cover letter – too many do’s and don’ts which differ company by company, sector by sector. Finally, Rania concluded: “It is not about how to get a job, but rather how to showcase your competencies well for the HR person.”
As a response from a professional and senior perspective, Dani shared her own advice and insights. Firstly, she started with a reflective question for the audience “Ask yourself this question: Are you here because you are a youth or because you are committed?” –and continuing with a smile: “You are most probably committed, that is why you are here. Then learn how to communicate and broadcast your strengths.” She went on by describing according to her experience what would distinguish a good from a great employee: while the good employee dares to approach her/his boss with a problem, the great employee already brings a solution to the table.
Shashank picked up the conversation as a representative ofyouth entrepreneurs. Being a co-founder of a start-up in Nepal and a recent graduate, he emphasized that young entrepreneurs in the water sector face the following challenges in addition to what was previously discussed. Firstly, managing the motivation and discipline while-waking up every day without knowing how the day will turn out to be. Secondly, lack of or not sufficient financial support for growing the business idea.Thirdly and highly important but not much discussed, was the mental health protection due to thepeaks and valleys, and the imbalanced work schedule that gives no guarantee of stability.
To finalise, Michael, with several years of experiences in the business world, addressed the challenges that young entrepreneurs face: “Don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone. If you put yourself out there, good things will happen to you.” – he said. After sharing insights of his own career path, he concluded that “At the end of the day, we all cook with the same water”, meaning we are all in the same boat, working for a common goal, let’s keep supporting each other and collaborate.
To follow-up with these inspirational speeches, the participants grouped around tables to discuss in depth the topics presented: from . university students, recent graduates, to junior and senior professionals from multiple disciplines -all of them were talking and exchanging thoughts on the proposed questions.
“There is only a fragment of the applicants who meet all the job requirements. Don’t let yourself be discouraged if you are rejected. Take it rather as a redirection.” – has been said as closing remarks by two YWC participants, Luca Jendrek, project coordinator in Hungary and Matthieu Blanchard, IWRM engineer in France.
The YWC Programme is led by a consortium of partners (International Secretariat for Water – Solidarity Water Europe, Global Water Partnership, Global Water Partnership – Hungary, Global Water Partnership – Central and Eastern Europe, Good Planet Belgium and cewas) and funded by Erasmus+, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and l’Agence de l’Eau Artois-Picardie.