18 years of formal education should have prepared me for this day. I’ve gotten a degree and now I should be ready to be a value-adding member, contributing to society. But, I have never been more clueless in my life. Seriously guys, what’s next?
I have always been unhealthily jealous of people who know exactly what they want to do in life. Whether it be chasing material wealth or dedicating a life to service. Heck, I wished I was like most of my peers that comprehend the appeal of our capitalist culture, climbing the corporate ladder and splurging on a designer handbag because “I deserved it”. I am aware of my privileged position of not being pressured to get a job immediately after graduating, but shouldn’t I already know what I want to do with my life by now?
A fork in the road
I often use this analogy whenever I complete milestones in life — entry exams, or waiting to see if my results are good enough for me to be enrolled into a local University. It’s like the brief moment where you flip a page to a new chapter, unaware of what lies ahead. These moments of uncertainty and waiting, fuelled by a competitive, conservative Asian society with ‘concerned’ relatives are relatable. Yet, it is a lonely road for many of us.
It was during these moments that I found comfort in the space of environmental advocacy, almost a decade ago. It was something I felt for, it was familiar as I grew up with scuba diving, it was something special and unique that I enjoyed being associated with, and it was something that helped me with my self-esteem.
I was able to easily get away with telling people that I was passionate about the field of sustainability and that it was something I would pursue once I graduated. Doesn’t that mean I sort of know what I’d like to pursue? But then there’s another problem.
As inclusive as I always felt in this environmental and sustainability space, I often struggle to figure out how I can value-add to the rich space full of climate experts and professionals. On Medium, it makes me feel like a fraud writing about topics thousands of others have better knowledge of, those who dedicate their time and work to research.
As someone that majored in both communications and sustainability, I attempted to build my resume in the field of sustainable communications. An ultra-niche space that supposedly supports companies by communicating and engaging stakeholders in their integrated sustainability strategies.
I asked myself constantly, “is this useful work??” I’m a cynic and my job sometimes feels either like I was helping to greenwash or just “repurposing content”, a term that is commonly known in the marketing space. With so much buzz in the space right now, is the work that I’m doing contributing to the noise? Am I the problem?
As a Communications major, my professors used to say that communication is impactful and effective only if you can tell powerful stories.
So, what now?
Something that I hate to admit at this point in time is that I’m the most clueless I’ve ever been. A generalist with a passion for sustainability figuring out how I can continue to contribute while making a living. But the first step is awareness!
A system that has helped me narrow down my search is the diagram below. I was unable to locate its origin and attribute it to the rightful owner.
The sweet spot is finding something you can do in the middle.
Although I haven’t found exactly where my sweet spot lies, I’m trying to work toward honing 4 critical values that I feel would be holistic enough to support whatever I want to do in the near future.
The 4 critical values I intend to hone:
1. Systems Thinking and Interconnectedness
As a generalist, a critical and useful way of thinking requires us to be holistic. Spotting interconnectedness across disciplines. This supports the integration of disciplines into systemic relationships which value adds to the work of specialists by contextualising their contributions.
I’ve written about the fundamental traits a system thinker requires, as I continuously learn and unlearn my mindset.
2. Sharpening my Bullshit meter
Anyone in the sustainability sector can agree that there has been a proliferation of greenwashing and noise. The worst thing that can happen is contributing to that mess.
A bullshit meter helps us to filter the facts and insights that support combatting climate change from greenwashing and noise.
To sharpen my bullshit meter, I must read extensively and straddle between cynicism and hope by being cautiously optimistic. I think it’s helpful to engage with specialists in the subject matter and LinkedIn has been the most useful in helping with that.
3. Becoming a powerful storyteller
My friends working in creative agencies have the best brains as powerful storytellers. I’m always in awe of how they are able to marry utilitarian and hedonic motivations into their campaigns. I believe there’s huge value in honing this skill in the sustainability space with behaviour change being one of the hardest to tackle.
Here are some of the best storytelling relating to environmentalism/ sustainability:
4. Openness and receptiveness to criticism
The worst thing that one can be is being resistant to change. In a mercurial sector like the sustainability field, we constantly adapt to new innovations, regulations, and knowledge is constantly changing. The beauty of this sector is that we are always learning together.
My goal is to remain humble, curious and absorb the knowledge of my predecessors — Nature itself and other professionals — like a sponge.
In between the pages, awaiting my next chapter of life, I have faith that the 4 values I’m honing would slowly but surely guide me to my next adventure. Being consciously reflective of what I create and leave behind.
Penning this down has given me some comfort at the beginning of my adulting/ self-discovery journey. If you’re in this place too, I hope this tells you that you’re not alone! Thank you for reading. 😊
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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