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How to Land a Job & Thrive in Sustainability – an Alternative Route

Case study

Warp It's Daniel O'Connor met Vinci PLC's Richard Smith at RWM.

After the first minute of chatting, Daniel knew he was going to hear some knowledge bombs, so he pulled out his phone to record the conversation.

"I learned some great stuff which I think might help others. So I wrote it up!"

In his career spanning over 10 years, Richard Smith has progressed from banging pegs into the ground, to biodiversity surveys and leading the cause of environmental sustainability across his company, VINCI PLC.

Back in 2002, fresh from backpacking in Australia, Richard went to the site office of a road infrastructure project that was being built near his parent’s house. He knocked on the site office door and said, "I really need a job, have you got anything?" They said "You start tomorrow as a chain lad". And so, that was that!

Of course, not everyone would simply walk up to an office and ask for a job. To this, Richard’s reply is simply, “Pure necessity. I think really the raw fact was that I needed money and I needed a job. I viewed it as a short-term thing.”

Take Home Tip #1 - Ignore your perceived limits. Think differently from the majority and you will be rewarded.

Richard started in a role where he had to bang pegs in the ground each day. Soon he realised that there were a lot of environmental factors that came into play as they were building the road. He found it interesting and wanted to get involved, “There were Great Crested Newts, badgers, bats and water sampling analysis to be done because it was over the site of an old landfill. I started volunteering for night time newt and badger surveys.”

Take home tip #2 - Be interested in other areas of your company, you will add value and make yourself more indispensable. You will also increase your experience and likelihood of getting asked to have more responsibility.

While volunteering on this project, it hit Richard that he could make a career out of this activity. So he started looking for university courses on Environmental Management. Once again, going against the standard behavior of the majority, he sent a direct letter (not email!)  to the MD of his company.

Before he knew it, he was sitting in the Director’s Mercedes on site, explaining to him that he wanted the company to sponsor his education and give him a job at the end of it. Clearly impressed with his vision, the Director agreed and Richard had the prospect of permanent employment at age 19! He then went on to do a three-year course in the University of Central Lancashire and graduated in 2005 with a BSc (Hons), Environmental Management. 

Take home tip #3 - Have a vision and a plan. Break it down into milestones. When you have a plan people are much more likely to support you, because if you have a plan you are much more likely to make it! 

Richard’s career trajectory has been anything but ordinary, and rather entrepreneurial. He says this comes to him naturally, “I'd run a little gardening business in the village where I grew up. I'd kept chickens, sold the eggs round the village. I'd always been kind of entrepreneurial and I always took control of the situation. I always thought, ‘I can do that, I don't need anyone else to do it for me’. ” 

Richard clearly had a vision for success from a young age and was intent on making it happen. Defining your own vision of success is a great way of working towards your goals, and so we've created this free download to help you understand your targets.

define success project goals

About the Author..

Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor

My goal is where reuse & repair is so convenient and desirable, that organisations do not throw anything away or buy anything new.. Where reusable items are redistributed for their 2nd and 3rd useful lives and when the items fail, they are diverted into repair.

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