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From candid career anecdotes and advice to the technical aspects of environmental work, students learned about the many facets of working in the energy sphere during the “Exploring Careers in Energy and the Environment” panel. The Oct. 27 event, sponsored by the SFS Board of Visitors and the SFS Graduate Career Development Center, aimed to help students with an interest in energy and environmental issues to navigate this evolving sector.

Denise Furey, chair of the SFS Board of Visitors Career Committee, moderated the event while Ryan Hodum, Projects and Business Development Manager at DGA; James Koehler, Vice President of Marwood Group; Glenn T. Prickett, Chief External Affairs Officer of The Nature Conservancy; and Kevin Simpson, Senior Republican Counsel of the Energy Committee for the U.S. Senate offered their best advice. Prickett kicked things off by saying, “None of the jobs I took ever existed before I did them,” sharing thoughts on new roles within the energy sector and how to get a foot in the door.

Koehler (MALAS’07) told attendees to use their student status wisely. “There are a lot of resources at your disposal here, and not a lot of people take advantage of them,” he said. He explained that professionals are usually pretty open to talking with students, but that it is crucial that students know what they want to do before talking to people about careers.

“Have a tailored agenda. Know why you’re there and what you want to ask that person. It’s not a brainstorming session,” Koehler said. If you know what you want to do, they can help you get there, he continued.

He should know. Koehler discovered his interest in energy at Georgetown. He recalled a specific class that emphasized how energy is a transnational issue that is both public and private. He decided to write his thesis on the topic and eventually used his experience to land a job on Capitol Hill. Now he consults for a private company on what Washington is doing in regard to energy policy.

Simpson said that getting a foot in the door, then distinguishing oneself from inside an organization is better than waiting to find the perfect job. He highlighted the importance of networking and having a contingency plan, especially if working on Capitol Hill, where elections and scandals keep staffers on their toes.

Shifting the talk to specific energy issues, Hodum said, “There’s no better place to focus than China” for a broad perspective on climate change. “Every major brand name is trying to ‘green’ its product supply and it all comes back to factories in China,” he said. Koehler and Simpson said Brazil is also a hotbed of activity in the field.

“By focusing on these issues, I think it gives you a passport to work anywhere in the world at a high level,” Prickett summed up.

Jen Lennon | December 2011