Joe has a BSc in Geography from the University of Birmingham. He works for the City of London Corporation as the Clean City Awards and Recycling Manager.
After graduating and travelling for a year, I took a temporary job at an insurance company whilst I looked for something that I would be interested in. I eventually answered an advertisement looking for people to go from door-to-door speaking to residents of Hackney to encourage them to recycle.
The contract was only for four weeks; however, at the end of the project, Hyder Consulting (who were running the campaign) were looking to take on a graduate consultant. After a couple more projects, two interviews and a bit of on-the-job assessment, I got the job. After three years delivering a wide range of projects for a variety of clients, I moved to Lewisham Council as a waste initiatives officer before landing my current role with the City of London.
Although a couple of my degree modules touched on waste management, I certainly didn't leave university thinking that I wanted a career in waste. But a key requirement for my first job was to hold a relevant degree, which geography was.
My current role is extremely varied and involves a mix of project management, communication planning and design, strategy development, personnel management and operations, as well as monitoring and evaluating the service. This might mean anything from writing a report for committee members or directors, attending and speaking at a residents' association meeting or organising an awards ceremony to going out with a refuse crew to identify issues with the service.
Throughout my career I've moved jobs to try to broaden my experience and hopefully improve my long-term employability. I started off by managing communications projects for local authorities, and when I worked in consultancy, I always put my hands up for projects that were outside my remit and comfort zone.
I decided after three years in consultancy that I wanted to try something different. Having had a lot of local authority clients, the obvious move for me was to go and work for one. My role at Lewisham allowed me to learn about the ins and outs of local authority politics and workings, and because I enjoyed the nature of the role, this led me to my current job.
In terms of career ambitions, I've not been at the City of London for long so I'm definitely staying here for a while. There's plenty to do and lots of interesting projects to get on with, as well as good scope for my personal development. I've never made a long-term plan as to where I want to end up but have just taken different opportunities as they arise.
The best thing about the job is the sheer variety of what I do and the fact that I get to identify strategic or service improvement opportunities, formulate a plan and then implement it.
As with any local authority officer, because of the nature of the organisation, everything that you do is with a focus on providing an excellent service to residents and businesses. This means a lot of targets and performance indicators, which can be scrutinised by members of the public and the councillors that have been elected to represent them. The good thing about this is that it provides a clear set of goals to strive for and a good sense of satisfaction when they're achieved.
The waste and recycling sector is huge and affects literally everyone. There is so much scope for development in the sector even though it's already moving at such a fast pace. There's also a really good 'waste community' with plenty of social and networking opportunities to get involved with.
Getting experience in the sector is absolutely vital. It may be necessary to volunteer or take a low paid job to gain this experience. Also look at getting professional membership. I'm a member of The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) , which has really helped me with my professional development and is always seen by employers as a big plus.
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