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Universiteit Leiden

Climate Career

Lelani Antar
Marina Pribylskaia
Shir Rachel Halivni


In 2019, the UN stated that there are only 11 years left “to prevent irreversible damage from climate change” (United Nations 2019). With the threat of the climate crisis, and a new wave of students graduating, many are interested in joining careers in climate to tackle the crisis. While many students are eager to be part of the solution, many feel unprepared due to a lack of information on necessary skills. To address this, Dr. Bram Hoonhout created the skills module “Design Your Life as a Climate Change Career Maker” in Leiden University. To contribute to this course, we created a redesign that provides a student perspective that focuses on addressing insecurities and challenges our peers have, which Dr. Hoonhout can use as a foundational platform when designing a course to cater to student’s needs. 

We created three classes outlined with supplementary resources that will provide solutions to overcoming the challenges we have identified. In addition, we comprised an ongoing assignment, in which students will create a career portfolio that can be used for job searching and applications. Our goal with our design is to aid students in finding their path and navigating a climate career of their choice.


Many students are looking to develop skills for a career in climate, to support the fight against climate change. Despite this, many don’t know where to start. Before starting the project, we interviewed our classmates to understand what fears they might have when planning a career. What came up was the fear of graduating, with many feeling directionless and confused. To specify how this relates to a career in climate, we conducted research on how this fear of graduation and directionlessness translates for this specific group. From the students considering a career in climate, 6 felt very unprepared, 17 felt unprepared, 13 felt neutral, 8 felt prepared, and 2 felt strongly prepared – meaning most did not feel explicitly prepared for such a career.








Please Note: Student participants were told that 1 means feeling very unprepared, and 5 means feeling very prepared.

To further understand the feeling of unpreparedness, we also asked “What obstacles do you feel you will face when considering a climate career?” We found that the most common

obstacle (80% of students considering a career in climate) was ‘not knowing career options.’ Other common obstacles include ‘fear of career failure’, ‘not having proper education’, ‘lack of economic incentive’, and ‘eco-anxiety’. Below is a graph of the mentioned obstacles: 

We found that our survey is consistent with outside literature, with Plan International’s 

survey finding that only ⅓ young people felt prepared for a career in climate. They also found major obstacles for young people included feeling they lacked the skills, did not feel their education prepared them, and that a career in climate was not accessible to them (Planned International 2022). This indicates to us that the core of the obstacle is a lack of practical skills. 

Based on our analysis, we designed three classes and an ongoing assignment that address the major obstacles. We organised two classes that help students identify their skills, highlight

their educational strengths, and find an economically viable option within a career in climate (What can we do? and Climate Career Speed Dating) and then we created a third class to address career failure and eco-anxiety (Dealing with Failure). In addition, we created an ongoing assignment in which students will build a career portfolio that can be used when looking for job opportunities, which can help mitigate post-graduation anxiety. 


For our redesign, we created an ongoing assignment and three classes that identify obstacles when entering a career in climate from a student perspective. This redesign will serve as an outline for Dr. Bram Hoonhout, for his final design of his climate career course. Based on the challenges we identified from our research, we focused on providing practical activities and resources to help students enter into a career in climate. Our redesign is designed around several learning goals we set in order to ensure our course provides value to the students. 

Learning Goals: 

  • Students will outline a career path for a career in climate.
  • Students will identify their current skills and skills they want to develop.
  • Students will identify solutions in the climate crisis they want to be a part of.
  • Students will meet and network with climate career recruiters.
  • Students will learn 20 principles to transform eco-anxiety to eco-resilience.
  • Students will be given the opportunity to transform past failures into examples of learning experience.

Climate Career Portfolio: Ongoing Assignment 

Assignment Instruction: 

  1. Create a professional resume and a cover letter. The cover letter should provide a brief explanation of your skills and your motivation for a specific career. Resume must include the following criteria: 
    • Contact information 
    • Education 
    • skills 
    • experience and achievements 

For further help, watch “How to Write a Great Resume and Cover Letter”: 

  1. Create a resume of failures and explain what these failures have taught you. Your failures are a big part of the way you learn and grow. The resume of failure should follow the similar format of your professional cv, and have the following criteria. Note: Part of this will be done in the class “How to Deal with Failure”.
    • Contact information
    • Experiences of Failure and rejection 
    • What the experience of failure has taught you 

For advice and examples, following this link:

  1. Conduct two interviews with people that are currently working in the climate field of interest, and create a summary and analysis of the interview. An informational interview helps you understand specific skills you need, next steps you need to take, and other advice for your future career. Make sure to create a list of questions (6 – 10) before you meet with your interviewee. Please meet the following criteria. Note: you will need to complete 2 separate essays. 
    • Introduction (250 words): A brief description of the person you interviewed (about their job, education, experience, etc.) and why you decided to interview them. 
    • Interview (1,000 words): Outline the questions you asked and summarise the responses you received from the interviewer. If you cannot fit everything into the word count, highlight the most important questions and responses you received. 
    • Analysis (350 words): Explain how this interview benefited you and what are the most important things you learned. Explain what new steps you will be taking based on the interview. 

For further assistance, follow these links:

How to prepare for an informational interview: 

Question to ask someone about their job:

  1. Based on what you have learned throughout this course, create a career roadmap. This career roadmap can take any form (essay, drawing, diagram, video, etc.). This will help you outline your future plans. The career roadmap must include the following criteria: a. Skills and education you already have 
    • The requirements you need to get to your end goal 
    • Different avenues and step in which you can further your educations, skills, and opportunities to reach your goal 
    • The end goal(s) 

Class: What can we do? Addressing the overwhelming climate crisis. 

This class design focuses on helping students position their skills and interests within the overwhelming task of addressing the climate crisis. We organised the class to help students identify climate crisis solutions, identify student’s skills and interests, and then find career opportunities that combine solutions and student’s skills. 

Homework Assignment: 

Watch “100 solutions to reverse global warming” by Chad Frischmann, a Ted Talk that breaks down potential climate change solutions. Students should write a list of the solutions they find interesting, and they feel motivated to be a part of. In addition, students should create a list of skills they have (which can be used for your professional CV). Please bring both lists to class for group discussion.

Link to Ted Talk: 

Class Instruction: 

Students will come to class prepared with their homework. Dr. Hoonhout will give a presentation summarising different solutions from the Ted Talk, and then will ask students to organise themselves into a group of 4 – 6 people, where they will discuss what they wrote down for their homework for 15 minutes. Students will explain the solutions they want to be a part of and share how their skills (education, extracurricular , etc) will be useful in these solutions. Dr. Hoonhout will go from group to group to get a report of what they are talking about, and help move the conversation forward if there are any problems. This structure follows ‘Think-Pair-Share class’, in which “Individuals write in response to an instructor’s prompt, then share those responses in pairs; the instructor then facilitates report-outs from some pairs”. This method gives all students the opportunity to share and learn how to communicate their thoughts, in an informal environment (Harvard Kennedy School). 

After, students will watch the Ted Talk, “Finding Joy in Climate Action” by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson together. Dr. Hoonhout will explain before showing the video that this exercise will help students organise their interests, skills, and preferred climate solutions, into different career options. In the Ted Talk, Johnson introduces a Venn diagram that helps participants find joy in climate action, asking “What brings you joy?”, “What are you good at?”, and “What needs doing?” After answering these three questions, participants have the ability to see what options they have to be part of the climate movement, in an enjoyable capacity. After watching the video, Dr. Hoonhout will clarify how to use the Venn diagram and instruct students to fill it out, using their climate solution and skills list to help. Students will have 5 – 10 minutes to fill out the Venn diagram alone, and then will go back to their group of 3 – 6 and share their results for 10 minutes. 

Link to Ted Talk: 

Example of Venn diagram (Johnson 2022). 

Class: Climate Career Speed Dating: A recruiters’ session: 

In order to connect students with professionals in their chosen field, an info session with recruiters specialising in sustainability will be organised as a third class. During the class students will work on their networking skills and self-presentation for interviews, as well as

getting tailored advice on their CV’s and further actions to take. Below is a shortlist of the recruiters we have contacted: 

  • Sustainable talent 
  • kWh people 
  • De Nederlands academie voor duurzaam onderwijs 

Although we contacted a few of them, eventually the one that agreed to be a part of the course is Sustainable Talent. They will give a presentation on the sustainable job market and the skills that employers are looking for (prepared by them). The Sustainable Talent agency offers training programs for career-switchers looking to enter the sustainability sector. Their knowledge and organisation experience are a valued addition to the course curriculum. 

Class Instructions: 

In the first part, the recruiters will introduce cutting-edge career opportunities in order to orient the students in their career choice. Although during the course the students are deepening themselves into a specific branch of sustainability, they might still lack options. The recruiters are there to make them familiar with what the job market offers at the moment, but also to outline the perspective, as well as introduce a few key companies in each sector. Additionally, it is inspiring to learn about career-switching stories of people and to see what kind of skills are essential to have in your tool set. 

After a break, students get to do a few networking exercises (think about giving an elevator pitch or asking for referrals of professionals of the field of interest), and get feedback

tips on presenting. Depending on the group size, students could practise presenting themselves in a short time, while switching partners (additionally making contact with the group members they didn’t speak to yet). Overall, this will help student’s learn how to market themselves. In the final part, the Q&A session part is for remaining questions. 

The goal of the class therefore is to equip students with some practical tools and to increase their contacts and self-marketing skills, and get the freshest overview of current and upcoming opportunities. 

Class: Dealing with Failure: Workplace and Eco-anxiety 

As indicated by our survey many students have intense fears regarding climate change and fear of career failure. Not knowing how to address the issue and not wanting to engage on a daily basis with such a fearful topic could be one of the causes students don’t consider developing a career in the subject. This class will deal with two problems, how to cope with eco-anxiety and how to deal with career failure. 

Homework Assignment: 

As preparation the students will read the introduction or chapter 2 From Eco-Anxiety to Eco-Resilience: Toward a Psychology of Care” of “Eco-Anxiety and Pandemic Distress: Psychological Perspectives on Resilience and Interconnectedness”. In this reading, 20 principles are given to transform eco-anxiety into eco-resilience. In summary, the 20 principles call for the

promotion of caring, in which people take a collective and inclusive approach to solving the climate crisis, and have radical envisions of positive change (Buzzell and Chalquist 2023). The chapter, which is available on Leiden Catalogue for students, explains what eco anxiety is and how to develop resilience to it. Students should also prepare the following questions for the Socratic dialogue: “what is eco anxiety?”, “what are causes of it?”, “how do students cope”, “what principles did you connect with from the chapter”. 

Students will also be asked to watch one of the two following Ted Talks for the second part of the class:

Class Instructions: 

In the beginning of the class a Socratic dialogue will be organised. The questions that will be asked should address the topics of: “what is eco anxiety?”, “what are causes of it?”, “how do students cope”, “what principles did you connect with from the chapter”. The students will be given the questions in advance and be encouraged to think about them before the class and during the reading process, allowing them to arrive more prepared. 

Eco-anxiety is the experience of emotional distress and anxiety about the future of the planet (Ágoston et al., 2022). To deal with this problem the students will take part in a Socratic dialogue. The dialogue’s rules will allow students to share their fears and opinions while having to actively listen and understand their fellow students’ opinions. The goal is to see others have similar worries and learn about different coping tactics. Students will tackle their fears of the climate crisis, money/project loss, and the worry about others not caring. 

In the second part of the class, students will build a resume of failures, which will be part of their career portfolio. They will be required to state their past failures, causes, strength of influence (on current self-esteem/anxiety), and emotions related to the experience. Students should be encouraged to write minor and major life experiences (for example, getting a low grade). After writing down their failures, students will add a section of lessons learned from each of their negative experiences, learned/used coping tools, and perceived growth process and how long it took. We hope they will learn to see their failures as an opportunity to grow and improve on a personal and professional level. It is important to say that not all negative experiences lead to growth and some are just negative, nevertheless it shows us how strong and resilient we are. 

After the draft for the resume is built, the students will be organised in groups of 3-5 students to share their experiences. We are hoping the students will teach each other different coping tools. Moreover, we hope to reduce the loneliness entailed in feeling anxious by showing the students they are not the only ones who have fears or have failed. 


For our scientific justification, we are using sources from our lecture, outside literature, and the educational expertise of Dr. Hoonhout. 

We found that we want students to have more intrinsic motivation, in which they develop a sense of autonomy. The first perspective we incorporated into our course was the research of Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, where they argue that for people to have intrinsic motivation – in which they feel they are satisfied and have autonomy – the activity has to appeal to their interests, needs, and values (Ryan and Deci 2000, 70 – 72). In a more recent study, they found that the increase of autonomy creates an environment that is more tolerant and accepting, which is important in a class environment in which people are being vulnerable (Ryan and Deci 2020, 5). Hence, our three class designs and ongoing assignment appeal to student’s interest and value in climate action, and ensure that the lessons learned are useful in creating a career path in climate. 

For the second perspective we took inspiration from was Dr. Niels van de Ven’s lecture on “How can we create change?”, where he talks about creating value for customers and stakeholders (Niels van de Ven, 2022). This lecture inspired us to explain the ‘why’ of our course to our stakeholders, which is why we identified the challenges students are facing. In addition, this lecture inspired us to create a class in which student’s meet recruiters, and learn how to market themselves and show employers their value (Niels van de Ven, 2022). It is also beneficial for recruiters to teach students how to market themselves, as there are many high value students that might be overlooked due to poor self-marketing. 

For the third perspective we took inspiration from was Tobias Servaas’ lecture on “Can we rebuild education?” In the reading Servas provided, The Beautiful Risk of Education, Gert Biesta argues that “Education is at heart a dialogical process” (Biesta 2013, 5). We felt that many university courses lack the educational space for education through dialogue. Taking inspiration from the Socratic dialogue during the lecture, we decided to include one in our class “Dealing with Failure”. In “Teachers’ Education in Socratic Dialogue: Some Effects on Teacher-learner Interaction”, they found that the consistent use of socratic dialogues helped slow down conversations, and allowed for more dialogical learning, in which learners are encouraged to learn through listening and speaking (Knežić et. al 2013, 502). 

Our last perspective was from the experiences of Dr. Hoonhout. During the process of our redesign, we worked with Dr. Hoonhout and asked for guidance, support, and advice. Dr. Hoonhout currently teaches a course called Design your Life, in which he helps students design their life and career plan. Through our conversations and feedback, we learned how to make our ideas viable in a classroom setting, and something that had educational value.


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