18 November 2022

1.4 Finding the best career for you

Author/Compiled by
Rianna Gonzales (GWPO)
Jergus Semko (GWP CEE)
Reviewed by
Cora Craigmile (cewas)

Executive Summary

In the previous factsheet (1.3), a number of organisations were identified that work in, or in close association with water and climate. Entry level opportunities were also highlighted for some of these organisations (see downloadable material in module 1.3). In this module, we will delve a bit deeper and go through different career path options as well as possible entry points into different water & climate work areas.

Self assessment

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How to determine the type of career that fits best your unique qualifications and goals?

Visualisation exercise: Adapted from Google careers

We understand that you might be urging to dive straight into job hunting, but before you do that we advise you to complete an important but often overlooked preliminary step: we call this the “focus on you” step. The following visualisation exercise will present you with a few questions that you should ask yourself before jumping into the job hunting process.

For example, ask yourself the following question:  is there something that you are good at but not necessarily passionate about? Passion is an important factor in ensuring a sustainable and satisfying career however it is often overshadowed  by other equally important factors such as salary and ability. Striking the right balance between what you are good at (your ability) and what gives YOU personal satisfaction (passion) will help you in determining what type of job would be right for you. You might not get it right at first and that is perfectly fine and normal however we encourage that you engage in this self-reflective exercise from the outset in order to start building the foundation for a successful and fulfilling career. Before you start sending off those perfectly curated cover letters, take some time and ask yourself a few of these questions:


  • What is something that you learned that made everything that came after much easier?
  • Have your achievements come as a result of solitary effort or teamwork?
  • What do you enjoy more, solving problems or pushing discussions forward?
  • What was the most rewarding activity, project or job you ever had? Why?
  • Describe the best team that you ever worked with. What made that experience stand out?
  • And a fun question ;) What lifestyle and location would make me happy? Are you more of a city person or do you prefer quieter places such as the countryside or smaller towns?
  • How much money do you really need to achieve the lifestyle you want?



In today’s professional market a career no longer follows a uniformed logical process and professionals are increasingly taking more ownership of their careers and tailoring them to their unique needs, including combining more than one job to create their own title. It is not just about passion or money but also about aligning your needs and wants with your goals, talents and skills and taking direct action when the balance is not right.

What is the difference between a job and a career?

A job is usually seen as more short-term oriented and tends to focus purely on earning money. On the other hand, a career is a series of related employment in the same fields or fields that are related and which offers job progression and accumulated experiences which will tend to conduce to a higher salary and higher living standard (South College Blog). Is your work experience and education helping you achieve your long-term objective? Or are you just jumping from job to job with no concrete plan?

Career Options

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There are various types of career paths in the water and climate sphere. Just like in any other sector, one must first decide whether to look for a job in government, civil society, private sector or even starting your own initiative. Each choice offers its pros and cons and in this module we aim explore them and provide you with enough background information to make the right decision when deciding on your next career path.


Civil Servant/Public Sector Worker

A civil servant is a person employed in the public sector by a government department, an agency or a public sector undertaking. Civil servants work for central government and state governments, and answer to the government, not a political party.


  • Works directly with policy and decision makers


  • Work is usually limited by funds and lack of other resources, and it can sometimes take a long time for things to move forward


Non-governmental/Civil Society

Though it has no internationally recognized legal definition, an NGO generally refers to an organization that operates independently from any government – though it may receive funding from a government but still operate without oversight or representation from that government. NGO employees are usually united by mutual goals and beliefs. These organizations often operate with a mix of core employees and a network of volunteers.


  • Higher genuine trust from stakeholders, on the ground project implementation, works with diverse people and projects


  • Volatile security of funding sources



An entrepreneur is an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The process of setting up a business is known as entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services, and business/or procedures. Entrepreneurs play a key role in any economy, using the skills and initiative necessary to anticipate societal needs and bringing new ideas to market.


  • Building your own dream, a lot of flexibility


  • All the financial risk lays on an entrepreneur’s shoulders
  • Possibly very competitive or saturated market


Private Sector

The private sector employs workers through individual business owners, corporations, or other non-government agencies. Workers are paid with part of the company’s profits. Private sector workers tend to have more pay increases, more career choices, greater opportunities for promotions but less job security, and less comprehensive benefit plans than public sector workers. Working in a more competitive marketplace often means longer hours in a more demanding environment than working for the government.


  • More flexible salary ranges and salary increases
  • Flexible work hours
  • Benefit packages
  • Wide range of opportunities to choose from


  • Very competitive market
  • Possible long hours
  • Demanding environment



A researcher is somebody who performs research, independently as a principal investigator, the search for knowledge or in general any systematic investigation to identify findings and establish facts. Researchers can work in academic, industrial, government, or private institutions. A researcher’s career path is a very exciting option. But like every other choice, even this one has its downsides in a form of possible heavy overtimes, dependency on project funding and so on.


  • Exciting and meaningful career
  • Potential prestige and impact


  • Possible low wage compensation
  • Challenging and very competitive process of securing funds for projects


Levels of job openings

  • Internships (a few months and sometimes unpaid, no guarantee position after)
  • Fellowships (Short term, usually paid, no guarantee of position after)
  • Entry Level (0-3 years’ experience)
  • Mid-Level (3-5 years’ experience)
  • High-Level (6+ years’ experience)
  • Consultancy

Alternative Versions to