The occupational health and safety field is growing, particularly in the niche area of environmental safety. The industry is also profitable and gives workers plenty of room for advancement. If you’ve just started looking into entry level occupational health and safety jobs, you may know that you want to move into consulting, leadership, or engineering, but may not know where to start. Fortunately, many organizations have the infrastructure in place to grow employees into leaders. Here are the top four ways to start preparing yourself for professional success.
Complete a Certificate Program
Many professional organizations offer certificate programs and professional development, such as the American Society of Safety Professionals and the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Ask your employer if they are willing to offer a reimbursement (or even partial reimbursement) or opportunities to take courses during traditional business hours. Topics can be related to technical skills, leadership, or policy.
Practice your Soft Skills
Employers are particularly looking to advance individuals who demonstrate high degrees of emotional intelligence, or soft skills. If you would like to be a safety director, for example, you’ll need to be able to mediate conflict, to have difficult conversations with others, to talk to people of various backgrounds, and to assert yourself positively. You can ask your supervisor for feedback on your interpersonal skills, and you can even role play with coworkers to practice how you’ll deal with difficult conversations. Some employers also offer soft skills training programs, which should be available even for entry level occupational health and safety jobs.
Get Involved with Professional Organizations
Not only do professional organizations offer continuing education, as listed above, but they also have opportunities for members to become involved in leadership or to serve on various sub-committees. Some organizations also have policy arms that are involved in advocacy for the health and safety field. Joining a professional organization while you’re still in entry level occupational health and safety jobs allows you to network with professionals, to try out new ideas, and to get exposure to different facets of the industry. You can also ask your employer if they are willing to help pay part or all of your membership dues.
Finally, if you are looking to advance in your field, the best way to do so is to let your supervisor know what your goals are and to ask for feedback. Whether you want to move into safety technician jobs, become an EHS coordinator, or do consulting on construction safety, your supervisor can let you know what benchmarks you’ll need to hit in order to advance. Your employer will usually be glad to hear that you would like to put in the work to advance in the company and industry.
OSHA protects the health and safety of over 100 million people every year. As the field continues to grow, you should be looking into opportunities to grow with it through continued education and advocacy. It’s never too early to start investing in yourself.