Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: I can't get a job!

We have experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So If you have burning questions, send them to dearcareernomers@ and we will get the panel to answer them.

This week, Claudia Cadena, director of strategic human capital management, president and group CEO’s office, SapuraKencana and Surin Suksuwan, South-East Asia regional manager, Proforest, answer TLM’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

I am a fresh graduate, with a degree in Environmental Management (Science), who is looking for a full time job.

I graduated at the beginning of the year. Throughout almost the whole of this year, I was doing several activities for work exposure, from volunteering for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), joining a personal development programme to working part time in an environmental consultancy company. During my student years, I had volunteered in NGOs and helped seniors in their research projects.

Now, as I begin to hunt for a full time job, I find it difficult as vacancies for fresh graduates, especially in the conservation field, are scarce.

I don’t know where to look for vacancies in government bodies. I have applied to corporate companies in Sabah and Sarawak, but I felt that they were hesitant when they found out I am from the peninsula, though I had expressed that I was willing to move. Many nature conservation NGOs are looking for candidates with experience in technical skills and leadership qualities, which I do not have. I was also open to applying for environmental engineering roles but I believe I was rejected because I am not an engineer.

Currently, I am an intern in a nature conservation NGO.

I think it is high time that I find a full time position. I know that I am not interested in work relating to environmental quality and compliance assessment.

I am wondering where else I should consider applying. Please advise.

Thank you,


Dear TLM,

Thanks for your letter. Please consider the following thoughts as alternatives towards securing a full time job.

1 Is your CV the best it can be?

Before you take any other step, consider your curriculum vitae (CV). Remember, potential employers only have this document to base their decisions, therefore it should be accurate and reflective of your skills, strengths and interests.

You indicated in your letter that you have taken one year after graduation to do several things to enhance your skills and experience. Ensure you clearly articulate what you did, what you achieved and how that will be of value to the employer.

Your CV does not need to be a long- winded document. Make it concise, but outcome oriented.

Employers are not interested in every single activity you have been involved in. They are interested in understanding how have you benefited and grown from the activities you have undertaken.

Not every activity needs to get to your CV. Choose those that have really made an impact in your development. The others are not necessary, and are just a waste of space in your CV.

As the last advice, get someone to read your CV. Ask them to summarise what they learnt from it, and how they will describe you after reading the document.

This will help you in ascertaining if the document achieves the desired objective. And do a spell and grammar check. There is no excuse for sending CVs with basic mistakes like that.

2 What type of organisations are you interested in?

I believe you are trying to search for jobs in all sorts of organisations without much consideration to what you really want.

I understand it is difficult to go on for a while without a job, and this may push you to consider any available opportunity. However that may hurt you in the long-term, as you may not even be acquiring the right level of experience and exposure.

This will be a disadvantage when you need to include that in your CV and seek for further opportunities.

Think carefully what area of environmental management you want to focus on. Research on the type of companies that have those relevant practices/policies and then apply to those companies.

When you do that, you will be in a better position to demonstrate how what you have been doing are aligned to those interests and can benefit the employer by hiring you.

Always remember, organisations are in the lookout for young promising individuals, they not always seek for experienced individuals.

However, in order to attract organizations to someone young and inexperienced, you must show them that you have potential, that you are interested in contributing, that you are able to add value.

3 Internships are a good start.

Think about an internship as a long term interview. During internships, employers are able to assess your fit to their organisation, their culture and their requirements.

You also have the opportunity to evaluate if the organisation can offer you what you are looking for.

Internships are great opportunities. Don’t look at them as short-term jobs. If you go beyond what is expected of you, it can be a great start of your career.

Don’t see yourself as a “second class” employee, just because you don’t have a permanent position. Act as if you were an employee. Find out about the organisation, their products, services, major competitors.

Find out how they use environmental management in their work. Understand their practices, policies in the area and seek to add value to their activities. Don’t wait to be “spoon fed” on everything they do.

4 Don’t lose hope

Looking for a job is not something to be taken lightly. It may take time and it may not be a smooth road. But remember, the more you focus your efforts and the more you learn, the better and more refined your search will become.

Don’t do this alone. Talk to people that you know and ask them if they know of opportunities. Expand your search not only to newspaper advertisements. Try other ways like online job search websites. Keep learning.

Read and do research about latest developments in the field. This is important for your future interviews. You must always be prepared as you will never know when an interview opportunity will come. So, always have a positive attitude and keep trying.

I wish you all the best.

Claudia Cadena

Dear TLM,

Compared with the mainstream or established job sectors, the environmental management and biodiversity conservation field is a relatively small one.

However, in recent years there has been a steady expansion of job opportunities in this sector largely driven by the global response to concerns over climate change and growing interest in related aspects such as CSR, sustainable production of agricultural and other commodities and responsible purchasing/procurement policies.

There is an excellent publication by WWF-Malaysia on career opportunities in biodiversity and environmental management called How High does the Hornbill Fly?

Based on what you’ve written, you have been focusing mainly on securing a job with a nature conservation NGO. You have taken the initiative to increase your chances of success, including volunteering and doing an internship with NGOs, as well was working part time in an environmental consultancy company.

The experience you gained through these various stints will definitely be an asset in your future job applications. Do not be disheartened or frustrated by the challenges you face in the quest for a full time position in this sector.

While it is true that in most cases potential employers are looking for candidates with relevant work experience, there are also occasional job opportunities for fresh graduates.

To a certain extent, luck and timing are also crucial elements that would determine success. To give an example, there was a bright young graduate who was working for more than a year as a daily paid assistant with a conservation NGO hoping to secure full-time employment.

Unfortunately, there was no suitable opening for her and she then took up an offer with a research institution. However, not long after she left, there were job vacancies within the organisation that would have been suitable for her.

On the positive side, there was a biotechnology graduate who took on various jobs unrelated to nature conservation before finally securing a contractual position with a leading conservation NGO after three years of trying.

As for the reluctance of employers in Sabah and Sarawak to recruit Peninsular Malaysians, a major cause of this is not the unsuitability of candidates, but rather the strict state government policies that generally discourage the hiring of non-locals in the two states.

So, it is not about whether you are moving to relocate or not but that, all things being equal, they would rather recruit locals as it would save them a lot of red tape in securing permission from the relevant authorities to hire non-locals.

If you’re interested to apply for positions within government agencies, keep an eye on the websites of the Public Service Department or JPA ( and relevant government agencies such as the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (

The tendency for government agencies is to have large recruitment exercises once every few years, with little or no hiring in between. So if you missed a window of opportunity, you could be in for a very long wait.

Are you limiting your options to just working in Malaysia? There are also job opportunities within the region and elsewhere in the world with international conservation organisations such as the IUCN, WWF, FFI, TNC and WCS.

There are several web-based job search sites specialising in biodiversity conservation and environmental management including

It could be very difficult to get an international position without much working experience but there are also openings for volunteers and interns.

Having a stint as an intern or volunteer with an international organisation would help to make your CV more attractive to potential employers.

Regardless of the choices you make, perseverance, adaptability and good networking are key attributes that will work in your favour. It looks like you have ample amount of these qualities so it would be a matter of time before you achieve success!

Surin Suksuwan

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics or