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If you’re just starting out as an ESG Consultant, it can be tricky to gain the type of hands-on and real-world experience that will build your credibility and confidence — which are two vital components of becoming an expert. Becoming an expert in anything doesn’t happen overnight, which is why I refer to the early stages of building credibility as “expert-in-learning”.
As an expert-in-learning, you recognize that you’re not an expert yet but you’re actively seeking out, accumulating, absorbing and applying information that will be useful in your role as a sustainability consultant. You are building up your library of knowledge and soaking up what you can from talking to, observing and reading about those who have experience designing, developing and implementing ESG into companies and organizations.
Regardless of how much or little hands-on experience you have under your belt, there are effective ways to progressively deepen your knowledge and further establish credibility as an ESG consultant who can deliver value to clients.
If you’re new to the field, you’re probably consuming a lot of information. Organize and share your reflections, opinions or thoughts about what you’ve read, seen or heard. Use social media channels or a blog to post book or film reviews, list recommended reading, summarize and offer resources, or offer thoughtful reactions to experts’ posts. People love to respond to opinions, which will increase engagement with other experts and prospective clients and build your network.
Even after this many years, I still carve out time to forge relationships with subject matter experts as a way to build my network, deepen my bench and keep me on top of the latest industry trends. As an expert-in-learning, your network is one of the most valuable assets in building credibility and confidence in delivering ESG consulting services.
Professional generosity and contributing to a common goal — solving the climate crisis — is engrained in the culture of the ESG sector and my experience has been that when approached in a courteous and authentic manner, most people will respond and share their time.
Content is king, especially when it comes to sustainability. Climate science, technologies, trends and best practices are constantly evolving so there is a continuous need for information that is streamlined and easy to digest. Infographics, reports or other downloadable materials are a powerful way to get your name out there and build credibility. When brainstorming topics, consider barriers, challenges or myths your prospective clients may face and address them.
Volunteering can provide rich opportunities to build credibility, expand your network and gain hands-on experience but if you’re not careful, it can eat up your time. When evaluating opportunities, ask yourself: Can I earn a strong testimonial I can use to attract paying clients? Is the work I am doing pro bono the type of work I want to offer clients? Can I use the experience as a case study? Could the opportunity lead to a paid work? Also consider all of the ways a volunteer opportunity can directly benefit your consulting business such as generating referrals, partnerships or other visibility opportunities.
Guest podcasting is a great way to have meaningful conversations and share your thoughts with a larger audience. Many podcast hosts will provide you with questions in advance or even ask you to suggest the topics so you can prepare in advance. Most podcasts are edited so if you make a mistake, clap loudly once into the microphone to mark your spot for the editor and pick up where you left off. Promoting your guest appearances on social media and on your website is an easy way for prospective clients to learn more about you and builds credibility quickly.
As you progress and get more confident as an expert-in-learning, there may be a topic or two One of the most powerful ways to surround yourself with experts and build rapport is to organize a panel or discussion that centers around a topic that is relevant to your business. If you’re providing GHG consulting, for example, you could pull together a panel of experts to address prospective clients’ concerns and questions related to energy efficiency, renewables, new technologies.
Courses can be a good way to learn from experts, increase your knowledge base and expand your network. The best courses are based on action rather than theory and are taught by people who have been in the ESG consulting trenches so can teach what it’s really like to work with companies in this way.