The early years of the 21st century have provided an opportunity for upward mobility and swift ascension into the ranks of management for young EH&S professionals the likes of which hasn't been seen since OSHA was created in 1970. Two predominant factors have converged to create this unique opportunity. The first is the large number of EH&S professionals who either have retired in the past five years or expect to retire in the next four to five years. In a survey done by the online site Industrial Safety Health Network (www.ishn.com); that number reached nearly 25% of responders.1
The second factor involves the downsizing and layoffs that were rampant in the EH&S field during the 1990's. As it typical of many companies, EH&S professionals, particularly those who focus mostly on safety, are frequently seen as overhead and are often among the first departments to be significantly reduced or even cut altogether when the economy slows or has short-term problems. Recent economic upturns in this country have seen companies rebounding from the need to reduce workforces and the hiring process has begun anew for general workers. It can reasonably be surmised that the EH&S profession will be a part of the upsurge in hiring and anecdotally this author has been hearing positive reports from the field.
If you are a EH&S professional who has entered the field within the past 3-5 years or anticipates entering the field in the next few years, the heavens are converging in your favor. If you play your cards right, you could find yourself moving up the ranks at a pace you may not have imagined possible. Will it happen for everyone? Of course it won't. But if you are willing to work hard and dedicate yourself to a long-range goal, you are likely to be able to enhance your long-term career potential exponentially. In addition to a healthy amount of drive and determination, you will also need a plan; a written plan that you apply consistently over the years, with regular reviews and revisions.
This paper, and the conference presentation it is based on, will help you navigate and successfully manage the early years of you EH&S career by reviewing and discussing three key areas important for your personal career development. First, the current projections for employment in the EH&S field will be reviewed, focusing on extenuating factors and circumstances that make now a prime time for rapid upward mobility. The second area will concentrate on a recommended skill set that will enhance the likelihood of moving into positions of responsibility in the field and the third will provide a means of creating a clear and concise plan for achieving career goals.