The world of health and safety is associated with bureaucracy, red tape, legislation and conjures thoughts of stuffy men carrying clipboards as they walk around a warehouse looking for something that has gone wrong. But in reality, the health and safety jobs are much more diverse than that, and there is plenty of room for women to find a career guaranteeing the future health and safety of our population.
The hardest step in any journey is often the first one, and a health and safety career journey is no different. The best way to get your first step into the health and safety sector is to look for a trainee role in an area you specialise in. In particular, if you have a speciality in an area like biology or have done biological research, those skills will make you ideal for graduate biosafety schemes.
These schemes are a brilliant first stage, and can lead you down a secure career path. The trainee scheme for biosafety for example can lead you to become a biosafety specialist, transferring your skills to another area that is less directed related to health and safety such as medical research or scientific funding, or allow you to split your time by following your passion and using your health and safety knowledge on a consultancy basis.
Once you have started your career in health and safety, the next obstacle is how to make real progress rather than languishing in entry level positions. The obvious first step to improve your role within the sector is to complete the various qualifications that are available, but there are many other ways to improve your position within the field of candidates who are looking to move up the ranks.
One key barrier women face when competing in the job market is self belief. There are obvious structural issues (such as misogyny) that have led to disadvantages for women searching for jobs within the health and safety sector, but one other reason has been a lack of confidence. When looking for a new employee to provide their company with health and safety assistance or regulation, agencies are looking for someone who is self assured and confident in their knowledge of health and safety.
Conveying that sense of confidence in an interview could be a key reason why you seal a job offer from an employer; and whilst you may have a brilliant speech about your attributes and knowledge, only 7% of communication is through spoken word. The main way that you signal being a confident person is through your body language. Doing some work on yourself and how you communicate through your body language is something that can help you reap some real rewards as you are trying to work your way up to more senior positions.
When you are completing tasks in your entry level job in the health and safety sector, keep a record of what you are doing and how you are doing it. This is helpful because one way you can help yourself with applying to more senior roles is to build up evidence of dedication and enthusiasm within the world of health and safety. By posting regularly on LinkedIn, using your notes about what you have done recently and why it is important, your potential employers are able to see proof of your interest and engagement with your job, rather than just picking up a paycheck.
According to some surveys, approximately 44% of women have a fear of public speaking. This can be a barrier when it comes to applying for a job and then thriving in it. Public speaking in a conventional sense is not a key part of most jobs within the health and safety sector; but if you are looking to progress into management or executive roles within the industry, you will have to be able to calmly communicate with the employees you are responsible for and will often be invited to speak on behalf of your employer and their work. Whilst there is a theoretical side to communication and public speaking, the key to getting better is through practice. Whilst it may be painful, putting yourself out there and taking any opportunity to speak publicly is a really good idea. It’s the only way you can truly develop your ability.
Hopefully these tips will help you in your search for a role as a woman within the health and safety sector!