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How You Can Use Your Age To Your Advantage

Connect with Amaris Norwood on LinkedIn

Age: 24

Job: Program Associate, World Wildlife Fund Location: Washington, D.C.

Amaris and I were connected through Dan Fitzgerald, a YoPro who was interviewed back in 2019. Knowing her passions from a young age, Amaris has found herself in a position that makes her feel fulfilled and challenged daily. In this interview, we cover how to brand yourself, ways you can learn about your field before actually entering it, and how she views her young professional journey as having the whole world in front of us. We'd have to agree with her on that one.

Give us a brief background on yourself.

Until I was almost 10, I lived in a small town in western New Jersey, and then my family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I lived until I was 18. By the time I was 17, I knew I wanted to study international relations and Spanish and move to a bigger city, which is how I ended up in DC. After graduating from high school, I went to American University for my bachelor’s degree in international studies, focusing on environmental sustainability and minoring in Spanish. After graduating in 2018, I went back to Charlotte to stay with my family for the summer to work on job applications and by mid-July, I had an offer from World Wildlife Fund and started in September. I’ve been in DC since then working at my dream organization.

How did you end up at your first job and why?

The position has a niche focus and it is exactly what I wanted to pursue professionally. One of the best pieces of advice I received in college one summer was that I needed to brand myself. Though at first I hated the idea of somewhat commodifying myself, it was the reality of what I needed to do to get where I wanted to be. With a mixture of self-reflection and getting deeper into my studies, I knew I wanted to work in the environmental sector, specifically in rainforest conservation, and ideally, be able to incorporate my Spanish skills and work on Latin American-specific environmental issues. With this, I applied to internships and other jobs that to some extent incorporated these passions and had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica. By the end of my junior year, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in sustainable supply chain management. The position I accepted and currently work in is a Program Associate for two conservation projects with focuses in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. One of the projects has a focus on engaging the corporate sector to make deforestation and conversion-free commitments in their agricultural supply chains.

Where do you see yourself going next in this field?

I eventually want to work as a consultant in sustainable supply chain management. That’s the dream. As of now, I don’t have the experience needed to pursue that quite yet, but pursuing that goal is what really brought me to my current role. I’ve been told repeatedly by professionals that not until you’re practicing in a certain career path do you figure out if it’s right for you, and being in this role has definitely confirmed this dream of mine. I’m now considering if getting my Master’s will be the next step or more work experience. I feel I’ll be happy with either path I take.

Can you talk about a hardship you have experienced and what you learned from that experience?

The first three months of working at my first full-time job was a difficult transition. I felt way in over my head, the learning curve was bigger than I expected, and I felt like a failure every day. It was arguably the most stressful and anxiety-filled period of my life, and that’s coming from someone who has struggled with stress and anxiety for most of her life. To preserve my sanity, I felt like quitting was the only option at the time because it didn’t seem like I could meet the expectations that were laid out for me. However, working for the organization was my ultimate goal I had set out for myself in college and the thought of giving that up and not knowing if I would get the opportunity to work for it again is what made me stay. Through that experience, I learned how hard I will fight for my goals.

Has aged played a negative or positive part in your career so far?

In terms of a negative role, working in an environment where most of my co-workers are more experienced than me is sometimes intimidating, which has led me to feeling like an imposter at times. But that has been self-inflicted; my co-workers have never made me feel like my age makes me inferior. As far as a positive role goes, I think my age, or more so, my limited experience have put me in a position where I understand there is still a lot to learn about my field, which is both exciting and motivational.

Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

My little sister. We’re 23 months a part, and no matter what hardships have been thrown her way she has been able to triumph over all of them and do so with kindness and grace. She inspires me to believe that I can overcome any challenge thrown my way.

What would you tell someone looking to enter your field soon?

I would say to try to figure out why you want to enter the field and what specific issues you care about and why. Try to network with professors and others in the field to have a better understanding of the different paths you can pursue. If you are still in school, the unpaid internships can be worth it, although I understand that not everyone can afford to work unpaid. In this case, I would say try finding a paid job that has an environmental lens to it. For example, I worked at a Lush Cosmetics store in college, which has an ethical buying, 100% vegetarian, and sustainable sourcing and production agenda. It was honestly one of the most rewarding job experiences I ever had. If you are already a working professional, though I don’t have any experience in switching fields, I would reemphasize networking and taking paying jobs that have an environmental lens of some sort, even if it’s not necessarily the primary focus. Picking up some local volunteering opportunities that focus on environmental issues also might help with building a network in the field.

What do you like about being a young professional?

I truly feel like I have the whole world in front of me. Anything feels possible at this point in my life; my career can go in so many different directions, and that’s probably my favorite part of being a young professional. The city of D.C. is specifically filled with young professionals as well, so there is a large sense of community that comes with being in this phase of life here.

What drives you?

My passion, which I know is a generic answer. I’m a person who usually knows what she wants, so knowing my passion keeps me focused and motivated in the pursuit of my goals. I have such a passion for what I do that it motivates me daily. I knew that I couldn’t pursue something professionally that I didn’t care about because I would be bored and not feel fulfilled. I knew realistically that I would have to work in an area that catered to my passions.

What is your go-to book or podcast right now?

To be honest, I’m recently getting back into reading for leisure, but I’m currently reading the book “The Power” by Naomi Alderman.

The YoPro Know's Takeaways:

– Brand yourself

– If you're younger, use your age as a reason to learn the most you can about your field

– Work on building a network in your field before getting into it

– Your career can go in so many different directions as a young professional

Check it out: World Wildlife Fund, “The Power” by Naomi Alderman

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