Ten Tips For Landing an Ocean Job


D.C. is a great place to be, especially when Duke takes it over for the weekend.

That’s exactly what happened two weeks ago when a significant chunk of the Nicholas School headed up to the capital city for the Duke/Yale Career Fair. We met with prospective employers in the environmental sector and picked their brains.

The event was a very useful learning opportunity and for many students a chance to find internships and jobs. I enjoyed being a part of several informational interviews with innovative NGO’s like Fauna and Flora International as well as government organizations like the Council on Environmental Quality, which advises the President on environmental matters.

However, for us ocean-lovers, the highlight of the trip happened before the main event. We headed up a day early to mix and mingle with Coastal Environmental Management (CEM) Duke alumni currently working in government, policy, non-profits and foundations. The event kicked off with a discussion panel planned and hosted by the Ocean Policy Working Group (OPWG).


Duke CEM Alumni spilling the beans on landing a great job (from left to right: Wendy Goyert, WWF; Charlotte Hudson, Pew Oceans; Hunter Jones, Knauss Fellow at NOAA; Jonathon Kelsey, US Dept of State; and Jeremy Potter, NOAA). Photo by Shannon Switzer


As a group we had lamented the fact that there were few coastal-oriented organizations present at the career fair and wanted to do something about it. So, with the help and support of our can-do Career and Professional Development Center, the Office of Alumni Engagement, and a lot of sweat primarily by our Administrative and Outreach Coordinators, Courtney Edwards and Alex Bolton, we identified Duke Alumni based in D.C. who would be willing to share their experience and knowledge. With the rest of the OPWG team providing support, the event began to take shape.

A few weeks later Coastal Conversations was born.

During the discussion panel, led by the effervescent Glenda Lee, Associate Director of the career center, the alumni fielded questions about how to ace interviews and land one’s dream job or a job that would lead to it. 

From this collective wisdom I synthesized these top ten tips (in no particular order):

1) Write well and quickly

2) Be able to smooth egos

3) Develop collaboration and delegation skills

4) Do well in classes but NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK at outside events too

5) Have interesting stories to tell

6) Learn how to master the phone interview

7) Send thank you notes after interviews (e-mail or snail mail)

8) Find a mentor

9) Make a 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year road map

10) Accumulate concrete examples that prove you know how to get things done

After the discussion panel, we had the chance to do some mingling among the alumni while we snacked on brownie bites and sipped coffee. As the quiet din of chatting mushroomed into an electric buzz, I looked around the room and was proud of what our team had accomplished. We had shown we were capable of tip number ten. We had materialized what once was just a good idea, and I now stood surrounded by the fruits of it.


Charlotte Hudson from the Lenfest Ocean Program with Pew Charitable Trusts chats with Duke students about her work for the organization.
Charlotte Hudson from the Lenfest Ocean Program with Pew Charitable Trusts chats with Duke students about her work for the organization. Photo by Shannon Switzer

2 thoughts on “Ten Tips For Landing an Ocean Job

  1. This is so helpful! Great summary of the event too. Thanks for spreading the word!

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