Carol McClelland, PhD, is the author of Green Careers For Dummies and the Founder and Executive Director of Green Career Central, a full-service online resource center dedicated to explaining the green economy to professionals, students, and career counselors to help them make sense of the green job market.
The following is written by Carol McClelland, PhD:
Green jobs are those that have a positive impact on the planet. The positive impact may be achieved by reducing carbon emissions, increasing energy efficiency, increasing biodiversity or decreasing waste. It's not like green jobs are going to stimulate the entire economy over night...but there are definite signs of growth and future growth. California is seeing higher rates of job growth in green economy related industries than in traditional industries. This trend is over several years, not just this year.
Green jobs exist for all backgrounds?here are a few examples.
- Trade jobs like solar installer
- Technical jobs such as smart grid electrical engineer
- Design jobs such as marketing communications
- Professional jobs such as Chief Sustainability Officer
To determine whether a job is green, look at the goals of a job, company, or industry.
The good news is that a great deal of money is flowing toward the green/clean industries from venture capitalists and the stimulus package. Startup companies are forming, growing, and hiring. Large household name companies such as Google and Clorox are establishing new departments to address green/sustainable goals.
For instance, with a loan guarantee from the government, Solyndra, a solar manufacturing company in Fremont, is building a second manufacturing complex, which will ultimately employ an additional 1000 people. The company estimates that up to 3,000 people will be needed to build the facility. Those are new jobs right here in the Bay Area
The frustrating news is that the green economy isn't going to mature instantaneously. Just as previous economy eras from the Industrial Revolution to the Internet and Telecommunications Revolutions took time to develop, the shift to the Energy/Climate Era is going to evolve over time.
We are in the earliest stages of a complete transformation in how we do business and how we live. As time unfolds we'll see new technology that will create industries we can't even imagine right now. More and more green jobs will open up over time.
Tips for people who are looking for a green job right now:
Tip 1: Find Your Unique Green Focus
I think of the green economy as an ocean of opportunity. To be effective in a job search the job seekers must focus on their ideal destination. Choosing the 2-3 industries that are most likely to hire them will help them keep their job search focused and productive.
It's important that green career seekers be as specific as they can about their interests. For instance, it's common to hear people say they want to work in say, green building. That's a start, but clarity comes when they can be more specific. Do they want to do retrofitting or new construction? Do they want to work in interior design or manufacturing or selling building supplies? Their answer will impact how they move forward with their job search
Even if they aren't 100% sure of their career direction, they should focus on what they do know and move forward with their search.
Tip 2: Research Your Target Industry
The green economy is evolving constantly with new industries and career opportunities. To understand where their skills fit, green career seekers must understand how their target industry works.
They need to think of themselves as a detective or archeologist looking for clues to understand how they can leverage their skills in a particular industry.
- How does the industry fit into the green economy as a whole?
- What other industries interact with it?
- What problems and opportunities is the industry facing?
- How can the job seeker position their skills so that they will be seen as a valuable asset to a hiring manager?
Tip 3: Evaluate Your Next Move
Understanding the green economy and finding one's place in the green economy takes time. Time a current job seeker may not have.
If a job seeker needs to find a job right now, they should rely on their existing skills and a traditional industry for their next job.
Here's the reason. Green companies may not be mature enough to hire someone with the job seeker's skills and experience. A start up company that's on the cutting edge of a new technology is going to be hiring scientists and technical people. If you are in marketing, sales, or operations, the company is going to need you?eventually, but first they need to focus all their resources on developing the product they can take to market.
If they know what they want to do in the green economy, they can look for a job that serves as a stepping stone toward their ultimate green career.
When they land a job, they can return to their quest for a green career.
Tip 4: Build Your Green Network
Tips about potential job openings are most likely to come from someone in their network. For this reason, it's never too early for a job seeker to build a network of people who share their values, interests, and causes.
Every region has a group of people who are committed to making the community more sustainable. Tapping into that group is like hitting a gold mine. These people know the local companies and players who will have job openings.
Although you can build a network online these days, there's nothing like talking to people face to face. Find like-minded people by attending green networking events, green festivals, panel discussions, and talks.
Tip 5: Be Active in Your Community
One of the most effective ways to build one's network is to become active locally. Volunteer with an environmental group, join the city's green team, take on a leadership position with a green initiative at a child's school or a place of worship.
To get the best results, green career seekers should search for activities that align with their green career focus in some way.
For instance, three years ago I became active in my city's Green Ribbon Citizens' Committee. I've tapped into the green network throughout the peninsula, taken on leadership roles, and met an array of dedicated, passionate people who care deeply about the community and the planet. I'm amazed at how many developments in my business I can trace back to connections I have within the committee.
Tip 6: Learn about Sustainability
If the green job seeker wants to work in a green company, one of the best ways they can prepare is to green their own knowledge. By investing some time and a little money they can discover what sustainability means within their field.
I recommend reading a general book on sustainability and a couple of books on greening their specific industry or profession. Green career seekers might also look for an online course or a course at a local college.
By understanding what sustainability is they can begin to apply their new knowledge to how they think about their own professions. They may discover a talent or past experience that positions them to make valuable contributions within their target industry.
Tip 7: Search for Companies that Fit Your Criteria
Most people think they should search for job openings so they head to online job boards. Unfortunately that strategy is not very effective. Only 20-30% of jobs are posted on job boards or on the company's website.
Instead, green career seekers should identify the companies in their area that hire people with their skills, interests, and values. Green career seekers must learn as much as they can about their target companies by talking to people who know about the company - former employees, current employees, customers, and vendors.
Don't ask the contact if they know of any job openings. That question has a way of shutting down communication. Instead focus on asking questions to learn more about the company and where it is headed and on developing a relationship with the contacts.
When a job does open up, the contact's first thought should be to call the job seeker about the job opening.