By Isaac Curtiss
You would think with all the recent press that starting a green career would be a walk in the park. Guess again, the fact is that while green business is doing better than many other industries right now there is a much larger volume of folks like yourself who want that green job than there are fat cats “putting up the green” to start new green enterprises. But just because it isn’t a walk in the park doesn’t mean a bright, determined and motivated person (such as yourself) cant find that green dream job they have always wanted. Here are a few pointers and resources to help you do just that:
1. Identify the path to your green career: So you want to install solar panels do ya? are you NABCEP certified? have you ever been on a roof? While many of these certifications and degrees aren’t required for their associated trade or profession, they certainly help to separate you from the eco-herd trying to find green work these days. With a clear idea of what is necessary to obtain your desired position, you will save yourself much-wasted effort.
2. Find what you do best and ‘do it green’: Starting your green career doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel. Are you a landscaper, become a native plant and water-saving landscaper, are you an accountant? become an accountant for a green company. Waitress? there are many a vegan and organic restaurant. Now if you work out on an oil rig you might have to be a little more creative about reapplying your skills. Bio-fuel maybe? In essence, just about everything done today is also being done in an environmentally friendly way, therefore it’s really just a matter of finding a way to re-apply your skills.
3. Learn the lingo: Your green career of choice is just like any other in the sense that it probably has it’s own jargon that describes concepts exclusively relevant to those in the field. LEARN THEM- you don’t want your prospective boss to ask you about your carbon footprint just to have you start checking your shoe size.
4. Don’t lay the green on too thick: There are plenty of folks out there just a ‘green’ or ‘ecology’ away from foaming at the mouth on a daily basis. While this is great for the environmental movement it may not be the bullet-proof selling point you imagined. Remember environmentally-minded businesses are just that…businesses. While your passion and dedication is important, it is not as important to them as your capacity to fulfill the requirements of your desired position and thus contribute to the (triple) bottom line of the company. ( also find out what the “triple bottom line” is if you don’t already know)
5. Let them know exactly what you’re looking for: This can be communicated through your resume, cover letter, and first impression. Here you accomplish two things, your implying “I want to work for you because this is a great company” instead of “I’ve applied at every solar panel installer in town, and you’re my last chance” and it also communicates that this a specific interest of yours- not just something you want to run with for a couple of months to catch up on your bills. The “I’ll do anything” approach only serves to communicate desperation and mistrust for your long term intentions.
6. Match your image to your desired position: Recycled product company executive? That resume better be on recycled paper, solar installation? a tuxedo is a little much. Organic clothing designer- wear a popular organic clothing brand. These small steps combined with nuances in your behavior (say your interviewer offers you a can of soda- make sure you inquire about recycling the can.) go much farther in projecting your image as a serious steward of our environment than tooting your own greenhorn at the interview.
7. Volunteer for a non-profit: Working with a non-profit in your desired field not only gives you a little experience but also helps to communicates your commitment to the environment through actions and not just words. Aim for the ones that work within or beside your field of interest. (see networking below)
8. Build Your Green Network: The benefits of this step are obvious for in the job world it is very much who you know. The Internet is a great place to begin this process. Once you have made positive contact with your companies of choice however your going to want to take this a step further by hitting the streets. If you volunteer for a non-profit that is a great way to begin making personal contact with people in the industry. So is attending green job fairs and environmental social events. All the while don’t hesitate to drop by and start shaking some hands at your company of choice. You don’t need to come on too hard at first, get some names, make a good impression and then follow up every so often until you are able to connect with the decision-maker. (once a month or so) This may run contrary to some theories that everything’s about the Internet- but let’s face it there is no substitute for face-to-face contact.
9. Develop Your knowledge and skills: Their are workshops, certifications, books, training courses intern and apprenticeships available for nearly any career you can imagine. A degree is nice and is required for some careers but you can generally enhance your portfolio and knowledge greatly with little more than a month of training, or a couple of courses. Workshops and courses will not only give you extra training but extra credibility as well. And remember your dream green job doesn’t have to be your first green job. If you run into serious roadblocks such as lack of education or high competition within the field you can always start is a position that has access and exposure to the position you really want and then either moves into it when the opportunity presents itself or apply six months later for the same position somewhere else. Then you will have the added familiarity and hopefully some relevant references to back you up.
10. Read up on the history of your profession: The benefits of doing this may not be entirely apparent at first so hear me out. So you want to manage a vegetarian restaurant. Learning a little background on vegetarianism will allow you to more intelligently converse with those who are already in the field- namely your interviewer. It will give you greater confidence in your knowledge of the subject and present opportunities in networking contexts as well. Notice how any expert in anything always seems to know those weird little facts about it that no one else cares about such as who invented the first veggie burger (Gregory Sams 1982.)
By following the tips above and combining them with persistence and maybe a little creativity you’re bound to find your green career in no time. Maybe this should have been number 11 but remember companies that need help don’t always realize it yet. Sometimes all it takes is a well made (and well-timed) offer or suggestion, pointing out how you could help their organization. The unidentified companies are naturally going to be the ones with the least competition, and often times they won’t be listed in the help wanted section or have a sign on their window. Keep a focused eye on what you want and an open mind on how to attain it – and you should have no problem.
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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