Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Green Your Career

Last Wednesday I attended an event called "Green Your Career", sponsored by Acterra and held at the Green Building Exchange. Five panelists in various green careers gave short presentations. The moderator was Carol McClelland, who runs a career coaching business and website called Green Career Central.

I didn't learn anything hugely profound that I didn't know already. The panelists had diverse backgrounds and careers and had interesting stories. However, there wasn't any particular panelist that I felt like I identified with closely, in terms of what they are doing in their career. Also, for the "Green Technology Career" presentation, I would have liked to hear from an actual technologist (the panelist was a marketing person working at a technology company). However, I really appreciated the expertise of the moderator, who asked some excellent questions of the panelists (given below) and dished out quite a bit of good advice herself.

Download the presentation handouts here. My own notes follow:

  • Positioning yourself for emerging industries
  • Be realistic about the current state of your target green industry/company. Is it emerging, or is it mature and well-established? This affects how ready they are to hire.
  • Engage in policy-influencing activities; these will create the green economy sector that you want to work in
  • Check out the GreenerComputing newsletter

Green Marketing Career - Lynn Strand Marks
  • Whatever job role you may have now or in the future, you can always advocate green values to the people and processes you interact with
  • Marks only figured out what her calling was about 6 mos. ago!

Renewable Energy Career - Max Greenberg
  • Salespeople for residential/commercial solar energy installations are in big demand

Green Building Career - Danny Beesley
  • Beesley doesn't just give out green building advice, he has also given green career advice to many people who have asked him and has served as a mentor

Green Technology Career - Krista Van Tassel

Environmental Management Career - Michele Beasley

What one experience best prepared you for your current green career?
  • Reframing past experiences and applying them to the current job
  • Acterra's Be The Change environmental leadership training program
  • Real estate experience
  • Hands-on construction experience
  • A background in traditional marketing
  • Working with diverse groups/stakeholders/volunteers

What are the hottest jobs in your green sector?
  • Behavioral/creative influencers
  • Marketing writers
  • Solar energy sales consultants
  • Solar design engineers - residential and commercial
  • Solar installers - work under a foreman (who is usually a licensed electrician) to install solar energy systems
  • Solar hot water systems
  • Internships (unpaid) at the Green Building Exchange (they are a start-up and don't have the money yet for all the areas where they would like to grow/hire!)
  • GreenPoint Raters - these are professionals who apply the GreenPoint rating system to assess how green a new or existing home is. In general this job requires some experience in construction, you must also get additional training on the GreenPoint system. Regulatory changes in the SFBay are causing a local surge in demand for GreenPoint Raters.
  • Home building performance - consultants who assess energy efficiency of homes. Policy changes are in the pipeline which may result in the federal government subsidizing this particular sector in the near future.
  • Green your current job! E.g. an in-house corporate event planner who decided to green her company's functions
  • For advocacy groups - policy research experts, advocates
  • Internships (usually unpaid) at Greenbelt Alliance
  • Elected officials - consider running for office!
  • Urban planning

What training was most important to you for your green career?
  • U.C. Davis - studied both human development and agriculture
  • Previous work with people with developmental disabilities - learning to communicate, not necessarily with words; learning about different ways to solve problems, think, and relate
  • Social work
  • Find mentors - lots of them
  • Diversity in jobs, broad experiences, life experience
  • "Speaking the language" - knowing how to communicate with many different types of people/constituencies/stakeholders/organizations
  • Working with passionate/knowledgeable/idealistic/committed people within my green company
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • "DIY" degree, certifications, seeking out learning opportunities - e.g. the
  • Build It Green training programs
  • Variety
  • Meeting people - maintaining a good rolodex - networking
  • Taking initiative - one panelist "volunteered" for Sun Microsystems' Eco Reponsibility Initiative even while she was holding a different job within Sun. It was hard work! But when new positions were created as part of that initiative, she was tapped to fill one of them!
  • Urban planning, policy, environmental management
  • Mentors - meet people for coffee, lunch; it's amazing how many people are happy/willing to meet with you and talk!

How did you find your current green job?
  • (From a self-employed panelist) Meeting the right clients - companies/NGOs with a green angle
  • Discovering your team's hidden passions and then turning that into a values-based company mission
  • Having a strong intention
  • Roll with the punches - One panelist had a crappy interview. He had to buy an expensive last-minute plane ticket to get there, dropped his laptop, and felt like he said all the wrong things at the start of the interview. Yet, he was able to salvage the situation and eventually get the job!
  • Craigslist
  • Build your reputation for high-quality work within the company you work for

Sun Eco Responsibility Initiative
  • Started as an R&D solution to an engineering problem - 5 years ago! (product line of energy-efficient processors)
  • It turned out that IT cost problems were also environmental problems! (high energy consumption of data centers coupled with high energy costs)
  • A way to sell their energy-efficient processor - so it seems there is a strong marketing aspect to this initiative

Tips & tricks for making the leap into green careers
  • Know your green niche - YOUR special passions, skills, talents
  • No magic bullet
  • First focus on passion, not money

There were more tips, but I had to leave early! Check out Green Careers Central, though.

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