Are you looking for a job with an eco-friendly company? Join the crowd. Job searchers increasingly are bringing their convictions about the environment with them on their job search. Fortunately, many online resources are now catering to green job seekers. But you may want to do more than just look for jobs that are advertised as green. I find that many job hunters are overlooking some not-so-obvious green work choices. Here are five strategies that may help you in your quest to become a green collar worker:
- Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses. Almost any job search, green or not, should start here. Ask yourself what you are best at, and in what areas you need to improve. Then make connections between your particular strengths and weaknesses and particular green jobs that you have considered applying for. Assess whether you would hire yourself, if you were interviewing yourself for the job. If you see in yourself weaknesses that might count against you, think about how you could make your resume stronger. Do you need additional education or experience? If so, do what you can to remedy the situation. Take classes in your green field of interest, or get more experience by volunteering or interning. It’s important to start your job search from as strong a position as possible – it would be a shame to invest time and energy in finding your ideal green job, only to be turned away because you don’t meet the requirements of the position.
- Consider career possibilities that are not traditionally thought of as green. When you think of green jobs, you might be thinking of working for an environmental organization, a renewable energy company, or even a botanic garden. But many companies not traditionally thought of as green offer job seekers a chance to make a difference, leading America’s businesses and small businesses into an environmentally-conscious future. Here are a few career options that you may not have considered:
- Operations and Production Management: Some jobs in this area require an engineering degree, but not all do. Many analysts now feel that over the next decade, companies are increasingly going to need managers who are well educated about energy conservation and converting to renewable energy sources.
- Technology: Many of the greenest companies to work for in the United States are technology companies – which is a bit of a surprise, as technology may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you start thinking about sustainable business practices. However, many companies are finding ways to use technology to reduce their carbon footprints.
- Tourism and hospitality: Ecotourism is growing at a rate three times faster than the rest of the tourist industry.
- City Planning and Management: Local governments, just like businesses, are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints while also saving money.
- Legal careers: When you start to think about it, this one is obvious. Environmental law is an emerging and rapidly growing field. The environmental impacts of certain practices are important in the construction industry, the insurance industry, and in local government, just to name a few.
- Education: School districts are beginning to require teachers to cover environmental issues in the curriculum..
- Construction: Green builders have a competitive advantage over traditional builders in today’s markets.
- Brand yourself green. The employment search is a two-way street. If you find a company that is truly committed to environmental issues and conservation, they will want to know that you are equally committed. How can you show that commitment? Here are some ideas:
- Spearhead a conservation or recycling initiative within your current company, if you are employed at the moment. Or start a bike-to-work program – work with your employer to set up a secure bike storage area and a place for bikers to change into work clothes. Perhaps even set up a buddy program or incentives to encourage your coworkers to try the bike-to-work program.
- Volunteer with an environmental or habitat conservation organization. Volunteering is well worth your time in any case because it will raise your consciousness about issues you were unaware of, and give you a chance to meet likeminded people in your area.
- If you are very committed and have a lot to say about environmental issues, consider starting your own blog on the subject. If you publish a post regularly or at least semiregularly, it will show potential employers that you are keeping yourself up to date on environmental issues. It will also indicate to an employer which issues you feel the most passionate about, so that your job application may seem more personal and less generic than others.
- Educate yourself about environmental issues. Don’t just try to look as though you are up-to date – make sure that you really are up-to-date. Read a good quality newspaper daily, so that you are aware of local, national, and world news that might affect the environment. Subscribe to podcasts, newsletters, and/or RSS feeds from environmental groups. Take the time to track the issues that you feel strongest about, such as water conservation, habitat renewal, or renewable energy. This strategy will mean that you can go into each job interview well-prepared to answer questions about your opinions on various environmental topics. In addition, you may learn about job opportunities that you would never have heard of otherwise. Some organizations, especially smaller ones, don’t advertise their job openings in the classifieds or on job boards – some only post the openings in their own newsletters or on their own websites.
- Do your homework about companies you are considering working for. Being green means different things to different people. Some companies consider themselves green even if their only eco-conscious practice is providing a recycling box next to the copy machine. Others go the whole nine yards, using good energy- and water conservation practices, recycling e-waste as well as paper and cans, and even donating a percentage of their profits to environmental organizations. Don’t assume that a company you have heard is ecofriendly really is – New Scientist recently published a survey showing that there is often a huge gap between consumer perceptions of a company and its actual practices.
- Google the company you are thinking of working for, looking for information about its environmental practices.
- Many publications publish regular “green rankings” of companies. Try checking these listings to see if a company that you are interested in is listed. Here are some links to get you started: Newsweek’s Green Rankings 2010, Earth911’s 2010 listing of the fastest growing green companies, Working Mother’s listing of the 2010 Best Green Companies for America’s Children, Fortune’s 10 Green Giants, and Inc.’s The Eco-Advantage, a listing of Inc.’s Green 50 entrepreneurial companies.
- Ask the right questions in your interview. Find out how the company manages its carbon emissions, what it does with its waste, how it manages and uses its resources, and what the life-cycle impacts of its products and services are. Asking the right questions will not only give you information about how green the company is, but will also help you to impress the interviewer with your knowledge about the environment.
Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) – Brendan is a veteran of the online job search and recruiting industry, having spent the past 8 years in senior client services roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. These sites cover employment searches on everything from customer service jobs to clerical jobs.