Looking to grab one of those new green-collar jobs President Obama keeps talking about? Or carve out an entirely new eco-job niche? Before you charge ahead, here are some facts and tips to help boost your eco-career IQ and bolster your job search.
If your dream is an "old school" green job, like urban planning or conservation biology, you're in luck. These positions are sure to multiply in coming years as environmental awareness grows. Millions of new green jobs are also expected to materialize from the $20 billion in stimulus money the president has slated for greening the economy, which includes investing in clean energy production; weatherizing homes and buildings; building and upgrading mass transit systems; and environmental cleanup. The stimulus also includes $500 million for green job training — mostly lower-skill, clean-energy jobs, such as solar-panel installers and fuel-cell engineers.
Whatever your green-career aspirations — whether you're just starting out or midway through your career — here's a five-step plan to get you started:
1) Pinpoint your eco-passions. What fires you up? Straw-bale homes? The plight of endangered tigers? Designing organic jeans? Fighting corporate polluters? Start with some research to match your green leanings and skills with potential careers. Join professional associations in fields that interest you and set up informational interviews with people in jobs you covet. Or check out sites like GreenCareers Guide by MonsterTRAK.com or Green Careers Guide from EcoGreen Ventures Inc. Green Careers Journal is another good source for green job trends. Books to consider include Careers in Renewable Energy: Get a Green Energy Job, Green Jobs: A Guide to Eco-friendly Employment, and Careers in the Environment.
2) Green what you've got. If you're already in a career, you may find that your current skills are transferable to an eco-field. For instance, your marketing, website-design or fundraising skills might be of use to a nonprofit environmental group or eco-conscious company. Or instead of changing fields, you might uncover eco-opportunities in your current job, including greening your company's office or developing new green products. Of course, if your present employer manufacturers missiles or dumps toxins into rivers, becoming the recycled-paper guru or boosting energy efficiency in the plant might not technically make your job "green."
3) Educate yourself. If your current skills won't land you that green dream job, additional education or training may be in order. Whether you're heading back to school to retool — or just starting out — consider a green college. Check out the Eco League, the North American Alliance for Green Education and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Visit EnviroEducation.com for schools that offer specific eco-majors. MBA seekers should check out Aspen Institute's Beyond Grey Pinstripes for a list of programs that incorporate green values. And don't forget educational opportunities at community colleges (where training for many green stimulus jobs is expected to occur), as well as community organizations, such as Sustainable South Bronx, Green Corps Field School for Environmental Organizing and B'more Green in Baltimore. Professional associations, such as the U.S. Green Building Council and Solar Energy International, also offer green job training. And when it comes time to craft your résumé, don't forget about eco-volunteer experience and internships. (Check out Idealist.org for these opportunities).
4) Network and schmooze. Congratulations — you're ready to start your job search. Because many positions are never advertised, now's the time to start reaching out to contacts you've made via informational interviews, volunteering, internships and training programs. You may just get the inside scoop on the perfect job. Another avenue is to join a green networking group. Look around your community or join a national network with local chapters, like EcoTuesday for sustainable business leaders or Green Drinks, offering more casual get-togethers for green-minded individuals.
5) Search online and locally. Visit the Live Green, Live Smart Institute's Green Job Clearing House for a list of 30 top eco-job sites. Executive search firm Bright Green Talent also lists jobs and helps match you with green employers. In addition to the Web, scout around your own back yard. Health-food stores, organic farms, green-home builders, environmental organizations, recycling centers, eco-tourism firms, and parks and recreation areas all offer green opportunities. If no local eco-businesses are hiring, consider starting your own.
Want more info? Check out MNN's 'Green Jobs' channel.