We all want a meaningful, enjoyable job that pays well. That’s one reason why more people are turning to sustainability careers. In fact, the green economy is building a new American workforce. Despite the current political climate, more than 110,000 new clean energy jobs were created in 2018, bringing the total to 3.26 million.
If you’re looking for engaging work where you can help combat global warming and boost our nation’s climate resiliency, sustainable jobs are the way.
Here are some tips for finding your dream job in this rewarding industry.
Understand the Array of Opportunities
There’s no shortage of opportunities when it comes to the clean energy industry. While most people think of renewable energy – and there are plenty of options in solar, wind and hydro and biomass – a number of other areas need dedicated individuals. As populations increase, there’s a growing need for sustainable agriculture and urban gardening, as well as sustainable transportation – from bikes to buses to electric vehicles. Many opportunities exist in green products, from cleaners to equipment to apparel. Resource conservation offers endless possibilities: GIS specialists, land use planners, wildlife habitat specialists, forestry services and more.
Energy efficiency jobs are the fastest-growing sector in clean energy, accounting for 2.25 million American workers as of 2018. These jobs involve anything from installing HVAC systems, windows and insulation to conducting energy audits and green building certifications.
Not sure where to start? Browse the clean energy job listings in your area, and see what types of career opportunities are available.
Assess Your Skills & Position Yourself to Fill in the Gaps
As you begin to understand what companies’ needs are, take time to evaluate what matters most to you. Think about what makes you come alive and how you’ll implement those skills and that enthusiasm in a rewarding career. If you’re not sure, try volunteering for a few different organizations to get a taste of what you enjoy most.
If you’re breaking into the clean energy industry from another sector, consider how you might transfer your knowledge and experience. As you scroll through job postings, take note of the kind of role you want, and jot down the requirements. See how they compare to your skillset – and write down the gaps. This exercise will give you insight into what the market is looking for, and help you understand how to widen your knowledge to compete with other applicants. Do you need more technical or soft skills? What about topic expertise?
From here, start looking into training and certification programs to improve your proficiency. Be mindful of the time commitment, and be sure to pursue desirable qualifications like LEED for green building design and NABCEP for the solar industry. Some companies will pay for specific certifications, so this is something to consider.
Research, Network, Repeat
If you want a job in the clean energy field, knowledge is crucial. Conduct your own research and make sure you have a strong grasp of your desired field. Watch webinars, read articles, follow influencers on Twitter, join LinkedIn groups, attend seminars and other relevant events. Don’t be intimidated – you don’t need to become an immediate expert – but do learn the basics so you can speak the lingo. You’ll also want to read about current events and industry trends so that you can join the conversation, both online and in person.
This brings us to the next point: networking. Clean energy, more so than many other industries, is one in which relationships are crucial. It evolves quickly, and opportunities can arise overnight. Even if you’re satisfied with your job and aren’t planning to move companies anytime soon, networking has other benefits. Connecting with sustainability professionals can help you gather intel on the industry, learn from the mistakes and triumphs of others, and even find a mentor who can offer you career advice along your journey.
As far as finding a job, studies reveal that up to 80 percent of positions are never advertised – they’re filled solely by word of mouth. In a mission-oriented space like clean energy, those involved are more than willing to speak about a cause they hold dear to their hearts. Connecting with clean energy colleagues both online and in person is a great way to gain insight, discover which sources are best for information, and even develop long-term relationships for future career advancement.
By creating a free professional profile on Clean Energy Jobs List, you’ll have the opportunity to find like-minded individuals and connect with them through their established social networks. Also be sure to attend meetings, networking events and any social gatherings in your area. Start networking before you need it, and you’ll be able to establish authentic connections without seeming desperate.
Evaluate Companies, See if Your Values Align
As you begin to uncover opportunities through your online network, on jobs boards and through your connections, the next step is to dig into the companies and see if your values align. Consider the fact that many folks start at the bottom and work their way up. Even if a given position isn’t your dream job, if it’s at a respected company where employees enjoy working, it’s not a bad idea to get your foot in the door.
Established companies also create new positions to help their organization become more sustainable. For example, a Sustainability Manager assesses a company’s environmental impact, and identifies ways to improve it. Oftentimes, these establishments promote from within. For instance, Greenbiz found that 55 percent of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals came to their position internally.
If you’re mid-career and can’t afford to start at a lower-level role, try researching start-ups and non-profits. These companies typically require employees to wear multiple hats, and your experience in a former role might just make you the preferred multi-faceted candidate.
Above all, pay close attention to the mission of each company you find, and think about how everything you’ve learned can help your potential new employer.