This article is an interview with the renowned author of “Green Careers For Dummies“ Dr. Carol McClelland. In it, she shares some of the ways job seekers can bridge over the experience, education and skills gap into the world of green, environmental and infrastructure jobs. Here is more information on Carol.
Carol McClelland, Ph.D., a pioneering career-change consultant, has spent seventeen years helping thousands of clients, students, and readers discover fulfilling careers that align with their personal values. As the Founder and Executive Director of Green Career Central, Carol is once again on the leading edge of her field. When the green movement took hold, Carol realized that innovative companies inventing products and developing services to reduce carbon emissions would need employees. Now she sees her role as defining and clarifying the ever-evolving world of green career possibilities for professionals who want to change careers. In addition she teaches job search tactics that produce results in the green economy.
HHC: How can career changers bridge the gap between their current education and the requirements needed for the new green jobs?
Carol: The key to bridging the gap in education takes some strategy. There are many, many green jobs, which means there are many ways to prepare. To determine the training you need, it’s important to get clear about which green job is the best fit for you. Look at your current skills and your previous work experience to determine if there’s a green job you are already well suited for. Perhaps you’ve worked with the same raw materials, used the same kind of tools, performed a similar function, worked with the same kind of clients. For each person the tie in is a bit different, so do your own detective work to figure out which green job is likely to be a productive direction for you.
Then determine how you are going to get that training. Do you need to develop a technical skill? Or do you need more knowledge and work experience about a particular topic? Your training/education decisions will depend on what the gap is between your training and your target green job.
HHC: What are Carol’s top three tips to finding a green job?
Carol: My first recommendation is to get clear about where your skills fit within the green economy. The first step of this process is to review your own work history and passions to see what you are interested in. This is a process of personal reflection to get your own sense of your strengths and unique value.
Then you must research your target green industry to understand exactly where your skills fit and how you can be of value to a future employer. Although it’s tempting to rely on the hiring manager connect the dots between your history and the target industry/function/company, that’s not the hiring manager’s job! It’s your job! You must be able to articulate what it is you can do for a company and why you are the best candidate for the position. To do this well, you must spend time understanding the section of the industry you want to work in. At first this research is done online, then you move out to talk with people in the field who can give you the most up to date trends and local industry news.
At the same time you can begin to prepare your resume to demonstrate your strengths in terms of skills, work experience, knowledge, and values. If you are transitioning to a new career, this process may take some time. Start early by taking on volunteer activities, course work, and leadership roles. Then leverage that experience to obtain some actual work experience. The more targeted your experiences, the more compelling your resume will look to hiring managers. Do all you can to make the case that you are a fine candidate.
One bonus tip…keep in touch with your contacts to make sure they know the kind of job you are ultimately pursuing. Continue to stay in touch to build an ongoing relationship, to offer value to them, and to be the first person they think of when a job opening drops in their in box!
HHC: What are the top 3 things a green job seeker can to do expand their network?
Carol:Expanding your network is one of the most effective ways you can strengthen your job search activities. My favorite way to expand your network is to get involved in your local community. Volunteer for the local green team, a community organization, a non-profit, a green festival, or a professional organization. If you are strategic in which activities you devote your time and energy to, you’ll not only expand your connections in the local green network, you’ll also gain relevant accomplishments for your resume, and your gain more insight about how green issues are addressed in your area. All helpful information for your job search.
My second suggestion is to post you profile on LinkedIn and become an active LinkedIn user. As the most professionally focused social networking tool, it is the number one place to have a presence online. Don’t just slap together your profile, really work on it to demonstrate your interests, your experience, your connections, and your strengths. Connect with people you already know from previous work settings and community efforts. Make sure you make connections on LinkedIn with new contacts as you make them. Then join groups to gain access to people who share your interests and professional goals. It’s worth your time to become comfortable with how this tool works.
Third, I recommend coming up with a viable way to track your contacts and your interactions with your contacts. So often opportunities get lost in the shuffle of everyday life and work. Set up a system so you don’t let any contacts slip through the cracks. You never know who will point you to the lead that opens up a job opportunity.
HHC: Other than clean energy, where do you see expanded green job growth?
Carol:Certainly clean energy is a growing area of the green economy, but that’s not the only one. Green building, building performance, and energy efficiency are overlapping areas that are growing in some areas. Take a look at your state and local rebates and incentives for energy efficiency to see what’s likely to grow in your area.
Another area to watch is Smart Grid. Although transforming our electric grid is a huge effort that is likely to unfold over the next few decades, there are companies, some start-ups and some multi-national companies, that are making plays in this arena. Those with an IT or telecommunications background should pay close attention to trends in this sector.
Depending on your region, waste, manufacturing, hospitality, sustainability and natural resource management also have opportunities. If you aren’t familiar with the sectors of the green economy, take a look at our Green Economy Map (www.greencareercentral.com/map) Just seeing the areas in which industries are making a concerted effort to become more sustainable may give you ideas for your next career move.
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