Monday, March 15, 2010

6 Steps to a Green Career in Your Neck of the Woods

Are you looking for work in the green job market? If so, this advice by Carol McClelland could give you the insight you need to conduct an effective green job search.

Carol is author of the new book, Green Careers for Dummies. Today she's "appearing" here in The Job Lounge as the first stop on her Virtual Book Tour. While she's here, she'll:
  1. Answer questions left by readers (as comments to this post).

  2. Give away a signed copy of her book to the person who asks the best question by the end of Monday, March 15th.

  3. Offer a $5 savings on all Green Careers for Dummies books. There's a link on the Blog Tour page for a mail-in rebate.

So, leave your question as a comment after this post, and Carol will respond. Maybe you'll be the lucky winner of Green Careers for Dummies !

Searching for a Green Job
by Carol McClelland

To find a job you must know where to focus your job search efforts, specifically which companies to target. If you are searching for a traditional position, it’s likely you’ll be able to rely on common wisdom to discover which companies in your target industry are located in your geographic region.

If you are searching for a green job, however, the way forward may not be as clear. You may not know, right off the top of your head, which green companies are in your geographic area or which green companies hire people with your skills. Just because you don’t know about these companies doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.

Use these detective strategies to find green companies in your area. As you find green companies, create two lists: one for green companies in general and one for green companies within your target industry.

  1. Watch your local media – regional papers, local papers, and business journals – for articles about companies making efforts to green their business practices or green start up companies receiving funding.

  2. Keep an eye out for upcoming Earth Day events and green festivals. In addition to attending these events to meet others who share your interests and values, pay attention to which companies are sponsoring and exhibiting at these events. Research them before the event so that you are ready to take advantage of opportunities to talk with them if you meet them in person.

  3. Scan green job boards. Although job boards only advertise a fraction of existing job openings, job boards can be used as a valuable research tool. By reading job postings you can gain a deeper understanding of what job titles exist, what skills are required, and which companies are in a hiring mode. Take what you learn to target the companies in your area that you want to research.

  4. Know the associations that support your target green industry. Professional, trade, and industry associations are a treasure trove of information. On the national associations’ Web sites, search for information about regional associations for your area. In addition to getting up-to-date information about the status of your industry or profession and training requirements, you can often find lists of company members you can use to build your lists.

  5. Follow the money. Stimulus money, venture capital, and investments by large multi-national companies are flowing. The question is where is the money landing in your region?

    A. Enter your zip code in the map to find out what companies/projects have gotten funding through the stimulus package. Keep watching this site; new grants, contracts, and loans are being announced and distributed on a regular basis and will continue through 2012.

    B. Do a search on venture capitalists in your area. What companies are they funding? Although start up companies may take a while to reach the point where they are hiring, knowing which companies are growing will help you focus your networking and job search efforts.

    C. Make note of any green rebates, tax credits, or financing programs in your area. When these programs start they generally create demand for new services, which can stimulate job growth in your area.

  6. Search for companies online. Combine search terms for your target green industry with your region (i.e. “solar companies” + “your region”) to pull up a list of green companies on your search engine. (Replace solar with your target green industry.) Explore the results to see what companies you want to add to your list.

As you begin to target specific green companies, set up Google alerts to get news updates on your target companies. Knowing about media mentions and press releases will alert you to what’s happening within the company. Although some of the news may not seem relevant to you personally, stick with it. Sometimes corporate level news will give you an insight into the direction the company is taking, a change in management, the addition of a new green initiative or division, or news that the company is landing more contracts.

Having this level of information will help you in your networking conversations, in your interviews, and later as an employee.

Carol McClelland, PhD, is the author of Green Careers For Dummies and the Founder and Executive Director of Green Career Central, a full-service online resource center dedicated to providing career guidance, coaching, and resources to clarify the ever-evolving world of green career possibilities for professionals, students, and career counselors.

Carol will be stopping by The Job Lounge throughout the day on March 15th to answer your questions. Leave a comment and she'll respond!


Susan Ireland said...

Thank you so much for joining us in The Job Lounge. I'd like to start with this question:

Is a "green career" limited to those who have special education or training in the environmental field? If someone is a sales person or administrative professional, how can she find a career in the green job market?

carolmc said...

Thank you for hosting me, Susan. There are green jobs for people in all fields. The special training we all need is to understand what sustainability is in general and what it means in our specific field. Some fields, like Green Building and others, do have certifications and licensing requirements. Other fields don't have requirements set up yet, but may in the future. The specific training requirements themselves depend on the field.

For someone with a non-technical background, such as sales, marketing, business, management, the key goal right now is to identify companies in your area that are already successful in the marketplace. In other words, they have a product/service/process to sell. If the company is an early start up company or still in research and development, they will ultimately need non-technical people, but right now they are focusing all of their HR budget on the technical people who can help them get into the marketplace. In other words there may be a timing disconnect for some people looking for non-technical positions. Don't give up hope, but realize that the green economy is just forming and that more job opportunities will be opening up.

Another place for either technical or non-technical people to look for jobs is established companies that have green initiatives - Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Walmart, etc. These companies are already established so they have an infrastructure that includes non-technical people.

Let me know if you have other questions.

Ralph said...

Carol, thank you for your service!

The Fed. is giving grants to the EPA, and other federal agencies to do environmental work. The push is mainly in the energy sector. However, do you see federal government jobs opening up in the energy sector that use alternative options like solar, and wind?

I've an MS in Environmental Science with course work in air, water, EPA risk assessments, and one course in Remote Sensing.

Can you recommend a professional association that is valuable, but doesn't cost much?

Also, can you recommend a certification for me that would translate into jobs? (non-managerial, hands-on work).

Thank you for considering my questions.

Carol McClelland said...

Hi Ralph,
The government has a number of initiatives in renewable energy and energy efficiency. If you haven't been to the government's Web sites, I highly encourage you to spend some time understanding the initiative they are already working on. I was impressed as I did my research for Green Careers For Dummies.

Here are a couple of good places to start: (Department of Energy)and (DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) - Use the links at the top of each site to drill down to the various programs for various kinds of renewable energy.

It's very difficult to recommend training programs without knowing your specific career goals. Each green career requires specific training above and beyond knowledge about sustainability.

The key is to choose an industry focus and then do as much research as you can to understand what facet of the industry is a good fit for you. Then with that information in mind you can make good decisions about your training options and many other aspects of your job search.

In terms of professional association recommendations. There are literally hundreds of associations - some industry/trade associations that have company memberships and others are professional associations for individuals in the field. Even saying you want to be in renewable energy doesn't narrow it down much. Keep in mind that you can learn a lot from association websites during your research stage and then join the one or two organizations that are the best fit for you.

Here are a couple of examples:

American Solar Energy Society - -

Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition -

Green Careers For Dummies lists several associations for each of the 50 industries/sectors I profiled in the book. You can also search for associations by putting your industry + "association" in your search engine.

Good luck!


Jan Melnik said...

Carol and Susan, great forum! I'm working with a marketing executive who has spent most of his 20-year career in the corporate world of pharmaceuticals and marketing communications companies that support healthcare. He has a passion to 'go green' and work in the alternative energy field. What suggestions might you offer as the best places to begin identifying appropriate companies and recruitment firms specializing in this relatively new niche? Any ideas welcome.

Jan Melnik, MRW, CCM, CPRW
President, Absolute Advantage •

Carol McClelland said...

Hi Jan,

A couple of recommendations.

1) For those in marketing it's important to focus on the green industries that are beyond pure research and development/start up mode--these companies don't have a product to market yet! The industry needs to be emerging/growing and attempting to capture their share of the market place.

In renewable energy, I'd research solar companies and solar manufacturing companies. There are a lot of players entering these industries and as a result they need to differentiate themselves.

Another alternative might be smart grid companies. This industry is a little earlier in it's maturation cycle, but will grow tremendously over the coming years. Although part of the smart grid sector is utility based, other parts of it have to do with consumption management and storage through software, hardware, and online. Spending time understanding the smart grid is important.

In both these sectors there are large, multi-national companies entering the market place as well. Think big tech companies and telecommunications companies.

2) Most companies in the green/renewable energy space are looking for experience. If your client has never worked in the field it's critical for him to strengthen his knowledge about the field through courses, volunteering, reading books, and possibly certificate programs. There are a number of organizations offering online and in person courses on solar from community colleges, independent schools, and public utilities. Spending some effort to "green" his resume will be worth the effort.

Hope this information helps you help him!


Barbara said...

You have great ideas. There are so many places to find information about "green" on the net, in your book as well as attending conferences, many of which are free, what suggestions can you make to help a job hunter "distill" what they have learned at one or more conferences and use it as a tool to refine their search? I have used the Green Economy map as an effective tool as well.

Thanks again for sharing your insights.

Barbara K

Carol McClelland said...

Hi Barbara,

Great question. There is definitely a lot of information swirling around about the green economy. Without having a defined green focus, everything you see/hear may be important so you have to attend to all of it. That gets overwhelming in a big hurry!

The key to making sense of the information you are reading or hearing is to determine your own green focus or green niche.

First, you'll need to get an overall sense of the green economy - what it is and what it isn't. With this information you'll have a sense of the larger playing field. Green Careers For Dummies has both an overview of the green economy as well as profiles of over 50 green industries and sectors. After I finished the book I also developed a visual tool to help people SEE what makes up the green economy (

Then, with overview as your foundation, you begin to focus in on the part of the green economy that's likely to be the best fit for your skills, interests, experience and education. Often you can leverage your traditional skills within the green economy with some creativity.

Chapters 4-6 of the book walk you through a process to help you identify your green focus. On Green Career Central we also have a more in depth process called What's Your Green Niche.

Having a defined focus will help you determine what sources of information you need to pay attention to and how to distill what you learn.

Having the green focus will also help you make good decisions about training options, networking groups, information interview contacts, and which blogs to read.

At the beginning of the process your green focus may be as broad as a industry, but as you learn more about the industry you'll be able to be more specific about your focus when you talk to your contacts and you do your own research.

All the best!


Dave said...


I've heard a lot about green building jobs and I imagine there are technical careers in the wind and solar industries, but are there other places to look for employment without an engineering background?

Carol McClelland said...

Hi Dave,

At first glance it often looks like the green economy is only for those with a scientific or technical background. In my research for Green Careers For Dummies and the research I've done over the last three years for my site Green Career Central, I've found opportunities for those of us who want to make a contribution to the green economy and have a non-technical background.

Here are a few points to keep in mind.

1) I use a fairly broad definition of green jobs/careers/companies/industries. As long as the person or the companies are making an effort to have a positive impact on the planet, I consider them to be green. Granted some jobs are "greener" than others.

2) Some jobs have a direct impact on the state of the planet. The job tasks themselves reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce waste, or achieve another green goal. Often these jobs have a technical component to them.

Other jobs are green but they have an indirect impact on the environment. For instance, policy makers, advocates, environmental educators, marketing specialists, or regulators work to encourage people to take greener actions or to set up guidelines to define the green economy. They have a tremendous impact on the shape and form of the green economy. Their efforts allow others to take greener actions. I believe people in these jobs play an incredibly important role in growing the green economy.

3) As companies in renewable energy, the smart grid, green building, transportation and manufacturing grow and mature more and more of them will need non-technical employees who know how to grow, operate, and manage companies. Since a number of these companies are emerging start ups at the moment, they are focusing most of their human resource budget on the employees who can help them develop their product, service, and process so they can it into the marketplace. As they enter the market and shift from development to claiming their place in the market, their hiring goals will change to include managers, human resource specialists, financial roles, operations, customer service, and more. It's at this point that people with non-technical skills will see more opportunities.

A similar trend happened in Silicon Valley in the early days of the computer/software/internet revolutions. Now many of the same companies are seen as solid employers. We are seeing this transition happen in green companies in solar and some in smart grid companies and expect this trend to happen more frequently in the future.

You might also want to look for positions in the companies that are more mature or in the large multi-national companies that are transitioning into the green economy with their own products and services.

If your skills aren't needed yet in your target green industry, look at career options that strengthen your position in your ultimate green career. Perhaps you can work in a related field, enhance your education, or develop contacts that will give you more value in your green industry when it is mature enough to hire you.

Be strategic in your choices so you are ready to make the leap into a green company that needs you now or needs you when the industry opens up to hire people with your skills.

All the best,

roberta rosen said...


Thank you for making your readers aware of Carol and her very helpful book! Carol, I agree with you and point out to my clients that the "Green" world is much like silicon valley in it's early days and the more mature companies probably have the most momentum. If you were to start a list of those that you would label "more mature", which companies might you include?

Roberta Rosen, Career Coach,

Carol McClelland said...

Hi Roberta,

Glad you are enjoying the discussion. We've covered a lot of territory today!

As I look at blog posts and reports about various companies in the green economy they fall into several categories

- Large companies with household names - the likes of: Google, IBM, Coca-Cola, UPS. etc.

- Emerging companies that we may not know by name right now but we are likely to in the future.

- Start up companies that are still under the radar. They may be in Research and Development or struggling to get funding. It's harder to predict their trajectory.

I agree with you, the mature companies are likely to have the most opportunity and momentum for career seekers (unless they know they want to be part of the start up adventure.)

More and more large companies with household names are making concerted efforts to become players in the green/clean economy. Here's a just a sampling of companies we see mentioned in green blogs on a regular basis: Google, Microsoft, GE, Siemens, Applied Materials, Intel, SC Johnson, UPS, FedEx, Cisco, Coca Cola, Frito Lay. Remember the entire operation in these companies may not be green at this point, but these companies have one or more initiatives that are designed to impact the environment in a positive way. Are they perfectly green? Probably not. Do they have the mindset and drive to capture part of the market in a significant way? Yes!

A sampling of companies that look like they are on their way to becoming household names include: Silver Springs Networks, Sunpower, Serious Materials, Vestas, Solar City, REC Solar, Solyndra, Suniva, esolar, Recycle Bank, Tesla Motors, Fisker Automotive. The caveat with these companies is that they are becoming large companies. They aren't there yet. A number of factors, some hard to anticipate and predict at the moment, will shape whether they become household names or not.

One of the best ways to discover companies that are making a significant impact on the green economy is to choose several blogs to track on a regular basis. As you see company names come up over time you'll begin to see trends develop.

A good general blog that tracks developments in green businesses is If you are interested in clean tech specifically, is a good blog to watch.