Monday, May 03, 2010

Green Careers for Executives: Mastering the Executive Job Search

Are you an executive careerist who wants to pivot into the growing, but complicated world of green business? Here's your chance to ask author and executive recruiter Dan Smolen how to conduct an effective executive job search in the green business arena.

Dan Smolen is the author of the new book, Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy.

In 6 Steps to a Green Career in Your Neck of the Woods Carol McClelland provided excellent insight and actionable suggestions towards building a career in the burgeoning “green” space. Today, Dan Smolen addresses a particular segment of the green career area: opportunities for green business executives.

A little background on Dan Smolen
Dan is native of New Haven, Connecticut who graduated from the Ithaca College Park School of Communications in Ithaca, New York. He lives in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Dan describes himself as a global “empowerer” of green business executive talent. He is also the founder of the career development resource, The Green Suits. As a “head hunter”, serial entrepreneur, direct/interactive marketing specialist, environmental and public policy activist, past chairman of a large regional political organization, and author of the popular green business-focused Sturdy Roots Blog, he brings a unique and much-needed perspective to the area of green business executive careers.

Special Offer for Job Loungers
Throughout today, Dan will:
  1. Answer your questions (as comments to this post).
  2. Give away a signed copy of Tailoring the Green Suit to the person who asks the best question by the end of today, May 3rd.
  3. Offer $7 in savings towards the purchase of the hardcover edition. And you can request that Dan autograph it for you, too.
So, leave your questions as comments to this post, and Dan will respond.

Susan Ireland's Interview with Dan Smolen

Dan, thank you for being with us today in The Job Lounge. And thank you for taking questions from our readers. Let's start with the basics:
Who are the Green Suits?
The Green Suits are ambitious business executive careerists who are in—or are about to enter—emerging green industries such as renewable energy, green tech, and clean tech. They are also the executives at banking institutions, insurance companies, automobile manufacturers, marketing agencies and management consultancies who are eager to turn their conventional companies and market verticals green.
How many Green Suits are there in the American executive workforce?
Since green business is still emerging, it would be nearly impossible to estimate the current Green Suits universe. Using census data and “green” market research findings I estimate that—5 years from now—there could be as many as 68 million Green Suits. YOU READ THAT RIGHT!

That is a huge number, but given that renewable energy, green tech, clean tech, and other “verdant” businesses are poised to transform the U.S. economy, I believe that the 68 million number is entirely credible.
Why is it so difficult to define a “green job”? Does the same difficulty apply to green business executives? What is your definition of a green business executive job?
Some believe “green job” means employment in companies involved in “obvious” green business activities such as energy efficiency, renewable energy development, green tech manufacturing, etc. Others call “green jobs” blue-collar jobs turned green. That definition ignores the business executives in green jobs—The Green Suits. And then there are some that believe a green job could be any job in any company that serves to improve profits, people, and the planet—The Triple Bottom Line.

In the book, I proposed that the term “green business executive job” describes executive employment in any obvious market segment (such as renewable energy or green/LEED building) or not-so-obvious market segment (such as financial services or telecommunications) that:

- Serves to improve the company’s Triple Bottom Line;

- Extends acceptance of practices such as carbon-footprint reduction, recycling, mass-transit usage, virtual office work, and other related initiatives;

- Encourages corporate social responsibility through skill-based volunteerism and other practices;

- Promotes corporate transparency, and;

- Supports continued company-wide green business training and education.
What factors in your life and career led you to write Tailoring the Green Suit?
This has been a very interesting time for me. To write the book, I have counseled with some great business leaders—such as yourself—and I am riding this big green wave which has been a thrill. We in green business know that the green economy is going to be huge, but few of us know how it will evolve. But I do believe that we are part of something big, and that our best days lie ahead.

The factors that led to this book are even more interesting. Several years ago I reckoned with the fact that my vocations (executive recruiting, marketing, business ownership) and my avocations (such 30+ years of environmental activism and public policy) did not mesh. So I integrated them. Now, my executive search specialization includes green business. And my other businesses—The Green Suits career empowerment community and business development company called Start It Up LLC are decidedly bright green. Further, through my book-writing, blogging, and speaking engagements, I have become a well-known advocate for the new green economy and the growing ranks of green business executives—The Green Suits.
Ask Dan Your Question
It's your turn, Job Loungers. Please ask Dan a question in the comments section. Dan will be stopping by throughout the day today to answer them. Remember, best question wins an autographed book!


debbie said...

Hi, I am launching a new site - I would like to ask, in your opinion what are the best training courses and skills that an unemployed person could take now that could help prepare them for jobs in 'green' industries. I would like to relay this info to the job seekers on my site. Thank you! Debbie

Dan Smolen said...

Hey Debbie. I hope you are having a great day!

Your question is somewhat broad in scope, so I will try my best to answer it with a focus on an out-of-work executive experience.

I would say that any unemployed person interested in a green career--executive or not--should first inventory their own "non green" special skills and competencies. What is it that they do particularly well that could be leveraged in the green economy?

For instance, an out-of-work professional with operations experience may discover that his or her skill-set meets some but not all of a green company's requirements. And as a result, he or she may be passed up for a great assignment because of a lack express familiarity with "best practices" in a variety of business markets, such as: resource sustainability, or renewable energy, or smart grid technology, to name a few.

That person needs to try to identify the required areas where he or she lacks critical knowledge and experience. Based on that self-assessment, he or she may decide to enroll in a Green MBA program, take some green business courses at the local community college, or perhaps seek certification. That way, he or she takes big steps towards filling in the experience cavities in the resume.

Certainly, any out-of-work person that is interested in employment in the new green economy needs to be well read. For instance, I would suggest that they set up Google alerts to email them when articles that may be helpful pop up on the internet. Examples of key words: "green business events in Phoenix" or "green training programs".

They should also be joining green business social networks (both online and in-person). And that is critical because out-of-work executives need to be networking, networking, networking. They should meet people already in the green economy to learn of job opportunities and discover the knowledge and experience cavities in the resume that need to be filled.

At least initially, success in finding and landing many green jobs--especially green executive jobs--will depend on acquiring current knowledge, seeking relevant training opportunities, and where applicable getting accreditation in green business, environmental policy, environmental science, etc.

Susan Ireland said...

Dan, your book provides a mini history-review. What motivated you to add that element to the book?

Dan Smolen said...

The mini-history review as you call it is a critical set-up to the entire book.

Had we not experienced:
- the energy crisis of the 1970s,
- changes in corporate America that rendered loyal lifetime workers expendable "human capital"
- the environmental movement and the birth of the Environmental Protection Agency,
- growing reliance on foreign-sourced energy,
- a loss of U.S. leadership in the area of renewable energy technology
- the current crippling economic downturn, and
- the election of President Obama,

there would be no daily discussion of green jobs, or career opportunities for green business executives--The Green Suits.

We in the green business area rely on the past to set our course for the future.

Ronnie Ann said...

Hi Dan! Last year I attended a conference of Wall Street investment bankers that talked about the green revolution being comparable to the industrial revolution - with the next 100 years being a time of unbelievable growth for green tech/ clean tech and other alternative energy businesses.

Yet I see managers of small growing green tech companies right now who need access to both business mentors and investment capital. What do you envision we need to do to better help bring interested executive talent plus these two green forces (money and alternative energy) together?

~ Ronnie Ann

Dan Smolen said...

Hey Ronnie Ann - Thanks for posing this excellent question.

I agree with the assessment of the Wall Streeters who compare the green paradigm shift to the industrial revolution. And yes, one of the challenges many green entrepreneurs have, and will continue to have for a little while longer, is access to mentors

Let us address mentors, first. I propose in my book that aspiring green business executives--and entrepreneurs--assemble their own green business advisory boards. In the business world, an Advisory Board is especially useful to start-up companies that have experience cavities. Members of the board leverage their respective green business-related talents to help make the executive (and the entrepreneur) successful. That helps green business executives succeed in their careers, and it helps green entrepreneurs secure much-needed capital from friends and family through to the venture rounds.

As for the money element, I do believe that start-up or venture capital will become available. Question is...WHEN? The economic downturn has turned off the tap or at best set it to slow leak. One green business entrepreneur friend of mine--lamenting about the lack of capital at her disposal--complained that she was "at the right end of the pool to start the race, but that, right now, there is no water in the pool."

Given the continued uncertainty of the market, the vast majority of investors have yet to provide investment capital to green start-ups in exchange for equity. For some "eco-preneurs", this might be a problem. But for others, this might actually be a blessing; many
entrepreneurs are forming strategic partnerships, using barter, and other cash-neutral arrangements to develop and refine their business models, bring first products to market, and generate initial cash flow. Their businesses likely will develop slower than if they had a large cash-infusion, but working on a shoestring forces many to "work out the bugs" to create stronger more-sustainable companies.

Which brings me to the last part of your question: how do we get "these two green forces (money and alternative energy) working together?

Green business is very much about collaboration. As the market improves, investors will be ready to invest in green businesses and start-ups. Getting them acquainted with each other, now, as the eco-preneurs refine their businesses and the venture people wait out the rest of the storm, will set the stage for an explosion of "green" venture capitalization.

And when the money starts flowing--and we all hope that happens, soon--we will see lots more hiring of green executive talent.

Ronnie Ann said...

Thanks for the great answer, Dan. Your book sounds like it covers a lot of interesting and important territory. Agree "And when the money starts flowing--and we all hope that happens, soon--we will see lots more hiring of green executive talent." Amen. Looking forward to the day when we fully realize as a country just how green green can be!

Dan Smolen said...

Thanks, Ronnie Ann. This period of time we are entering will make the Internet Age look like a blip on a radar screen.

What we are about to experience--culture-wise, business-wise--is nothing short of revolution. And the amount and magnitude of change will be breathtaking.

I believe that our best days lie ahead. That's why we need to do everything we can to be prepared to fully-benefit from all the change.

And that is why I wrote this book: to help ambitious executive talent make the most of the new green economy, to "do well and do right, making the world a better place."

Anonymous said...

Dan, I just wanted to say I am enjoying the book. I bought the Kindle version, last week. Well done!

Dan Smolen said...

Thank you very much. I am pleased that you are enjoying the book on your Kindle.

Anonymous said...

The climate change is a potent political issue. What's your perspective on the politics of green jobs?

Dan Smolen said...

The 2008 election was run (and won) partly on environmental issues and green jobs. So it makes sense that "green jobs" would remain a potent issue (even to this day).

As a retired politician, I am sensitive to how issues are framed. Environmental activists suggesting that "green jobs" help mitigate the effects of "climate alteration" may have noble aims. But we need to be very careful for red-hot political rhetoric often gets in the way of real progress.

Regarding the politics of green jobs, I propose this: we positively frame the issue of green business--and the jobs such businesses produce--in different ways to appeal to different constituencies, for instance:
- PRO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: the green economy will be as big and important as the industrial revolution of the 1800s, and it will create millions of jobs and help return our economy to a sound footing. Companies adopt sustainable best-practices will win while those that don't will be left in the dust;
- PRO-NATIONAL DEFENSE: the U.S. military believes developing domestic sources of renewable energy and green technology will aid our cause in the global war on terror;
- PRO-ENVIRONMENTAL: companies that hire "green talent" to consciously reduce their dependence on carbon-based energy and run sustainable operations will help mitigate climate alteration; and
- PRO-RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL: the green economy will yield green jobs, and the people in those jobs will help to "heal the world" (a biblical concept).

Jam Master said...

Triple Bottom Line
Energy has become one of the most significant concerns in the 21st century. The need for energy has continued to increase and it has become difficult to meet this demand. Coal is poised to be one of the most important sources of energy but it is facing the challenge of environmental impact. To ensure that coal becomes an important source of energy in the world, it is important to put in place a framework for sustainable coal mining. The government should play bigger roles in regulation of coal mining and ensure environmental impact assessment is carried out first. The government should shut down mines if they continuously ignore the law. Fines are not sufficient deterrents for coal mines to supply with safety standards and protect the people and the planet.

For more information visit and

Dan Smolen said...

Thanks for your comment.

Wow...where do I begin?

I am sure few would disagree that coal is the U.S.'s most-important energy resource; more factories, businesses, schools, and homes are powered by coal than any other form of energy.

And the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy advocacy group supporting the aims of coal mining and other pro-coal companies--is spending a king's ransom on promoting the idea of "Clean Coal."

The coal interests in the U.S. are extremely powerful. And the mining industry hires millions of people. Given that mining unions continue to exact their political will, and President Obama promotes its use, the name "clean coal" will remain a very interesting and to some troubling issue for many years to come.

"Clean Coal" advocates argue that coal can be rendered CLEAN. Coal-fired power plants than once spewed gray filth from its stacks now have "scrubbers" attached to them to remove the coal ash.

But while the skies around some smokestacks may be cleaner, the coal ash removed from the air has to be placed somewhere. Often, coal ash is irrigated--turned into a liquid slurry--and placed in huge retention ponds, indefinitely.

In late 2008, you may have read that one of those coal ash retention ponds--in Kingston, Tenn.--gave way and the slurry it had retained poured quickly into the Emery River basin, creating a monumental ecological disaster that is still being dealt with.

There is no disputing that coal can contain some really harmful pollutants. According to the EPA, coal ash has been found to include heavy concentrations of mercury, lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals which can ruin ecosystems and can cause cancer and neurological disorders in humans and animals.

The Green Suits--the enterprising business careerists seeking "green" executive employment--need to be fully aware of the "clean coal" debate and other red-hot issues involving the "greening" of conventional sources of energy i.e., hydroelectric dams.

We need to take this "clean coal" issue very seriously. And if some of us Green Suits advocate for "clean coal" usage then we better be extremely well-prepared to engage in some fiery public debate, and offer highly credible solutions for making sure that "clean coal slurry" is contained in a fail-safe way that protects health and prevents further ecological disaster.