To attract top candidates, companies need to demonstrate their green awareness and ability to adapt to a changing concept of corporate responsibility and leadership. This is particularly true in light of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's “cap-and-trade” principle, which, if fully implemented, will make big polluters less competitive and therefore less appealing to the best and brightest.
Green practices taking hold in corporate America offer the chance for the environmentally-savvy worker to benefit both the bottom line and their own resume. Some areas that will need early adopters to encourage and guide others:
- Greener choices for the commute: Flexcar and bike programs, carpooling, and transit passes
- Working from home: technical and logistical skills
- Web conferencing and other travel alternatives
- Smart IT and lighting programs
- Paperless document management
- Sourcing of non-toxic cleaning supplies, furniture made with recycled materials, low-VOC paints, LED bulbs, and other supplies
- Waste recycling, toxic waste handling, water conservation
A Starting Point: "Sustainability" (Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle)
Larger firms and many academic institutions are hiring sustainability officers to foster a green agenda across their organizations.
In settings such as schools, health care facilities, hotels and restaurants, interested employees who volunteer to spearhead energy-saving and education initiatives are soon identified as experts.
For virtually every department or job title, from accounting to vendor management, there are opportunities to ‘reduce, re-use, and recycle’.
Windsmiths Wanted (some day soon)
No, you won’t find a “Windsmith” job opening on Craigslist, or anywhere else, just yet.
The truth is that the Greening of America will yield few completely new job titles or activities.
That’s good news because if you are a worker with ‘legacy’ trades and skills, you won’t need total re-training to land a job. Your existing skill sets can be leveraged for new uses, and augmented by learning the language and technical expertise specific to your green industry of choice. When the Department of Labor catches up with your newly-minted skill set, you’ll get your new job title.
Positioning for the Near Term?
Which industry to choose, which path to take? Economists and other thinkers are weighing in on the right way to turn. Robert Pollin and colleagues, of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, recommend that our country invest in six renewable-energy and energy-efficiency strategies for building a new green infrastructure:
- Retrofitting of existing buildings to improve energy-efficiency
- Mass transit and freight rail expansion
- Smart electrical grid and transmission systems
- Solar power
- Wind power
- Biofuels – the next generation
Although they are not the only job growth areas, these sectors hold great promise for both new grads and experienced workers. Some prospective job transformations that illustrate the breadth of opportunity that’s coming:
||Solar Thermal Systems Technician
||Wind turbine builder
||Photovoltaic systems specialist
||Light rail technician
|Restaurant grease remover
||Energy auditor (a real job now)
||Hybrid auto consultant
Getting There: IT or ET
According to Tom Friedman in his book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded”, the Next Big Thing is ET, Energy Technology.
ET is expected to outstrip IT as America’s next huge industrial opportunity. Private investment is expected to flow toward the energy sector in its new, post-petroleum incarnation. In the words of Wayne Gretsky: “Skate toward where that puck’s gonna be”.
The time appears to be right for gaining knowledge and, when possible, experience in these emerging fields. If you are interested (and why wouldn't you be), set up some Google Alerts on the subject and see what is happening. Stay informed and differentiate yourself in this job market and on the job.
© Copyright, 2009, Kathleen Lyons. Job-Hunt's Green Jobs Job Search expert, Kathleen Lyons, is a workforce training and performance support specialist, and the publisher and editor of Green Job Idea Blog. She believes that the emerging green economy offers huge opportunities for both white- and blue-collar job seekers to find satisfying and meaningful work. Kathleen holds membership in the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), Co-op America, The International EcoTourism Club and the Cape & Islands Renewable Energy Collaborative.