I’ve seen authors refer to the shift into this new economic era as the Third Industrial Revolution (Jeremy Rifkin) and the Climate/Energy Era (Thomas Friedman, author of Hot, Flat and Crowded). Time will tell which term will rise to the top as the defining phrase. (For the sake of brevity, I tend to use the phrases "new economy" and "green economy.")
The fact that there is no established name for this new era tells us that we are in the earliest phases of this shift to the new economy. All elements of this new economy will continue to evolve for some time to come.
The good news: Opportunity!
Change, especially rapidly evolving change, opens up new career possibilities. Take an interest in a particular target green industry and watch it closely as the green economy continues to unfold.
Over time you’ll be able to see new trends develop that will give you an edge in the job market if you are paying attention.
The uncomfortable news: Risk!
As has been true in other new economic eras, there’s risk inherent in getting involved in an industry at the early stages. Some companies will make it big based on a key technology, process, service, or product. Other companies will fade away or be bought up by larger players. This isn’t a flaw of the new economy; it’s just part of the process as new industries emerge and companies all join the race for market share.
To succeed in this economic climate, you must keep in touch with developments in your green industry.
What Makes Up This New Economy?
For many it’s difficult to grasp what’s included in the green economy. I heard someone once liken the green economy to trying to grab hold of a large water balloon. In one sense there’s something there, but it’s very hard to hold it or give it any form or structure.
To develop your own sense of what’s included in the green economy, consider these industry categories.
- Mainstream media highlights the emerging industries within renewable energy, the smart grid, and clean tech. The players in these sectors tend to be start up companies and companies with well known names that are investing heavily in green/clean initiatives.
- There are also a number companies within existing sectors, such as green building, manufacturing and alternative transportation, that are rethinking their business practices, processes, and products to reduce their impact on the environment.
- Environmental sciences and natural resource management are other areas of the economy that are playing a big part in this new economy. Knowing how environmental systems work is valuable at the scientific level and in applied situations within industry.
- Another cluster of industries involve functions that help create demand for greener, cleaner, more sustainable actions. People with strong non-technical skills such as communication, legal, finance, education, and management are playing a critical role in setting up a policy framework and climate that encourages individuals, families, groups, and companies to rethink business as usual to find more effective ways to do business and live.
In upcoming articles, I’ll delve into each of these sectors of the green economy to show you the career opportunities available and emerging as the new economy takes hold.
© Copyright, 2010, Carol McClelland. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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. For more information, visit Green Career Central.