Starting Your Green Industry Career
On March 21, 2010, Green Job Job Search Expert Carol McClelland answered job seeker questions in Job-Hunt's blog. Most questions were about how to get started in the new green industries. These three have wide applicability from green business and IT through construction to consulting.
I am a BA with project management experience interested in moving forward to green enterprises. How is IT implemented to bridge green business and technology? What are the opportunities for business analysts and project management?
The biggest opportunity for people with an IT background is the smart grid. Although the entire transition to a smart grid will take years to implement, smart grid start up companies and existing IT companies are already getting funding, hiring, and winning contracts.
The smart grid is a large sector that spans utilities, renewable energy, and the transmission and distribution of power at one end of the spectrum. And the interface that end users have with the grid are transforming with the help of smart meters, equipment, software, and appliances at the other end of the spectrum. IT and telecommunications specialists will have ample opportunity to participate in this new world. Experts predict that this sector will have a huge impact on our lives and our economy. It’s likely new industries will be born as new data are captured, new equipment will need to be serviced, and new consulting opportunities become available.
The first step is to understand the scope of the entire smart grid supply chain to see where your skills and interests fit. I included a profile of the smart grid in Chapter 10, Careers in Rebuilding the Infrastructure, of Green Careers For Dummies. I’d also recommend reading this free report – http://www.gtmresearch.com/report/smart-grid-in-2010 – to get a better grasp of the opportunities available in this sector.
engineer and scheduler. Having been laid off last fall, I am now working part-time performing energy auditing and weatherization but am still looking for a more substantial full-time position with a future for growth.
I find the options too many and would like input on how to determine and focus on a specific goal in the “green” industry. Also, what are the options for starting one’s own business in the green arena? Your book would be a good resource for answers to these questions?
You are absolutely right when you say the options are many! The other tricky part of the equation is that different industries are growing at different rates, in different regions of the country.
I have some ideas for you:
- Following your passion.
Why did you choose to get into energy efficiency/conservation? Was it a passion or just a move that worked? If it’s a passion, I’d get as much training as you can and do research in your local region about how energy efficiency / conservation projects are going to be funded. There are some programs that may be moving forward in the next few months to a year that could put you in a wonderful position within this field.
- Working on commercial building projects.
Given your background in commercial projects I’d also explore commercial projects that may be larger scale. I know there’s a big project underway on the Empire State Building that’s being used as a model for retrofitting skyscrapers. It might be worth your while to read up on this project to see the kinds of work involved and how that work matches your skills. Here’s a website you can check out – http://www.esbsustainability.com/SocMe/?Id=0
- Starting your own company.
If you are interested in starting your own company I would do a bit of research on the needs, rebates, financial vehicles, and green initiatives that are available in your region and through your utility. The green companies that are growing the fastest are those that are capitalizing on rebates programs that are available. Keep in mind you have to continue to track development and change your offerings to match the special programs that are available. Starting a business is a big decision so make sure you surround yourself with some sound advisers who can help you assess the situation and make a good decision.
- Exploring your green options.
If you are interested in opening your eyes to look beyond energy efficiency, then yes, the book, Green Careers For Dummies, does have three chapters to help you identify your green focus. It’s a process to look at your skills and background and the opportunities in the (local) green economy to find the best match. It’s definitely possible to refocus your interests and leverage your background in a number of ways. Depending on your target green career you may need to factor in some time to retrain and transition into a new field.
What’s the best way to establish yourself as a “green expert”? And in relation to that, is there a practical, effective way to stay on the cutting-edge of the constantly and rapidly changing green field?
Let’s start with your second question. The best way to start is to get a good sense of the industries and sectors that make up the green economy. In Green Careers For Dummies I profiled over 50 green industries and sectors. As I did my research I was amazed to discover how much effort is going into moving all of these industries forward when it comes to greener, cleaner, and more sustainable business practices.
If you process information better visually, you might want to take a look at the Green Economy Map that I created after I finished writing the book. http://www.greencareercentral.com/map (The numbers in the middle of the diagram correspond to chapters in the book).
To become a “green expert” you must choose which industry/field/profession you want to excel in. Then you must gain the knowledge, experience, and skills that are specific to that field. Chapters 4-6 of the book spell out a process for identifying your green focus. It’s critical to identify your green career focus as soon as possible so you can track the information that’s most relevant to you and your job search.
After you’ve found your target green industry, then you’ll want to find the blogs and professional associations that are relevant to you. Blogs are one of the best ways to track developments in the green economy. Some blogs that can get you started include: http://www.greeneconomypost.com, http://www.greenbiz.com (and their related blogs on greenbiz.com/buildings, greenbiz.com/design), http://www.earth2tech.com.
Always remember to pay attention to the topics that interest you most. Even if you can’t find a direct link to your career, keep tracking that field because you never know when you’ll change careers or your knowledge about that topic will enhance your reputation in your green career.
© 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.