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Tips for finding a green job

Wednesday - 1/23/2013, 1:14pm  ET

CEO of Green Connections Radio Joan Michelson (Courtesy of Joan Michelson)

The abundance of jobs in the green energy sector

Joan Michelson, CEO of Green Connections Radio


Joan Michelson, special to

WASHINGTON - We all dream of a job we enjoy, with people we like and being able to make a difference while earning a living too.

In the D.C. area, this is easy because you can work for the federal government or any of the many non-profits with offices here or in a corporate job where you can contribute to the better good.

If you're into energy, the environment and sustainability, you're in luck, because these job sectors are growing in leaps and bounds. Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pay on average 26 percent more than jobs in other fields. There are about 500,000 green jobs posted on in the United States right now and more than half of them are unfilled.

The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit research group, says the clean technology sector grew 8.3 percent between 2003 and 2010. The energy industry is also predicting 1 million to 3 million new jobs over the next three to five years, mostly due to the enormous growth of natural gas and advanced technologies.

Depending on your skill sets and passions, the green and energy sectors are some of the hottest job growth sectors. Here are some suggestions for taking advantage of these employment opportunities:

1. Define your goals: Ask yourself key questions, and develop a profile of your ideal job.

  • What are your passions?
  • What skills do you want to use?
  • What kind of people do you want to be around?
  • Do you need structure, like in a big company or government, or do you prefer a more nimble, creative, self-disciplined workplace vibe?
  • What skills and talents do you have today that would be valuable to an employer?
  • Does your résumé reflect your assets?

2. Look by industry for your profile: Every industry values sustainability now. Some top industries in sustainability include: green buildings and construction, such as "intelligent buildings" that use technology to manage energy efficiently, the smart grid and utilities, manufacturing, transportation and professional services firms like consulting or law firms that have energy or environment practice groups.

Every business needs business skills, such as administrative, marketing, communications, information technology, finance or management, and many have sustainability departments.

If you are an engineer or electrician, you have lots of options. Energy is expanding rapidly, especially with the huge growth in natural gas, and energy audits and electrician jobs are growing with the increased focus on energy efficiency and related financial incentives. There are lots of environmental or energy-related non-profits that post jobs too.

3. Show you can add value: Explore industries where it's a win-win -- where you bring value to them and you can see yourself happy there. What can you do for them?

4. Use LinkedIn: Whether you find a job posting on LinkedIn or elsewhere, look up the company on LinkedIn, and see who you might know who knows someone there. Then, respectfully ask to be connected to them for an informational conversation about the company to see if it's a fit.

5. Network, network, network: Success is about relationships, and networking can provide job leads, referrals, recommendations and information. In the D.C. area, there are lots of events to attend where you can meet people, and most are free or charge a nominal fee. These are at universities, think tanks, professional associations, chambers and online-organized meet-ups. Bring business cards, questions and a positive attitude.

6. Prepare your elevator pitch: When you're looking for a job, you are the product. Therefore, just like when you're pitching a company or a product, you need your brief "elevator pitch." Make sure you can adapt it to the audience. For example, if you get into an elevator and realize you're standing next to the sales manager of your target company, have your pitch reflect how you could help them meet their sales goals.

7. Keep your skills sharp and learn new ones: Especially in these new sectors, and if you are seeking a transition, it's critical to learn on your own and fill in your knowledge gaps. You can volunteer with relevant local entities or seek training and apprenticeships through the Center for Energy Workforce Development, vocational schools, community colleges or some utilities. Explore industry-recognized credentials. There are webinars and teleseminars galore too.

8. Stay positive: You developed skills and talents that got you to this point in your career. Stay focused on what you do well, how others believe you add value and do not shut yourself out of an opportunity that's interesting to you. You never know...

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