Archive for February, 2009
Penned by Tom
A few weeks ago, we asked you to send in your questions… and you did, they poured in – thank you! Over the coming weeks, I’ll be trying to respond to some of these.
What are the top skills required to work in the green economy?
Obviously the skills required vary according to the jobs you’re hunting for – yet there are some interesting constants within the green movement. We hear certain trends over-and-over from organizations hiring in this sector. These are not exhaustive, nor exclusive, but they’ll give you an idea of the themes out there:
- Experience is often as important as skills, unless you are applying for a highly skills-based position (i.e. solar engineer).
- Experience is almost always more important than education.
- Organizations want people who’ve got business experience, as well as environmental experience; thereby demonstrating a wider skill set.
- The ‘ideal’ candidate is often someone who combines the two of these.
- You can be too green. Organizations (including the non-profits) need people who understand how a business functions and is practical and realistic. If you refuse to use computers, fly or travel to work by car, for environmental reasons, you’re going to reduce the chances of getting many positions.
- General environmental degrees are useful, but won’t distinguish you from the best people out there without these degrees. i.e. someone with a masters in environmental studies won’t always trump someone with a top degree from a good school – although obviously every little bit helps.
- The top skills at the moment are generally specific to specialist roles, such as; engineering, solar technicians, energy assessors, planners.
- You can determine which of these are ‘hot’ or not by glancing over green job boards.
- Look through the recent moves by governments to stimulate interest in the green economy, there are clear trends that indicate which skills are in demand.
- Check Carolyn’s previous post about skills for students
- Also, see Raj’s post on technical (specifically solar) skills
Until next week!
Carolyn was interviewed by the Solar Living Institute at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference. Here’s what she had to say!
Penned by Nick
Mark Penn’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal examines the “microtrend” of “green workers”, but misses the macrotrend that’s turning the fight against climate change into the 21st century’s brawl for corporate profits and credibility. At the end of Mr. Penn’s article, he suggests that: “…the executives of federally subsidized green companies…should not profit excessively from these government-sponsored programs in a time of crisis. So jobs that used to be done for greenbacks may soon be done just for the green of it.”
Tom and I often joke that I’m “all business” and he’s “all better planet.” To our colleagues, we quip that it’s going to take both of us–business and better planet–to solve climate change. That’s because, for the first time in human history, we face a challenge that requires 1 billion people to act: global warming. When you think about it, there are only a few places we could get a billion people to act. We could ask China or India to legislate on their billion-plus person populations to be more environmentally responsible.
Unfortunately, this request has been a tough pill for these countries to swallow, and rightly so (witness the post-Kyoto divide over the “double standard” of emissions targets for developing countries). The only other place where we can motivate 1 billion-plus people to act is through the market. Indeed, every day more than a billion people engage in some form of commerce.
The market, it turns out, is the most powerful tool for social and environmental change the world has ever seen. Social and environmental entrepreneurs the world over are daily discovering this fact. In doing so, they not only generate a profit in pursuit of a healthy planet, but they demonstrate that profit and planet are mutually reinforcing motivations that create a virtuous cycle. Ecopreneurs are driving profitable, sustainable businesses forward through their ingenuity and market-savvy. At a time when the world needs a new example of how to do good, responsible business, we should not punish these individuals by limiting their profit motive. Instead, we should encourage environmental organizations to be as profitable and successful as possible. In doing so, we can inspire a generation of business leaders to pursue a brighter, greener future.
Penned by Raj
After going through last week’s exercise and having decided solar is right for you, it’s time to start realigning your skill set.
There are lots of programs that you can go through to get solar credentials on your resume. The American Solar Energy Society suggests a couple organizations that host workshops: Solar Energy International, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Solar Living Institute here in the Bay Area. You’ll find a range of classes for whatever your skill set is — for instance, Solar Living Institute is currently hosting “Solar Careers and Industry Opportunities,” “Intro to Photovoltaics,” “PV Design and Installation Intensive” and more. Not only will you gain skills and knowledge, but courses are a good opportunity to network with people in the solar space.
You can also go through a community college or local university — for example, UC Berkeley’s Extension school offers a whole set of courses in Environmental and Sustainability Management, including some solar specific classes: “Investment Grade Solar System Feasibility Studies,” “Solar Industry Orientation” and others. Check out schools around you.
Last, you can go get your hands dirty — GRID Alternatives is a great organization that gives you basic solar panel installation training and you’ll help install panels on low-income housing.
Stay tuned for more information on how to get into renewable energy!
We, or at least Tom, is now a twitterer. Follow us here
Penned by Christina
As promised, this week I delve into a bit more detail about how you can launch a career in sustainability consulting (though much of this advice translates across other areas as well.) If you put a concerted effort into determining where it is that you and your skills best fit, you should be able to evaluate whether sustainability consulting is where you belong or perhaps whether there is a different space where you fit even better AND you can still have the impact you so desire.
Is sustainability consulting right for you? Ask yourself the following questions (and coming up with some answers helps too):
Do I have sustainability consulting skills already?
Generally for consulting, be it of the sustainability variety or otherwise, a strong analytical background is helpful (I know, shocking) whether it comes in the form of engineering, financial modeling, operations analysis or a specific certification such as Six Sigma. Sustainability consulting firms often look to bring on experienced individuals from traditional backgrounds to be able drive value to the good ‘ole bottom line. Also, depending on a specific firm’s methodologies and client base, experience within a specific sector such as government or utilities could be highly valued. (To see where “climate change consulting” demand currently stands, peruse this.)
Where are the connections?
Look at your resume and consider: where are the logical connections to sustainability here? Also, is there a better way to make those connections obvious? For example, if you compared two projects to determine which is the better investment, make explicit the metrics utilized and the benefits that were realized based on your fantastic recommendations. If environmental concerns were part of the equation, be sure to call that out.
Is my passion clearly displayed?
Credibility is paramount in the green space. Is your interest/passion clearly displayed on your resume? This is more important than ever since lots of talented, impressive people are on-the-hunt and so it needs to be obvious that this career choice isn’t because you have heard that “green is the future and hey, no one else is hiring!” Make sure your resume reflects thoughtful involvement or dedication to the movement through volunteering, memberships, and green projects (not just “I recycle”) – obviously you can continue to develop this over time.
Finally, as I am sure you are well aware, sustainability consulting is very *hot* right now – a large percentage of the jobseekers that come to us say that’s where they want to find their next job. When it comes down to it, you are likely competing against a large and rockstar pool of candidates, many of whom have the requisite skill set and experience. If you don’t happen to have a background that dovetails quite so nicely into sustainability consulting, fear not! There are other ways to be able to gain that experience or take a different path that could allow you to have the impact you are looking to make. How, you ask?
Next week I will focus on other places to apply your skills and knowledge…but if this idea intrigues you, I encourage you to check out a great book, “Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work.” And when it comes down to it, we need passionate people from all areas tapping into their passions and abilities to enact change everywhere!
Penned by Carolyn
A couple weeks ago, I talked about the difficulty of making your resume stand out as a student or recent grad, given that you haven’t had work experience to really differentiate you.
At Bright Green, we’ve seen all sorts of creative tricks for getting resumes noticed in a bunch — rampant highlighting, personal notes, stickers, glitter… Luckily for those of us who are as artistically-underachieving as I am, applying for a job does not have to be an arts and crafts project.
In this economy, the trick is this: knowing someone at a company, or a friend’s cousin’s great-uncle of someone at a company, will give you a much better shot of being seriously considered. For hiring managers, being able to place you in a social or personal network lowers the psychological barriers to hiring you – they can check with that person to make sure you’re a stable person, or you at least have a better chance of standing out when they come back across your resume (“oh, this is the girl that went to pre-school with Sam from Accounting’s nephew!”). [Warning: of course, using personal connections can go in the other direction, too. We've seen qualified folks get dismissed because whoever knows them at the company doesn't think they'll fit in with the culture, or is still mad that the applicant never returned their lawnmower].
As a student or recent grad, here’s how to dive in to the networking scene:
- Obviously, start with using who you know. Bosses from internships, professors, alumni from student groups you’re involved in, friends of your parents – don’t be shy about asking these folks if they know of open opportunities at their company or other companies. Do be polite in your phrasing, and do not be overly pushy (ie, “Hey, I know we haven’t talked in 3 years, but can you get me a job/interview?”). More on etiquette next week.
- No excuses: use your Career Development Center. You’ve already paid your school hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare you for the real world; you might as well invest a few hours getting their advice on how to actually get into the real world.
- Use your alumni network (the New York Times says so!). Alumni, for nostalgia’s sake or whatever other reason, generally love helping out students from their alma mater, especially if you were both in the same acapella group or archery club (what’s with me and bowhunting?). Research companies, see what alumni might be there, and send a friendly note.
- Meet new people. In the green space, there are networking events practically every 4 minutes – GreenDrinks is a good way to schmooze (and many other iterations exist, depending on where you live – Climatini, Sustainable Business Happy Hour, etc, etc). Go to panel discussions, do volunteer days at local gardens, get involved in your local Sierra Club chapter.
- Use online resources like LinkedIn (for the uninitiated, it’s like Facebook for grown-ups and people who take themselves seriously). This is a great research tool, and a way to find those friends’ cousin’s great-uncles who can help you get into the company of your dreams. And you can join the Bright Green Group! More on online resources/social media in a few weeks.
Next week: More on etiquette/proper attire/how not to become a “Can you BELIEVE this guy?” story.
Penned by Tom
A few weeks ago, we asked you to send in your questions… and you did, they poured in – thank you! Over the coming weeks, I’ll be trying to respond to some of these. The question that caught my attention this week was a simple but important one that lays the foundations for much of what we do:
How does BGT define the following three terms; sustainability, green, renewable energy? – David, a candidate
Although I am no philologist, definitions are important as they form the basis of communication. If people define the categories differently, then they might also misunderstand the issues at hand. Yet at the same time arguments about the meaning of this, or the definition of that, often constrain the debate – reducing people to petty squabbling rather than constructive progress. I’ll try to ‘walk the line’ and be somewhat definitive!
I want to start with the definition of Green. Given our company’s name, it would seem as good a place as any. We deliberated hard as to whether we should include green within our title, yet the name Bright Green Talent stood proud from our choices. It describes what we do clearly and succinctly. But what does ‘green’ mean to us? Green encapsulates the environmental movement and, although it may be a somewhat tired term, people understand the link. It’s loose, but it has been adopted by politicians (the green party), organisations (ourselves) and society-driven movements (Greenpeace). To us, it’s a useful catchall for the movement that aims to improve the environmental conditions of our planet.
Sustainability (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainability) is a more complicated and widely debated term. Again, I don’t want to get lost in a debate, but instead to lay out our (perhaps simplistic) understanding: To us, it implies a ‘manageable’ future. It invokes the maintenance of a system. In relation to the environment, this means ensuring that human impact on the planet ensures that our actions do not deplete resources or harm natural cycles. For example, a sustainable business would be one that leaves its environment no worse off than if it didn’t exist – preferably one that, if we could measure the complete impact, brings benefit. If our society is not sustainable, then logic would follow that we are moving, whether slowly or quickly, towards its destruction. As such, sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have. How we ensure sustainability – through forward-planning or through more drastic methods – will inevitably evolve as we progress.
Finally, we understand Renewable Energy as energy that comes from natural and quickly replenishing sources. This would include wind, solar, geo-thermal, wave, tidal and hyrdo power… but not oil, gas, coal etc, which although renewable over millions of years, are being used many multiples of times more quickly than they can replenish.
Next week I’ll pull my head from the dictionary and onto the streets for some more practical advice to your questions.
1 the male of various animals, esp. a turkey or domestic cat.
2 ( Tom) informal short for Uncle Tom .
ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting an ordinary man, surviving in tomfool, tomboy, and the phrase Tom, Dick, and Harry): abbreviation of the given name Thomas. Sense 1 dates from the mid 18th cent.
Penned by Nick. Published last Friday on greenbiz.com.
In an article entitled “Will Green Jobs Become the New Greenwash?”, Joel Makower asks the reader:
“Could it be deemed a good thing that everyone is talking about green jobs, even though they don’t necessarily know what that means? Or do we need standards and definitions that help us gauge how well we’re really doing? “
The semantic question is important to answer, though in no way essential for us to define a “green job.” A number of forces are coming together to put under the microscope the true meaning of green jobs, and what potential — economically, environmentally and socially — they might hold.
In the United States, Joel’s question exposes a unique challenge. In the U.S., we “live to work” as opposed to “work to live.” This way of life’s being questioned as greater environmental challenges mount and force us to reconsider our long-term priorities and what we’re actually working toward. There’s a cultural undercurrent that’s disrupting, defying and eschewing conventional definitions as we meet our generational challenge: global warming. Is economic success alone enough anymore, or does it lose relevance as the ability to enjoy a comfortable life is threatened by resource shortages, dramatic weather events and increasing insecurity in what the future will look like for people’s children and grandchildren?
The potential people see in green jobs — and perhaps the root of all the hype and potential for greenwashing — is to finally find balance and synergy between their personal, professional and public lives. “Doing well while doing good,” so to speak, is evolving into the next iteration of the American dream.
Penned by Raj
In the renewable energy space, there is room for every kind of engineer – mechanical, civil, structural, electrical, chemical, and beyond.
Last week, I talked about starting to understand the solar industry and where you might fit in. The next step is to figure out where your individual skill set is most relevant.
Luckily for you, lots of job openings are available for engineers in all types of solar companies (check out our own site for several). The American Solar Energy Society’s site will also tell you which solar companies are hiring.
Click through a couple job descriptions and look at their core requirements — ignoring for now if they require a couple years or more of industry experience.
Which positions fit your academic background and degrees? Where do the skills you’ve gathered in traditional engineering roles seem to line up with what the solar company is looking for? Start to make a list of these parallels. Where you see shortcomings in your own knowledge of the areas, do research to fill in the gaps — this will help you build your familiarity with the solar space in a very targeted, time-efficient manner. Most importantly, understand that when an employer calls a skillset “required,” they mean it–don’t ignore the position requirements.
This exercise alone will help you get a feel for where you might eventually fit in to a solar company, and give you some short and medium-term goals to aim towards in terms of improving your skillset.
Generally speaking, we’ve seen folks transfer from solar thermal into photovoltaic, and vice-versa. Larger concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) positions draw on industrial project backgrounds. If you’re familiar with the public permitting process for a large refinery, for example, you can easily transfer your skills to a renewable energy firm looking to build a large commercial project in the deserts of California (or Dubai for that matter!).
Last but not least, know your audience. Engineers, in particular, make fact-based decisions. If you don’t have the 5+ years experience required, or never worked in power electronics, then don’t apply for the position if those are core requirements. The concept of a “performance profile” reigns supreme in the world of engineering. If you haven’t done it before, an employer’s not going to risk their business on allowing you to learn on their dime.
Be practical, stay focused, and think laterally–it’s a clear path towards your next solar engineering job.
Next week: Accreditations and classes to bolster your resume.
The American Solar Energy Society also has a
guide on how to step into a solar career.