Archive for June, 2009
Penned by Nick
This morning Solar Richmond hosted Senator Barbara Boxer. Amongst a well-orchestrated public relations production, about 100 attendees from all walks of society milled about and got to know each other.
At a time when folks are wondering “where are the green jobs?”, this place seemed to have all the answers. People were together, training, and envisioning–indeed, realizing!–a cleaner, greener tomorrow.
But after the applause had died down and the press disappeared, I got a chance to sit down with Solar Richmond and hear about how hard it is to really change the world.
The reality of the situation, despite all the applause, was that there’s still a lot of hard work to be done.
Graduates from these programs still find too few career opportunities, and the support structure that surrounds them needs to be reinforced with more than just hard skills training.
As Senator Boxer noted many times, these graduates are our future, and their futures are tied to a cleaner, greener economy.
If we are to truly make an inclusive transition to the green economy, we need to do more to help at-risk citizens from falling into the trap of unemployment.
The self-confidence and sense of satisfaction these kids gain from programs like Solar Richmond is immeasurable. They literally beam out the good vibes. But they also need help polishing off their corporate personas and skills so that they don’t pass the class only to fail the real-world test.
A lack of reliable transporation, credible role models, and access to job opportunities daily reminds us all that it’s not easy to climb up above the fray of broken families, drugs, discrimination, and a broken social support system.
The Obama Administration is investing heavily in next generation job training programs. The programs promise to be premised on partnership, and in the process, bring together a stronger family of organizations in which to raise the next generation of environmental leaders.
Along with Senator Boxer, Solar Richmond, and the Administration, I hope that we all can continue to come closer together to support this vision, and in the process, ensure everyone benefits from a cleaner, greener tomorrow.
Penned by Nick
One of the things we reinforce with every candidate is the importance of “connecting the dots” when they interview for a job.
“Reiterate and tie together why they should hire you at the end of every answer,” we recommend.
At times, I’m reminded of how true this advice is in present times.
Too often we forget to account for the social impact of unemployment in terms of both dollars needlessly spent and lives needlessly stalled or ruined.
Investing in training programs for an “apathetic” generation is the first way to overcome the unhealthy stereotypes that characterize many older peoples views of younger workers.
Frighteningly, age discrimination is rampant worldwide. We see this at present with many employers favoring younger workers.
Penned by Carolyn
As companies have emerged from recession-induced hibernation, shaken off hiring freezes, and started to cautiously advertise job openings again, they’ve found an entirely different landscape than when they did their last round of recruiting.
Jobseekers who’ve been haunting job boards for months have started to dive on any vacancy that they come across. Companies are seeing floods of barely-if-at-all qualified resumes come through and have found themselves trying to tackle the hiring process when they’re still hesitant about hiring, understaffed in their HR and other departments, and with vastly reduced recruiting budgets.
We speak with hundreds of candidates each week who’ve been on the other side of this stunted hiring process — most have sent in a resume and never heard back, and a few have made it through up to 8 rounds of interviews before the company decides they’re not ready to hire.
Here are a few symptoms and solutions for making the hiring process run more smoothly in this economy, and for ensuring that bridges aren’t burned between high-quality candidates who might still be interested in a company when the economy picks up.
1. The Mountain of Resumes
The problem: Companies are getting swamped with resumes every time a job is posted. Jobseekers whose background is totally irrelevant to the job description are sending in resumes because they’re desperate and “it’s worth a shot.”
The outcome: Increased time spent on reading through resumes, decreased percentage of quality applicants, and a strain on those in charge of the hiring process (HR and recruiters). Those who are high-quality, relevant candidates are wondering why they’re never contacted and start to form negative perceptions of the company. More people call up demanding to know what’s happened to their resume. Lots of time and energy is wasted.
- Write a tighter job description that gets into the nitty-gritty specifics of what a candidate has to have done (not “could do”) in order to qualify for an interview. Some applicant tracking systems allow you to create these applications online and will sort the responses according to whether the job seeker fits your description — this will automatically sort the “best fits” to the top where you can read them and get back to them promptly.
- Require more documents for your application — such as a cover letter, two writing samples and a resume, or a couple mini-essay questions built into your website application. Creating a slightly higher bar will make jobseekers reconsider as they
“spam” out their resume — and as people are asked to communicate why they’re a good fit for the specific job, they’ll make your determination easier as you read through their application.
- Encourage employees to use their networks to get referrals. A lot of companies are hiring quietly right now without posting a public job description simply due to lack of time and money to put towards a full-blown process.
- Hire a third-party recruiter to read through all the resumes and present you with the strongest fits.
2. The Lack of Communication
The problem: We often joke with our candidates that applying for jobs online seems like dropping a resume into a black hole — unfortunately, this joke has lost some humor in recent months as the majority of our candidates say they have 10+ applications out that they’ve never heard any indication on.
The outcome: Again, bitterness. Candidates pin the unresponsive company as lacking humanity or basic etiquette and spread that impression. Won’t apply for positions in the future because they feel like their application is falling on deaf ears.
- Reject people, early and often. After meeting lots of folks who’ve told us they applied online for one of our positions and never heard back, we’ve started a strict policy of rejection when we don’t see a fit for a role. We go through every few weeks or month and shoot a batch note to the candidates we’ve reviewed and deemed not a fit to let them know that their qualifications aren’t quite right. You wouldn’t believe how appreciative people are to just know what their status is — they often thank us for rejecting them. If they’re talented and just not right for this role, they’re more likely to keep applying for other positions because they know it’s a dialogue and not a black hole.
- If you don’t want to send a note every few weeks, at least send a blast to all applicants when the position has been filled to close the loop.
- For less personalized updates, have your CEO or someone in the company write the occasional blog post on the state of the hiring process, whatever it may be — still looking, reviewing applications, rethinking the role.
3. Dragging Out the Hiring Process
The problem: Candidates are telling us that they’ve been through 5, 6, 7 rounds of interviews with an organization before being told they’re not the right fit — or worse, a couple have simply just never heard back from the company after such extended dialogue.
The outcome: We know that companies are unsure of budgets and anxious to actually take a step towards growing out their teams, but the risks of these messy processes are serious.
Candidates get very emotionally tied up in the prospect of potentially getting an offer, and the more they get to know everyone in the office, they more angry and hurt they are when after several months of interviewing, they’re turned down or told the company has decided not to fill the position. Your champions – people so passionate about your company that they wanted to work for you – may now perceive your company as disorganized and unclear on goals. Word from the disenchanted interviewee spreads, and the negative effects on brand can be serious. You may also inadvertently lose great candidates because you can’t get your act together – and it will take time and resources to woo them back after they’ have a bad experience.
- Figure out if you are in a place to hire. Then check twice. Do you have the money for salary? Is it a priority for the company, or do you just want to see who’s out there?
- Sit down with your team ahead of time and carefully design the metrics against which you’ll measure candidates. Clearly define the hiring process- who candidates will talk to, for how long, in what context, and in what order. Set deadlines, and do your best to meet them.
Penned by Nick
Over the past few weeks, we’ve received thoughtful, pointed, and critical feedback on how Bright Green Talent operates.
It’s been welcomed, despite the toughness of its tone, because we believe that ultimately we must be held accountable for our actions. We must also learn from them.
Today, we circulated a note to clients that was part information-sharing, part promotion. The note summarized a few key statistics from a recent (informal) poll we conducted last week of 450 green job seekers. After receiving the note, one recipient responded:
“You do not know how to interpret the numbers. I understand you are pushing your business, but your are absolutely wrong in your understanding.”
On some levels, the numbers are unbelievable: 50% unemployment amongst highly educated, skilled employees?!
Though difficult to swallow, I trust the integrity of the numbers. I also believe they are understandable — more people are unemployed than in recent memory, and they represent a portion of the population that’s rarely been represented by the unemployed ranks: lawyers, engineers, accountants and financiers.
At Bright Green Talent, we’re trying to understand the problem (systemic problems that range from corporate governance to climate change) and be part of the solution (transitioning people to green jobs). Our primary short-term goal is to enable a broad, inclusive transition to a green economy. As I’ve noted before, it means we’ll continue to please some people all of the time–certainly not all all the time.
Our business model is consequently morphing to focus on the sectors of greatest need. Engineers are in high demand nowadays. Entry-level (carpenters, journeyman), mid-level (civil and mechanical engineers), and high level (VP of Engineering) jobs exist across the sectors of clean energy, energy efficiency, & sustainable transport. These are quickly become focus areas for Bright Green Talent, meaning that some of our candidates have also felt equally misunderstood recently.
One candidate responded to a monthly newsletter with the following well-written, incisive comment:
“I would be better off not listening to your–what come to be perceived as spam–messages advertising your services–there hasn’t been a back and fourth–I gave you valuable information and my cv and you gave me spam. Not right, and not probably the empowerment angle you were hoping for initially or as your goals for BGT.”
Absolutely right. I approved the message we last sent to our candidates. We did receive many positive notes, but this one stuck with me longest. “Have we lost our way?”
For the past 18 months I’ve watched a young, idealistic team come together to become a battle-hardened, committed recruiting machine that’s empowering people and placing people in green jobs–despite the unemployment statistics.
I continue to believe that we’re part of the solution at Bright Green Talent.
That talent surrounds us everywhere is clear–these people are our daily inspiration. But we cannot be all things to all people. As we transition people into green jobs, so too do we change the organization itself.
Recruiting has not traditionally been the most ethical or easy of careers. But when done ethically and intentionally, it is a meaningful one.
We’ll continue to pursue meaning in our work at Bright Green Talent. We’ll continue to be honest, transparent, and hear all points of view. We’ll also continue to follow our internal compasses and do what we believe is right. It’s not easy. We may fail. But if we do, let there be no misunderstanding: we’ll fail while fighting what we believe to the good fight.
Our credibility is our currency–please do keep us honest, and help us help you as we move forward together.
3. If you want, mention when you’re available to talk.
“Hi, Nick, this is Carolyn Mansfield calling you back. You left a message for me yesterday about the Director of Marketing role, and I’d love to find a few moments to chat about it today. I’m available all afternoon and tomorrow morning. You can reach me at 555.555.5555. Again, this is Carolyn Mansfield calling about the Marketing role and my number is 555.555.5555. Thanks, and look forward to speaking with you!”
Here’s a little interview we did with the lovely Hillary Newman, otherwise known as @ecowarriorr, – a tireless LA-based greenie.
Why Eco warrior?
I studied abroad in London during my junior year of college and quickly became infatuated with eco-fashion. As I met with eco-fashion designers all over London, listened to their stories, and researched about our detrimental habits to the environment, my infatuation grew into a permanent connection to my experience and ultimately led to searching for a green job once graduation came.
I am an Eco Warrior because I will not rest until I feel our lives are more sustainable. It’s really as simple as that. I like having my finger on the pulse of what is going on in the Green space and sharing the news with the people who share my interest.
What are you up to at the moment?
Currently I am working at a marketing and PR company that works withsocially conscience companies. I am constantly asking myself to redefine the term, “green”.
Outside of work, I blog for the Huffington Post about emerging eco-fashion and I am working on a project called LYFE with two of my friends, Tracy Hepler (CEO of Your Daily Thread) and Rachel Hurn-Maloney (CEO of Vie Boutique), in an effort to build a community of young motivated people who share a common interest about the environment. LYFE stands for Leading Young Future Entrepreneurs. Our goal is to introduce this community to environmentally related work opportunities and encourage young people to join together to bring about change. We plan to start LYFE events in LA but
are looking for people to build LYFE in other cities.
What keeps you awake at night?
Aside from my neighbor’s obsession with Latin techno music, a lot keeps me up at night. It’s important for me to focus my energy otherwise I might never get a full night sleep. Right now, LYFE is keeping me awake. I really believe a lot of power lies in the hands of the youth. Through LYFE,
my intention is to create a forum for that power to exist.
What is on your radar now?
I am always supportive of people taking matters into their own hands. Right now people are gardening. Keep your eye on Guerrilla Gardeners—they began in London organizing mass planting and seed bombing excursions. They are literally bringing cities to life. I wrote a blog about victory gardens inspired by Michelle Obama’s garden on the Huffington Post for Earth Day. It was exciting because Wal-Mart and Ferry Morse sent out 1,500 packets of vegetable seeds all around the United States on behalf of my article.
Penned by Carolyn
We recently surveyed 430 jobseekers who are interested in moving into the green sector. A couple of the statistics from our results stand out:
- 50% of respondents are currently unemployed
- 61% have a Master’s or PhD
- 40% have an annual income higher than $80k; 24% have an annual income higher than $101k
- 83% have previous experience or some training/experience that would be relevant to a green company
- 69% say one of the strongest barriers to getting into the green sector is the lack of available jobs
- 41% say lack of proper training is a barrier to entry
With all the talk about green collar workers (blue collar jobs in the green economy) and the stimulus money that has been allocated to green workforce development, little attention has been paid to the demographic in this survey: highly-qualified, well-educated people that are willing and ready to move into the green sector.
So what’s the hold up? What are the challenges they’re facing as they try to channel their skills and background towards the green sector? Beyond the 69% who say there just aren’t enough green jobs (because, realistically, there aren’t enough of any kind of job right now, with unemployment rates at over 9% nationally), 41% of our respondents said they don’t have the proper training and 33% said they just don’t know where to look.
What this illuminates is a basic need for training programs and clear direction for jobseekers on how and where to find green jobs. In fact, this only reinforces our own anecdotal understanding of the state of affairs — people come to us every day just wondering how they can get into a sector that’s seeming daily more and more like a mirage. Of late, there’s more frustration in their voices, and people are wondering if all these green jobs evangelists are really just snakeoil salesmen.
But after two years in this space, we remain confident that the jobs are not an illusion — if they were, we’d pack up shop and head elsewhere rather than leading people on. The immense sense of hope and optimism hung upon green jobs was multiplied exponentially by the state of the economy and soaring unemployment rates. Yes, the sector is still growing even despite the economy (confirmed by a recent Pew report) and green companies are hiring, but not at a rate that can keep pace with the demand created from hundreds of thousands of people that have suddenly flooded into the sector.
The take-aways? Our same old line: there might not be a green job for you right now, but in 6 months or a year, when the dust settles from the economic collapse, there will be. The stepping stone in between, and how you’ll succeed in separating yourself from the crowd when that time comes, is training and preparation.
We’re not saying you’re not willing — over 30% of respondents said they’d take a week for training in greenhouse gas accounting or energy audits, and another 30% said they’d take a month. Most were ready to put up somewhere between $100-$1000 for the training.
Bright Green Talent and some of our partners are working on creating and facilitating training to help you get on the right path. In the meantime, there are lots of great resources to help you learn and network as we all ride out the storm. Hang in there — opportunity and a clean, prosperous future are waiting on the other side.
Penned by Tom
Perhaps the question we get asked most at Bright Green Talent is: “What do I need to do to get a green job?”
Despite the economic crisis, the environmental movement is gaining traction by the day, and the trickle of green jobseekers has turned to a flood. It seems that the meltdown in traditional careers, coupled with an increased desire for meaning in the workplace, has prompted this awakening and the resulting exodus toward meaning and greening.
Over the past month or two, I’ve been helping Alliant International University with its new beautifully-named(!) Bright Green MBA, assessing the rationale for studying environmental business. Inevitably, I’ve been thinking back to my own education. While studying business at undergraduate and graduate level, many of my colleagues expressed a desire to “change the world” and make a significant contribution. Despite the intense business-focus of these courses, the environmental and ethical business courses were still popular. Yet at the time (early 2000s), it failed to translate: Many joined traditional consultancies, investment banks and private equity firms.
Now that salaries have decreased and new jobs seem almost non-existent within those traditional careers, it’s inevitable that people are once again looking for meaning in the environmental sector. When you couple the increased salaries that can be earned in the green space, you might even be excused for asking whether it is money, rather than the sector, that is driving jobseeker decision-making — or perhaps the symbiosis of the two that now proves most attractive. What remains unchanged, however, is what companies want and need — environmentally-minded businesspeople. Almost every client tells Bright Green Talent that the most important combination is a deep knowledge of the environment coupled with business savvy. If people can display both and understand the drivers and interaction of each, they are supremely valuable in a sector where credibility is key. At this point, I’d argue that ensuring organizations attract the right people will be the factor that has most impact on our ability to affect the environmental crisis. Which is why the green MBA programs that many universities offer are well worth considering, particularly at a time when jobs are harder to find.
It’s not just Alliant’s MGSM that is offering a (bright) Green MBA program. Yale, Michigan, Presidio, and Bainbridge are familiar names, and the Aspen Institute ranks 100 programs according to their integration of sustainability issues. In addition, some of the traditional MBAs are starting to move in this direction: The wunderkind of them all, Harvard, recently saw a group of MBA students voluntarily sign an oath to be more ethical. So, if you’re desperate for a green job but don’t know where to look, then it’s likely you don’t know enough about the market — yet. It might be time to consider going back to school.
Our very own, sometimes snarky, always insightful Tom has been recognized as one of the top 75 environmentalists to follow on Twitter – amongst the likes of Al Gore and Andrew Winston (author of Green to Gold).
In addition to all his colorful commentary on the state of the green jobs market and other random thoughts, Tom will be posting daily definitions for all those confusing acronyms you come across in the green sector – ASES, LEED, NTFP, etc.
So whether you’re after a daily dose of enviro-education or just some relevant distraction, follow Tom!
Last night, Christina and I attended a debate between Carl Pope (Executive Director of the Sierra Club) and Dave O’Reilly (CEO of Chevron). Given scheduling and, I imagine, some dragging of feet from both parties, it took the Commonwealth Club and the Wall Street Journal a full year to get this event organized.
On the bus home, a couple thoughts on the event stayed with me.
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I worked with the media team in Sierra Club National Headquarters for a couple semesters while I was in school. One of the first things I learned about pitching a story was, of course, that it has to have a hook. One of the most compelling of these hooks is a “strange bedfellows” story, where two groups that wouldn’t traditionally be lumped together that share a common cause or campaign (such as Sierra Club’s “Blue Green Alliance” with the United Steel Workers or their work with hunters and anglers to preserve wildlife habitat).
Last night’s event had some shade of that type of hook – which is probably why it seemed like half of San Francisco was in attendance. This is not to say in any means that Sierra Club and Chevron are in cahoots – in fact, Sierra Club has long made the oil giant a target of campaigns around environmental justice and destruction. However, at one point in the conversation, Dave O’Reilly (consciously or not) conceded that he believed the coal lobby in Washington was too strong for natural gas to have a real chance of being implemented on a large scale. Carl Pope jumped on the opportunity to invite O’Reilly to join him in DC to take a stand against the coal lobby – and the two men shook on it. I’d guess Sierra Club will try to hold O’Reilly to this promise — which he may not be able to wiggle out of, given that the event was swarming with local and national media and will be broadcast on NPR.
Beyond this potential lobbying duo becoming “strange bedfellows,” I think it symbolizes a larger movement towards cooperation between the large non-profits and environmental lobbies and the companies they’ve long been harshly criticizing. At Sierra Club, this move follows last year’s launch of the “GreenWorks” line with Clorox — another case of unprecedented cooperation and dialogue between big industry and the Club.
For us at Bright Green Talent, this is hugely energizing. We too believe that there’s no longer any way to tackle the world’s environmental problems without everyone’s cooperation – this is, for example, why we’ve chosen to work with Wal-Mart to help them grow their sustainability team. Many of the giant green non-profits – Conservation International, EDF, NRDC – are pursuing similar private-public partnerships.
But don’t worry – we’re not letting Chevron off the hook just for shaking hands with the opposition. Pope also called for Chevron and the other large oil companies to set aside 10% of their profits for 10 years to create a fund that would clean up all the communities and ecosystems that have been devastated by oil development over the past century. And we side with Pope and the Sierra Club as they call for ambitious and significant decreases in carbon emissions (80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050), rather than allowing industry to hide behind claims that those goals “just aren’t realistic.” We still need people and organizations to stand up for communities who don’t have a voice — such as the protestors who stood up last night to bring awareness to Chevron’s hand in environmental contamination in Ecuador.
Most significantly, where there used to be a thick wall over which each party hurled insults and accusations, there is now a live and potentially constructive, dialogue. Strange bedfellows or not, it’s time to act together and move towards a prosperous low-carbon future.
Want to see it for yourself?
Reuters also picked up the story, with a great exchange:
Pope criticised U.S. energy regulation for not forcing utilities to buy more low-carbon electricity. “Well, if you can get the government to move faster, then good luck,” O’Reilly said.
Pope replied, to applause: “It would help if you would get out of the way.”
Photo from Sierra Club