The Real Deal on Green Jobs for Students and Recent Grads

February 9, 2009 at 7:28 pm 2 comments

Carolyn HeadshotPenned by Carolyn

Everyone seems to claim that when they graduated from school, the job market was the worst it’s ever been – kind of like how when they were young, they walked to school 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways.

While I’d love to be more reassuring, there’s no point in my skirting the issue – as far as anyone can really remember, this is the worst it’s been for being a student or recent graduate trying to find a job. You are, so to speak, at the bottom of an enormous mountain, barefoot, in a blizzard.

Everyone is going to have to adjust expectations and probably take paths that they hadn’t planned on in order to weather the next few years. But that isn’t to say there aren’t great opportunities out there. It’s a matter of understanding the barriers we face, and finding creative ways to surmount them.

The challenges for us young’uns getting into a green career are basically these:

  • For entry-level positions, everyone’s background is relatively undifferentiated. Sure, you might have relevant coursework or have gone to a great school, but you haven’t necessarily worked to gain particular skills that make you the obvious choice over the other 500 people applying for the job. You need to figure out how to make your resume – academic and extracurricular – make you stand out from the bunch.
  • Not only do lots of recent graduates want to get into green jobs, but everyone wants to get into a green job. People that have 10 or even 20 years of experience are shifting careers, applying for entry-level positions in order to gain “green” skill-sets and credibility. Just having the green fever won’t cut it – you’re going to need to back it up with skills.
  • What’s more, everyone wants a job – any job. Given the unemployment rates right now, people are diving on every posted job opportunity in hordes. Companies are getting absolutely inundated with resumes for low-level positions, and making your candidacy stand out from the hundreds of other applicants is even more difficult.

Okay, it sounds pretty dire. The good news is you’ve got a couple advantages working for you as you try to step into a green career.

  • The “green” industry is young, and tends to favor younger minds and attitudes. They want energy, growth, and enthusiasm – and especially people who can think outside the box, as so much of the industry is focused on innovation right now. Plus, skill sets that you wouldn’t even consider special (like being Facebook and blog savvy, being read up on the most recent green technologies, and spending ¾ of your life on a computer) give you a huge advantage over older folks who have to actively learn these skills.
  • You are, for the most part, a free agent. Generally, you have fewer commitments to families/spouses, you don’t own a house, and you’re able to travel or relocate more easily. This makes it easier for you to fit into positions where they arise than some of the older, more experienced jobseekers.
  • On your campus, there was probably a lot of talk of sustainability. Even if you didn’t actively seek it out, you likely went to a few talks or had greenie friends who kept telling you about the latest innovations in composting. Just by virtue of being connected to a university, you’re more plugged into what’s happening in sustainability than folks who have to read it in the newspaper or online. (If you’re on campus, make the most of this!)

So, though there will be some definite trudging through snow before things clear up, don’t despair. There are ways to position yourself to get into a green career, and the opportunities will only grow from here.

Stay tuned as I spend the next few weeks outlining the job-search process and how to get a green job – whether it’s now or in a year or two. Next week: gathering skills and building your resume.

About me: I myself am a recent graduate and a battle-scarred survivor of the search for a green job. I’ve been at Bright Green for awhile now, and have worked on all parts of the process – finding talented folks for jobs, liaising with colleges and graduate programs to get them advice on professionally pursuing their environmental passion, and helping spread the Bright, Green word far and wide.

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Insider Perspectives on the Green Job Search Getting Oriented to Go Green

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Roofius  |  February 10, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    oh nice article thx…

    Reply
  • 2. David Hopkins  |  February 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Carolyn! Thank you for writing this, as it is giving some window of hope to many out there who are feeling the dire situation as you put it. It is true that this green wave is the fastest emerging/growing sector, and so thank you for your great work at Bright Green and pushing the movement along for the rest of us! David

    Reply

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