Archive for June, 2009

Barbara Boxer Falls in Line

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.

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June 30, 2009 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

I’m with Japanese Youth: Connecting the Dots

nick_thumbPenned 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.

The NY Times ran a piece that connects the dots between social unrest and unemployment.

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.

Until we begin viewing every individual as someone who can contribute to society, we’ll always battle negative social stereotypes and unhealthy social problems.

June 30, 2009 at 6:02 am Leave a comment

Giving Voice to Jobseekers: 3 Ways Companies Can Clean Up their Hiring Processes

Carolyn ThumbnailPenned 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.

Solutions:

  • 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.

Solutions:

  • 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.

The solution
:

  • 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.

June 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm 1 comment

Trying to Learn from Constructive Criticism

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.

June 24, 2009 at 4:05 am 1 comment

The Art of the Voicemail

Carolyn ThumbnailPenned by Carolyn
One overlooked art is that of leaving voicemails. Any time you interact with a potential employer, it’s part of your application.

We often receive confusing messages that leave an unprofessional impression, or that go on for two minutes – so here’s what we recommend:

1. Say your name
2. Give context: say what you’re calling about (one sentence)
3. If you want, mention when you’re available to talk.
4. Give your phone number
5. Repeat your name and your phone number
6. Say goodbye!

Ideally, your message shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds. Don’t ramble!

For example:

“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!”

June 23, 2009 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Interview with the ecoWarriorr

Picture 1Here’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.

Link to the blog:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hillary-newman-/claim-your-land-start-a-k_b_189038.html

June 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

Bright Green Survey Results: Jobseekers Willing, Waiting, Wondering

Carolyn ThumbnailPenned 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.

June 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm 4 comments

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