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Paula Hendricks' blog

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phSFca
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San Francisco, California,
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April 05
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Cinnabar Bridge
Bio
author, writer, reader, book coach, book designer, book producer, photographer... 5th gen northern californian, new york city, new mexico, and now living back in san francisco, ca... photos on this blog are mine unless otherwise noted... involved with Bay Area publishing community... interested in profit, people, planet - a sustainable world -- and energy of all kinds - fuel, human, spiritual... love cities, the new mexican desert, blues, watching men work, mysteries, b/w photos, bridges, driving my car, public transpo, the F train, and faces emerging from shadow.

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JANUARY 31, 2009 12:12PM

Where are the green jobs?

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I have been looking for green jobs for two reasons – one is that I want one and one is that I’ve volunteered to be the green jobs expert for our volunteer panel, The Job Forum. I live in the Bay Area and if there were lots of green jobs it would seem to me that they would be here. I haven’t secured one yet and they seem to be elusive.

We have better consumer protections than many other states. We have Silicon Valley with a focus on cleantech. We have a city that has allocated resources to personnel and our fleets to make them greener and to ferret out initiatives to counteract climate change. We have the Presidio and the Thoreau Center for Sustainability. We have one of the greenest government buildings –  Thom Mayne's Federal Building. And more green non-profits then you can shake a stick at.

And yet… there just don’t seem to be many green jobs. And so many people are looking for them. As a volunteer panelist on the Job Forum (every week the Forum meets with job seekers to assist them in their job search at the Chamber of Commerce), we often hear from people who want to do something that matters, something sustainable, something green.

The Green Economy has been touted by the media, in books by experts, as being our potential savior – from nation building to restoring our social contract to simply providing many jobs here at home. This new economy will affect every part of our economy and will provide millions upon millions of jobs soon. But when is soon?

The reality is sobering and requires some creativity to figure out. I have spoken to quite a few people over the past nine months and gone to talks, job fairs, and lectures on this topic. I’ve heard Van Jones of Green Jobs for All and Eric Schmidt of Google. I’ve read about Sun Micro and the greening of their company and their clients’ companies.

And here’s what I’ve found out. Green jobs, new jobs, are hard to find and it doesn’t look like there will be a massive wave of them any time soon. Jobs with sustainability in the title are few and far between. And the competition for them is fierce.

 Green jobs, redefined, however, are everywhere. One way to think about them is to look at industries, companies, and all jobs with a broader perspective. In the days of high tech, many people found low-tech jobs in high tech companies or high tech jobs in low-tech companies. This is happening to green, too. Look for green jobs in non-green companies as well as non-green jobs in green companies.

One problem is that our current measuring criteria are really not up to the task, which means it’s hard to get a grasp on the big picture as well as on a granular level. It is helpful however to think about what a green job really is, or could be. Jim Cassio has put together a free Green Careers Resource Guide that is invaluable – with information on employment statistics, green jobs, green careers, job boards and the like. He and others talk about green jobs as follows:

  • Jobs in new industries that were not here 10 or even 5 years ago
  • Jobs in businesses that are already green
  • Jobs in businesses that are moving toward green
  • Green jobs in businesses that don’t yet have a clue

Let me tell you a couple of stories. I spoke with someone in operations at the Presidio Trust who worked for the national park service before the Presidio (an old army base in San Francisco) was turned over to the Trust to manage. In the early days, they committed certain staff to finding green ways to maintain the grounds and then they developed ways to use green processes and materials to restore older buildings and then they downsized and got rid of some of the green jobs, but now green permeates the organization – so in effect, everyone at the Presidio Trust has a green job but there are fewer jobs that are identified as green.

I went to a panel discussion about green jobs at the Commonwealth Club the other night – and it had a mini green job fair as well. It was sold out. The job fair had mostly green staffing and career folks, but there were also solar companies, government agencies, an environmental firm, and a sustainable consulting firm. The staffing companies mostly had jobs in solar for engineers, scientists and installers. The others had some jobs, but like the general economy, not many. My sense was that some of them were actually looking for clients not employees and aligning themselves with green whenever they could.

So, what do you do if you want a green job? Research is first. Find a company you want to work for. Go to green job fairs, find the articles and the media (magazines, blogs, newspapers) that are trustworthy and have reliable information about the green economy and perhaps even your area. Build a list of companies you think are doing it right. Apply there.

Look at staffing companies that are focusing on green and find out if the jobs they have are right for you. Sing up for free newsletters with tips and job leads, like the one that Carol McClelland pus out at Green Career Central.

If you have a job, look at ways to make it green. I spoke recently with a real estate investor and he was hired in a normal way for a normal job but part of his agreement with his new employer was he would develop a portfolio of green investing opportunities. Greening may also save money and make you look good to your bosses. Check out the Wal-Mart story.

For me…. On Monday, I’m going to a one-day conference about the state of the green economy – The State of Green Business Forum. It will be held at the PG&E (our utility company) energy center in San Francisco. The panelists and experts represent a range of leading companies and industries – from IBM to Levi Strauss – and thought leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, the Pacific Institute and Lawrence Berkeley Labs. I’m going to soak up information and hopefully make a connection or two. This particular conference is hosted by Joel Makower of greenbiz.com (part of Greener World Media). http://www.greenbiz.com/stateofgreenbusinessforum. Check out their newsletters as well. 

Find events like these near where you live – and if you can’t, find them online. Find what is happening where you are or where you want to be. Learn the jargon of the part of green you want to be in. Stay focused and upbeat. There are green jobs out there and it’s up to you to define and find them.

 

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seriously.... let's get to work.

paula
Love this post.
You are so right on. Obama has just appointed Biden to head the Middle Class taskforce to resurrect us and their first item is green jobs.
Come north. Oregon is the leading supplier of solar equip in the nation right now. VESTAS advertises on OPB--a biggie.
Look into partnering with a builder who might see the value in providing new home buyers (when they show up) an option for solar power.
Love the post.
This is an unbelievably important question and some great ideas. . . .

I wonder if there is an all encompassing way to answer this that could work on both a strategic and a tactical level. . . . .

It's also a clue to "Finding Work When There Are No Jobs". . . .

http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=93090
oregon, or is it portland, is the most sustainable place in us, right? you guys are doing something right o'stephanie! move it on down to CA...

paula
yes it's about the hidden job market too. thanks chicago, will follow your links.
I think that 1) existing green technologies havebeen thwarted by the energy lobby and their republithug minions, so some of those jobs are waiting to get going and 2) green technologies are still very embryonic and jobs are waiting on more innovation
yes, catamite, jobs are further down the pike then we want them to be. need base prices on energy to get the VCs going and to reassure business their investments will be worthwhile -- and then the jobs will be begin to appear. isn't it interested that we are so hungry for them now.
Thanks for all the information....this could help many.
i sure hope so delia...
There are a few things happening that will drive this market so we all will be able to contribute our part from a career perspective. There are numerous companies solar, energy efficiency, geothermal and wind particularly that are hiring at a brisk pace now. These companies are dotted all across the US. Smart Grid technologies are particularly building up their workforce toward about 250,000 new jobs between now and 2011. A lot of these are available at your electric utility companies right now (or should be...)!

There is no question that as we continue to add clean energy sources to our inventory of energy that this will continue to grow - and the perceived hot spots for jobs will not be isolated in any way - they'll be everywhere. The American Solar Energy Society has released figures recently that state that 30MM jobs will be created in the next twenty year in all flavors of Clean Tech. Just 2-3 years ago there were less than 60,000 people that worked in the Clean Tech field - today there are estimates of several million. Most importantly, Barack Obama has put $50BB in hte new stimulus bill to double the Clean Tech production in the next three years. If you want a Clean Tech job get your resume dusted off and market your transferable skills every chance you can in that resume!

As the industry evolves there will be dozens if Clean Tech only employment firms. In the past year we have placed our entire energies in transitioning a very successful pharma and med device employment consultancy into a new company that we will be launching in the next few months that will provide a one stop hub for all things in Clean Technology career services. Once we are there - the key question "Where are the green jobs?" will be answered! Stay tuned...
You may want to visit the Natural Resources Defense Council: http://nrdc.org and post questions on the various blogs there. I bet they could help point you in some of the right directions. Kaid Benfield's blog ( he deals mostly with Smart Growth, walkable living and sustainability issues) is very informative and he is wonderful about responding to comments. You can view his most current post here:
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/transforming_the_market_for_de.html
Hi Paula, Thank you for your post and your mention of Green Career Central.

As the executive director of a virtual career center for people looking for green careers, I hear variations of this question from my members and when I speak. I heartily agree with everything you've said...and I have a few additional thoughts to share.

I've found it much more productive to think about the green economy in terms of the industries - those that have always been green (environmental, natural resources), those that have existed for decades but are transforming into green (green building, green IT, eco travel) and those that are now emerging (alternative energy, cleantech, green chemistry).

When you understand which industries are green or going green it's easier to see where you might fit in. If you know your green niche, the part of the green economy that is the best match for your skills and interests, you'll have an even easier time focusing on the parts of the green economy that are most likely to produce your job!

I think of the green economy as this generation's New Frontier. We are very, very early in this transition to a new kind of economy. Those of you who are trying to get a green career now are the early adopters. As a result the paths aren't particularly clear. It takes initiative, passion and commitment to make your way in this new world. It's possible...it's exciting...

Your best strategy is to do exactly what Paula is doing. Get engaged. Learn as much as you can. Focus on the areas that have the most potential to you. Position yourself so you are ready to take the leap when green opportunities come your way.

Hiring managers are looking for people who are demonstrating their commitment to the green movement. The more engaged and involved you can be at this early stage will pay off!

Good luck to all green pioneers!

Carol
egads, umbrella -- you are so right. I edited the post to take out the word unfortunately -- and yes it's an opportunity as well as a challenge. thanks for pointing out my "unfortunate" language.
I'll follow those links kcd and cartouche -- thank you so much! i'll also pass them along to my colleagues.
Yes, it's definitely the Wild West and the New Frontier and Yes, industries. Yes, get engaged. Thanks Carol -for the thoughtful comments -- I got some from Jim via email (will post once he gives me an OK).