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.