Green careers are in. No wonder there’s been a mini-stampede of books addressing what they are and how to get one.
The books tend to cluster at one of two poles: Those that provide resources or information about a green career and those that are more of a handbook or guide for landing a job (or figuring out what you want to do).
Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future, by Jim Cassio & Alice Rush, falls in the former category. While it includes a short section on career planning and the hidden job market, its greatest asset is its interviews with some 60 people in a wide range of roles, from a PR professional to a landscape architect, civil engineers to a fish biologist.
Cassio, a workforce development consultant, also puts out a free green career resource guide, which shares some of the qualities of the book; namely, a close attention to the classification of career titles and groupings. The book’s occupational descriptions are general and speak in aggregates; more useful for surveying the range of possible career paths than getting up close and personal to the one you want (or think you want).
The interviews offer more value, providing insight into how a range of people arrived at their work and practical advice for those interested in getting a job like theirs. The interviews cover a wide range of titles, making this an excellent jumping off point for somebody trying to figure out what they might like to do, though be aware that some categories, like environmental health and safety technicians, don’t include any interviews, while others, like sustainability coordinators, include several (in this case, four).
Reading the interviews in Green Careers one after the other, however, can get tedious; because each interviewee responds to the same questions, the advice can grow repetitive. The authors missed an opportunity to edit out some of this repetition and expand the introductory sections to offer lessons and common themes from the diverse people they profiled. And the format of the book – with resource links following each interview – could have been designed to be more user-friendly. But as a resource for information about a wide range of career opportunities, Green Careers is a useful and valuable tool.
The Complete Green Job Search Guide
The shortcomings of Green Careers‘ format is partly a result of its form: Providing user-friendly directions to resources that don’t fall within a print book’s two covers is never a seamless experience. Here’s where The Complete Green Job Guide 2009, an e-book that came out earlier this month, excels: Its brief chapters include hyperlinks to additional information like industry associations, “must read” reports, and resume-writing resources, so that you can simply click to learn more.
Written by Chris Marentis and Elliott Mizroch, The Complete Green Job Guide is more handbook than resource, and it’s also not complete. Despite the title, the book’s target seems to be green energy opportunities, though analysis about the various energy sectors is sorely lacking – you won’t come away from this book with a better understanding of the dynamics of the solar or wind energy than when you started, for example. Instead, this is a high-level overview with practical career advice that’s easy to scan, but not especially insightful. The ten steps for breaking into a green energy job that form the bulk of the chapters offer standard career advice (step 3: “Learn green-speak”; step 5: “Pick the job you want”) and read to me more like executive summaries than chapters.
Then again, this isn’t simply a book; it’s a program. The Complete Green Job Search Guide comes with two bonus gifts, a weekly newsletter, and a weekly coaching program – a surprise bonus for readers. These add-ons could make the $29.95 price (which comes with two guarantees) worth it for the right candidate – one who wants quick, directed advice on getting a green job and support in doing it – but impossible to evaluate without participating (which I didn’t). At the very least, it’s an interesting, interactive model.
Other Books to Consider
Green Jobs: A Guide to Eco-Friendly Employment, by Bronwyn Llewellyn et. al, was published last year; it offers an insightful introduction to green career sectors that you won’t find in Green Careers or The Complete Green Job Guide. If you want to understand the nature of the opportunity in clean energy, transportation, building, nonprofits, natural resource management, or goods and services, then start here, though be aware some of the information is starting to be dated.
The opportunities in Glenn Croston’s 75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference include things like training for solar workers, green startup finance broker, low-carbon groceries, and green car dealership, but this isn’t a handbook on how to get started or a how-to guide for entrepreneurs; it’s an introduction to emerging areas of opportunity.
Start with Yourself
Dave Pollard, in Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work, starts not with the opportunities, but with you. The sweet spot refers to the place where your gifts (what you do uniquely well), passions (what you love to do), and purpose (what’s needed that you care about) overlap. By showing how to identify your sweet spot, providing guidance on finding unmet needs in the marketplace, connecting with partners, and making your enterprise sustainable, it’s the least formulaic of this group of books.
Where Cassio and Rush reveal the topography of defined opportunities, Pollard offers a methodology for creating your own opportunity. This can be far more challenging than landing a job that others have defined for us. It can also be infinitely more liberating.
After all, the majority of today’s green job opportunities are minor variations on jobs that existed before sustainability entered the mainstream lexicon. The successful engagement with global challenges like climate change and fresh water shortages will very likely require an entirely different relationship with production and consumption than the one we have today. The shift to a sustainable economy, and then to a restorative one, where many people’s everyday work helps revitalize ecosystems now in decline, and where social equity is elevated to a human value in practice as well as in theory, will not happen by doing what’s already been done. Instead, it will take people with a talent for finding new things to do and new ways to do them.
That’s the revolutionary potential for a green career.
Frank Marquardt wrote WetFeet’s Green Careers and is currently working on a book about work in a age of potential environmental apocalypse.