Green jobs are out there right now with plenty more on the way, but finding one might not be as simple as looking in the in the classified ads. That’s the message I got from speaking with Carol McClelland, founder and Executive Director of Green Career Central. McClelland, who has a PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology and is the author of Green Careers for Dummies, has put together an impressive array of tools and services, primarily aimed at mid-career professionals looking to shift onto a greener path, either as a matter of principle, or in response to a growing awareness of the kinds of opportunities that one will inevitably encounter on that path. Her definition of a green job is quite inclusive: any work that has a positive impact on the state of the planet is a green job.
Perhaps her most impressive tool is her Green Economy Map. The map breaks down the Green Economy into twelve sectors under four major headings: Nature (Natural Environment), Infrastructure (Power & IT), Tangibles (Manufacturing Cycle) and Intangibles (Creating Demand). Intangibles, which is the one area not generally covered in other analyses of the Green Economy, includes the following three sectors (clicking in shows you some of the jobs found within):
- Shaping the Economy- lawyers, activists, politicians, finance
- Educating, Inspiring. Motivating- writers, teachers, media, consultants
- Services & Experiences – restaurants, spas, eco-tours
Green is not a well-defined category in the employment world, so you really have to look between the lines to understand where the green jobs are. They could very easily be traveling incognito, dressed up as ordinary jobs. In some cases, you might be able to take your current job and green it, by bringing a more sustainable focus to the work you do, both in the end product you create and in the way you go about making it. That might be a good place to start. Others will want to change companies and/or careers. For people who don’t have a job at all, the question of whether or not a green job is available now or somewhere over the horizon, depends a great deal on what field you are looking at and what your skill sets are.
I asked Carol for some examples of people who have successfully made the shift to green and here’s what she told me.
- A product catalog publisher transitioned to marketing and sales in a residential solar PV company. (This shift required a steep learning curve.)
- A former mayor with a passion for things green and a civil engineering background became a business development manager for a company pursuing clean energy.
- A former apartment complex property manager leveraged his skills and passion to become the head of a major sustainability initiative for a consulting company.
- A high-tech systems engineer changed horses to work for a local company making inverters for solar PV systems.
The recipe seems to be a matter of combining skills acquired in previous jobs with a passion for green and a willingness to try something new.
In McClelland’s own case, she had been working in the career development field for quite a while and had always been passionate about the environment. Then one day she purchased some CFL bulbs to reduce her own carbon footprint at home and found herself wondering who the people were that invented those bulbs and were producing them and marketing them today. It was at that moment, truly a light-bulb moment, when she realized that she could combine what she knew with what she loved, which is when the idea for Green Career Central was born.
Please follow along on the main green jobs series page. Incidentally, there are still a few open slots. If you’d like to contribute a guest column, please comment on this post, identifying yourself and your topic and provide a way to get in touch with you. And if you’re looking for a job, don’t forget to check our own green jobs page.
RP Siegel is co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though can we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
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