The Real Dirt on Green Jobs

Hankering to have a career that helps the planet, but don’t know how open the door to the rewarding world of green jobs? You’re not alone. Although the number of green jobs is on the rise, green jobs are still few and far between. It can be hard to navigate a path to a green career, but these expert tips can help.

There are not yet a lot of green jobs out there, and the ones that are open usually require previous experience in corporate sustainability, says recruiter, writer, and eco-entrepreneur Dan Smolen, author ofTailoring the Green Suit. “And therein lies the rub.”

The good news is that you don’t have to be a wind-power wizard or solar guru to be part of the green industry. Green companies need workers of every stripe, from support staff to accountants to sales. And there are other ways to break into the green jobs that don’t require gobs of green experience or green degrees.

You just need to think outside the box. Green careers are out there! says Kathryn Minshew, editor in chief of PYP Media.

Here are some expert tips that will help you get on a verdant path to a green career.

Turn your current job green. “No one is going to hand you a great green job,” says Neil Chambers, who runs a green design and consulting studio. “You have to create the one you want.” If you have a job that’s not green, make it green, advises Smolen. “This could mean approaching senior management with a plan to reduce the company’s carbon-footprint,” Smolen says. “This is very green experience that will go a long way toward establishing a green career.”

Green up your transferrable skills. Many non-green jobs are easily transferred to greener pastures. If you’re a writer, start trying to write more about green topics. In sales? Focus on green sales opportunities. A building contractor? Get knowledgeable about sustainability and show off your green side. Before you know it, you’ll be known for your green roots, and green jobs will come to you more easily.

Don’t sell yourself short. A green background isn’t always necessary for creating a green career. If you’re good at what you do, you could be a boon for many green companies. “While it’s always helpful to find people who understand the industry, we find that we are much better off hiring people with the skills we need…and then helping them learn the industry,” says Ed Weisberg, a vice president of GXT Green. George Jordan, general manager of the Hotel Felix, a LEED-certified green hotel in Chicago, says that even employees who start out with no eco-consciousness quickly become proud to work “in the green.”

Be a green volunteer or intern. A great way to break into a green career is to volunteer or intern at a green organization, says Kim Matsoukas, sustainability manager at Bentley Prince Street, Inc. Classes in green topics are helpful, but “it’s one thing to take a class and understand a concept, but quite another to be able to offer a concrete value to a potential employer,” she says. Volunteering for a green cause or interning with a green company can give you valuable real-life skills. Increase your chances of getting the job and apply with a green resume.

Speak up. Smolen advises that “becoming a public face” for green business can go a long way toward opening eco-friendly career doors. “Speak at business gatherings, write op-ed columns, encourage skill-based volunteerism at work, and walk the walk,” he says.

Become an eco entrepreneur. Sometimes the easiest way to enter the green field is to start your own green company. “A lot of green jobs will be created this way,” says Smolen. If you’ve always wanted to start your own business, green is a great color to aim for in the future, say eco-business experts.

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