Kelly Jones | October 29, 2013
At the Net Impact Conference last week, I met a number of inspiring young graduate students. Many came to the EDF Climate Corps expo booth asking about our summer fellowship program. Many others I talked to, including our 2013 alumni fellows, were seeking full-time employment.
The expo room and session halls were filled with powerful contacts and interesting opportunities, but I attended a session called “Translate Your Skills to Today’s Sustainability Job Market” that offered some particularly interesting advice in this arena. Here are my takeaways from the session, which featured speakers Ellen Weinreb and Shannon Houde, both leading environmental recruiters.
Build Skills for the Sustainability Market
As our EDF Climate Corps alumni can attest, technical skills such as data analysis, life cycle analysis and carbon accounting are in demand, but many softer skills were also emphasized including:
- Change Leadership
- People Skills
- Communication Skills
- Ability to Forge Partnerships
Weinreb highlighted that job seekers need to understand what the trends are in a given field, and knowing what skills hiring managers are looking for in sustainability professionals is just one aspect of staying current.
Break Down the Job Description
How long do you look at the job description before submitting an application? Houde advises that you spend a minimum of 45 minutes. Take the time to identify every required skill that is listed in the job description, and note that a single bullet point may contain several different skills. Once you have a list of skills required, write down next to those your relevant skills. This process will enable you to identify any gaps you may have. Missing a lot of the requirements? Maybe this isn’t the job for you. Checked all of the boxes? Then take the process one step further by writing out your past achievements that highlight how you’ve done this type of work before. This process of mapping your achievements to the job description should make tailoring your resume and interview preparation relatively easy.
Your Relevant Skills
Skills Gap Or Achievements
(Skills Map from Walk of Life Consulting)
Take One Step at a Time
For those looking to change careers and enter the sustainability field, Weinreb and Houde agree that one should not seek to change job function, industry and location all at the same time. It may take two or three position changes to get to your dream job so try to select positions that can give you the necessary skills along the way.
Ford Motor Company’s Global Director of Sustainability, John Viera, worked for Ford for 27 years before being named to his current position. His prior position was chief engineer of the Expedition and Navigator programs. While the Expedition and Navigator are not necessarily known for their fuel efficiency, John was able to make this switch because of his lengthy commitment to the company and the highly relevant knowledge he gained being an engineer overseeing operations.
As you embark on the search for your green dream job, I encourage you to consider these three tips. And if you find yourself a graduate student looking to break into the environmental field, check out the EDF Climate Corps fellowship. It’s a great way to build practical experience and gain skills that you can map to any future job in sustainability.
About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered nearly $1.3 billion in energy savings. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.