One of the benefits of Covid for someone looking to transition to a green job is that a lot of industry events that used to take place in person are now happening online. This means that opportunities that were once unavailable to you due to geographical and time constraints are now there for the taking, often at no financial cost.
So, how do you make the most of such events, even if they do not appear to be 100% aligned with your interests?
First, such events are great learning opportunities. One of the things that you need to do in your job search is to demonstrate to employers that you have a good sense of what is happening in their industry. Online events are good for various reasons:
- You will learn useful things about what is happening in the industry and—perhaps more importantly—what the challenges and opportunities are expected to be in the short-medium term which impact your green job search
- You will be exposed to key individuals within the industry who may not necessarily be represented in regular media articles, but who are nevertheless very useful to know about
- You will often be exposed to more direct information that has not been filtered in the same way as regular media articles, information which is nearer “the truth”
- You will get a sense of the language, presentation styles and—without sounding too new-agey—the “energy” of these key individuals, which can help you craft how you present yourself in interviews and appear as a good “fit” for an organization.
Second, such events are great networking opportunities. Networking is one of the main ways that people secure employment, and this can feel very daunting if you have only a modest network: where do you even start?
Networking can be both synchronous and asynchronous at such events. Synchronous networking is where you network during the event. For example, some events hold live breakout rooms for people to talk. Sure, there is value attending such events as a passive spectator, but there is greater value in being an active participant. If you get anxious at the idea of speaking to strangers on Zoom, try to let it go: everyone is there to learn and network—to a greater or lesser degree—and expect (even hope) for such interactions.
Asynchronous networking is where you network after the event. This could either be with someone just like you who is more of a spectator, or it could be with one of the organizers or speakers. For fellow spectators, make a note of the names of people you spoke to during the event, and follow up within 48 hours with a LinkedIn invite and accompanying message.
You can do something similar with speakers, but with a little more structure. Sending someone an email when you have listened to their talk at such an event is way easier than when the email is a “cold call.” All you need to do is hunt down the email address of the person online and start off with something like, “Dear Sarah, I recently saw your talk about residential solar power at the online Clean Energy Summit, which was very informative, particularly the part where you discussed X.” Then you need an “ask”: a relevant question to your job search, a referral to someone else in the organization that might be willing to talk, or perhaps even a quick call with the person themselves if they’re from a modest-sized organization. People are often willing to talk and help: the worst that can happen is that you get ignored (who cares?). Once you’ve had an exchange, send them a LinkedIn invite with a note of thanks. Now you’re networking!
If you have the time, it is worth attending lots of such online events, even if they are not 100% aligned with your interests. You never know when you’re going to come across a valuable piece of information or a useful contact. Furthermore, each time you attend and interact with such an event, you’ll get a little more comfortable with it, which means when something 100% aligned with your interests does occur, you’ll be operating at your best 🙂