Today’s employer advice is from Lynn Abramson, President of the Clean Energy Business Network.
Q: Tell us about your organization.
The Clean Energy Business Network is the small business voice for the clean energy economy. CEBN works to enhance opportunities for small- and mid-size clean energy technology and service providers through policy support, market and technology education, and business development assistance. Our network spans more than 6,000 business leaders across all 50 states, representing a broad spectrum of technologies. Our work ranges from helping early-stage companies navigate funding opportunities to support the development and commercialization of their technologies to helping mature companies engage in policy developments impacting market opportunities for their technologies and services. We give a voice to those who don’t have one.
Q: What advice would you give to people in midlife who want to transition to a green job?
First try to envision yourself in your dream job and ask yourself some questions about what that looks like.
1. WHY do you want to transition to a green job? Presumably you are seeking meaning and purpose, but is there a particular aspect of sustainability that inspires you most?
2. HOW do you want to work? What types of approaches resonate with you? Do you want to work with students? Environmental advocates? Local governments? Businesses? Research different companies and organizations involved in sustainability and how they work to navigate what types of opportunities feel like a good fit. Also think about the culture of your ideal workplace and the pros and cons of different structures. Large companies/organizations may have significant public or policy influence and good benefits, but on the flip side, often have more of a rigid, top-down structure. Smaller companies/organizations may offer a more collaborative and flexible environment where each individual can contribute creatively, but on the flip side, may present more uncertainty and less competitive benefits. What feels like the right fit for you?
Then envision how your existing skills and expertise would be an asset in your dream job. Don’t obsess over your expertise. Information can always be learned; skills are harder to teach. Are you a great communicator? Are you whip-smart on finances and markets? Do you have emotional intelligence and ability to connect with and influence people? How have you demonstrated these skills in past jobs and life experiences, and how can you apply them to sustainability?
At the same time while feeling emboldened to apply for jobs outside your current field, do recognize it is a competitive field and employers are busy. The onus is on you to market yourself effectively—rather than on the employer to take the time to pull out the gems in your skillset and think about how they can be transferrable. Really research the company/organization to which you are applying and weave their language and mission into your application. Make sure your cover letter tells a REALLY good story for why you are transitioning and how your skills will be an asset in your new field, and rewrite your resume to significantly emphasize measurable examples of how you have delivered results in the past (e.g., at X Company, I increased social media followers 250% resulting in 25% increase in online traffic to our product page). If you still feel you need to bolster your resume to add more direct experience in sustainability, look at opportunities to obtain relevant experience through volunteering, sitting on boards or committees, or mentoring students. You can also research topics of interest and develop a blog or series of LinkedIn articles to build up a record on these issues.
Q: What are the skills that you believe will be required most in the short-medium term in your industry?
The number one skill that I value in my employees, and that I feel is needed to support the clean energy industry, is the ability to learn quickly and adapt. Our industry is growing and changing so quickly, that the landscape today may look very different tomorrow. This is good news for those seeking a job transition, because again, it’s less important to have deep expertise in your new field than to have transferrable skills that can be adapted to new situations.
We will need brainpower of all types to support a cleaner, more sustainable future: engineering, finance, marketing, business management, research, campaigning, and much more. How will you contribute?