Today’s employer advice is from Dana Render, Director of Human Resources at Trees Atlanta.
Q: Tell us about your organization.
Trees Atlanta is a nationally recognized non-profit citizens’ group that protects and improves Atlanta’s urban forest by planting, conserving, and educating. Founded in 1985, Trees Atlanta works tirelessly to address Atlanta’s tree loss, protect its forests, and create new greenspace. Empowered by its wonderful community of volunteers, Trees Atlanta serves the metro Atlanta area, and has grown to become one of Atlanta’s most widely known and supported non-profit organizations.
Q: What advice would you give to people in midlife who want to transition to a green job?
Take some time to determine what your true interest is with green jobs because there are many avenues to pursue either with the public sector, corporately, or the non-profit world. Understanding what you would want out of a green job will help to steer you to where to look and where you would be most fulfilled. If the answer is truly, ‘I don’t know’ then do a general search for the environmentally related organizations, government agencies, and companies in your area to learn about what they do.
Trees Atlanta has an active group of volunteers that partner with us to do what we do across the metro Atlanta area, and many of our current staff members were volunteers prior to becoming employees. Volunteering, if an option, is a great way to see if the mission of an organization works well with your personal values. Set a realistic expectation that some green jobs may require extensive physical work. It can be quite the change to go from an office environment to working primarily outdoors. Most of the jobs that are in abundance right now are outdoors, so someone should be comfortable in that setting or be interested in that aspect.
Don’t be afraid to start with entry-level work, part-time hours, contract assignments, or even fellowships (if financially you are able to do so). Sometimes those opportunities quickly turn into permanent jobs with upward mobility. Becoming an Independent Contractor can also be rewarding if you are not sure that you want to take the plunge into being a full-fledged employee, especially if you are retiring from another industry and are looking for supplemental opportunities.
Lastly, look at your resume for transferable skills and competencies that could be useful to the organization. For those who are looking to transition into work that is at the same level as your current or previous industry, understanding that certain knowledge can be valuable across industries will help to remove the intimidation of changing career fields.
While there are specific nuances dealing with environmentally related jobs, positions in finance/accounting, marketing/social media, management and supervision, and operations are going to have similar elements across industries. Going to a green job in an administrative function is fairly easy as long as you can demonstrate competency and passion for the mission of the organization.
Transitioning into a position that requires specialized knowledge, such as landscape architecture, botany, horticulture, agriculture, animals and wildlife, water conservation, forestry/arboriculture, sustainability, etc may require you to seek out some self-directed study or a formal degree, but there are many organizations that offer on-the-job training that will allow you to learn as you go. At Trees Atlanta, we offer an array of classes that help community members learn about arboriculture and conservation, which has led to many of our volunteers becoming subject matter experts enough that they can lead projects and other volunteers without a staff member present.
Lastly, seek out professional organizations and associations that are related to where you want to go. They may have opportunities for networking, which is another great way to gather information.
Q: What are the skills that you believe will be required most in the short-medium term in your industry?
In forestry, learning anything to do with horticulture, arboriculture, and ecosystems is crucial. It may be helpful to take some courses at a local technical school or an organization that offers community education on the topics. Working knowledge of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other technology is increasingly important because of the need for sophistication in data tracking and analysis.