It doesn’t matter where you are on the green technology job hunt. Maybe you’re contemplating a career change, or you’re just starting the job hunt, or you’re deep into networking. Your ability to use your job-hunting time effectively, get the most from your networking, and prioritize your daily tasks depends on knowing what you want.
But if you’re like many job seekers, you don’t know what you want. Okay, maybe you know you want to work in the solar industry, or on sustainable transportation issues, or on a more energy efficient grid. Or maybe you know you’d love to work in any of those areas, because they’d all align with your desire to promote sustainable change in your day-to-day work. That’s all well and good. But if a hiring manager popped out of your computer and asked you, “what do you want to do?” would you be able to tell her the role, the clean tech sector, and why in 30 seconds or less?
If you’re targeting a career in clean tech, you’re not being specific enough. If you’re looking for work in the solar industry, you’re not being specific enough. Saying you want to work in clean tech is like saying you want to work in information technology: It’s a huge area with many diverse areas. Your ability to position yourself to land a job depends on knowing what specific area you want to join. If you’re going into solar, do you want to work at a thin-film company using CIGS technology? Or do you want to work on putting together financing for commercial clients? Or are you basically interested in the design and construction of systems? These are big differences. How you write your resume, position yourself in your interviews, and who you network with will vary depending on which specific area of the clean tech sector you want to join.
Use Networking to Learn
It’s okay if you’re not specific right now. In fact, that’s fine. The whole idea behind “clarify your goals” is that it’s a process. You want to get there, but you don’t have to be there now.
Instead, having a general sense of what you want to do provides the perfect place to start networking, because it’s through the networking that you’re going to figure out your target. So if all you know is that you want to work in clean tech, great: Search your network, LinkedIn, Facebook, your friends’ networks, etc. to find people working in different areas of clean tech. Then talk to them and listen to what they say. What are they doing? What do they like about it? How did they get their job? What skills do they need in their job? What roles does the company or organization have for somebody with your skill set? Can they connect you with that person?
Your goal here is to start to understand the lay of the land. Who’s doing what in the clean tech world? What are the different technologies, types of companies, and projects that people are working on? By educating yourself, you’ll start to perceive opportunity areas that resonate—things you want to do. That’s what it means to clarify your goals. You don’t want to work in clean tech. You want to work in sales at a startup company that makes wind turbines for the residential market because you think that the potential to generate energy from residential-based turbines in humongous. That’s what it means to be specific: There’s a size of company, a type of culture, a product area, a role, and a reason for doing it. And you can say that all in a succinct way and know what you’re talking about.
The simple questions are often the hardest. What do you want?
This is the first in a five-part series on clean tech job search strategies by Frank Marquardt, author of The Solar Job Guide.