Green Technology Job Hunt: Succeed With Clear Goals


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?

Get Specific

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.

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  1. Frank,

    Great post and good real-world examples. What additional advice or suggestions can you give for the all-to-common tendency to end up with multiple specific goals? In moving into a new career focus, multiple specific goals might be helpful – it’s like diversification in investing. For example, how about these two separate goal statements:

    1. Energy efficiency for data centers and desktop PC power utilization to reduce wasted electricity, save costs and reduce GHG emissions.

    2. Sustainabilty project management expertise to help support strategic planning for a company trying to understand how to move its sustainability initiatives forward.

    Multiple goals seems like a good way to keep options open – but it could also be distracting or confusing.

    What is your advice? Could you write a Part II?


  2. In career circles, we call “multiple specific goals” the MSG problem. Is it bad for your (job-finding) health?

    The answer is that it depends. The challenge with keeping your options open is that it leads to a lack of focus, which affects your ability to state clearly to your network what you want to do, which affects their ability to help you do it. On the other hand, the reality is that a lot of us are open to a lot of different opportunities, and if you state them clearly–you’re looking to do energy efficiency for data centers or sustainability project management–you can still give people a pretty clear idea of what you stand for.

    If you pursue this approach, pursue it strategically. Divide your contacts into different groups–those in the data management business and those who can help you find sustainability project management gigs. Focus on one gig, one purpose, per contact.

    Alternatively, go big(picture). If you can find a linkage, like “project management supporting an organization’s early-stage sustainability initiatives or carbon strategy,” then you can wrap the two paths together as one while minimizing confusion. It’s slightly less specific, but it provides a conversation starter for a wider range of people, and you can feel them out regarding what opportunities they might be able to steer you to.

  3. tissue microarray on

    Energy efficiency for data centers and desktop PC power utilization to reduce wasted electricity, save costs and reduce GHG emissions.Divide your contacts into different groups–those in the data management business and those who can aid you finsustainability project management gigs. Focus on one gig, one purpose, per contact.