Green Tech Job Hunt: Track the Trends

Trends matter so if you’re looking for a job, pay attention to them.

Let me explain.

If you’re trying to get a job at a clean tech company, you’re probably going to be competing for work with well-educated, savvy candidates. So even if you know a little a bit about the industry, know what sector you want to work in, and can carry on an adequately informed conversation about a company’s technology, customers, and market opportunity, you’re only going to be part way to impressing somebody in an interview.

Knowing the Trends Can Set You Apart from the Pack

But if you know the trends, you’re going to have that much more information at your fingertips to communicate why you’re a great fit for the company and industry. If you can ask a smart question about a recent breakthrough in organic-hybrid materials and how they’re going to affect manufacturing processes at a wind turbine manufacturer, you’re showing both your interest in the industry and an understanding of the way new developments are likely to affect it.

But just knowing the trends is only part of what’s going to help you impress a hiring manager. Thinking creatively about those trends is the other part. If you’re an engineer, can you imagine some unexpected applications for the new material? If you’re in business development, can you think up some ideas for partnerships that are don’t fit neatly in the box? By riffing on the latest industry developments, you’re revealing yourself as somebody who’s current on what’s happening and thinks creatively about what it might mean in the type of role you’re looking to fill.

Trends Can Also Give You New Avenues for Your Job Search

Trends can affect which companies hiring. Obviously, macro-trends, like the current recession, can adversely affect your ability to find a job. Larger trends also affect what companies are hiring. In 2008, for example, venture capitalists invested $3.3 billion into solar companies, more money than any other clean tech sector. A lot of that money will go to hiring. Similarly, the recession’s affect on job growth led to a counter-trend: The government’s effort to get the economy moving, with some $50 billion targeted for clean energy jobs alone.

Knowledge like this is power, because it gives you insight into how to best position your skills and who’s likely to be hiring. It also gives you something interesting to talk about when you’re networking and interviewing. By asking, “how does the shift in attention from [x technology]to [y technology]affect your company’s strategic plans?” or “does the tightening in credit markets provide opportunities that nobody’s talking about?” or “if these hybrid-organic materials are successful will they threaten your market share?” you can distinguish yourself as somebody who’s paying attention to what’s going on and who cares about how it’s going to affect a company’s short- and long-term strategy as well as its bottom line.

This is the second in a five-part series on clean tech job search strategies by Frank Marquardt, author of The Solar Job Guide. Read part-one of the Green Tech Job Hunt: Succeed with Clear Goals.

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