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Green Tech Job Hunt: Join the Community

Looking for a job can feel like a lonely enterprise. Despite the dozens of emails you’ve sent, the phone calls you’ve diligently forced yourself to make, and the strangers you’ve tried to befriend at LinkedIn—not to mention your heartfelt intention to do work that changes the world for the better—some days you may find yourself alone in your apartment, your inbox collecting more e-mail newsletters and your phone silent, like it forgot it belongs to you.

You may even be tempted to give in to feelings despair. And who’s to blame you if you do. There are compelling reasons that go well beyond the job search to feel down and sometimes, it’s impossible for even the best of us not to indulge them.

But as you know, that’s a reasonably unsatisfying job search strategy. And the deeper reality is that you aren’t cut off or divorced from the world. In fact—as hard as it can be to believe when you’re feeling the wave of despair—the world is desperate for you to bring your creativity to bear on solving the technological and business issues involved in spreading clean technologies from sea to shining sea, and beyond.

Don’t Get Down—Meet Up

Savvy job seekers realize that their job search is about community as much as it’s about anything else.

Because people connect people with jobs—as many as 80 percent of job offers come through networking, or through one’s personal contacts.

No matter what area of the clean tech sector you want to join, there are others already in it. And some of these people are showing up at events like Green Drinks, EcoTuesday, and industry conferences and events. So get out of your pajamas, put on your personality hat, and meet them.

The bottom line of the job search is that you don’t know where you’re going to find out about your job. Maybe it’ll happen through a Facebook community. Maybe it’ll happen when you tell somebody of your career objective at a Green Festival. Maybe a stranger you strike up a conversation with on the train will connect you. You just don’t know.

Engage with Online Communities

Okay, some of you might be thinking, “if the only thing that’s clean is my pajamas, how am I going to get out there?” In fact, you can wear your pajamas and make new friends at the same time, too.

Along with networking in the real world, get involved online, through a LinkedIn groups or through Facebook or other, more targeted social networking sites, like Greenwala, Creative Citizen, SustainLane, or Wiser Earth. Ask smart questions. Throw up a thought from some the trend tracking you’ve done, and find out what others think about it. Interact, share, converse, and listen.

Find and follow some blogs that cover topics related to the industry sector you want to join. Comment and try to get a conversation going. By getting involved in the broader clean tech community, you’ll create relationships, build your knowledge base, and hone your understanding of the marketplace. Day to day, you may not recognize the effects on your hire-ability, but over time you’ll develop an increasingly sophisticated level of understanding that will stand you well as you network. You’ll probably make some new networking connections, and maybe some new virtual friends, too.

Fundamentally, Work Is a Social Act

There are plenty of jobs where you’ll work alone on isolated, individual tasks—but even then, you’re part of something bigger than you. And that’s one of the things that makes solar, wind, biofuels, and other clean technologies so exciting. These are not projects of one. They involve many people, in many places, trying out many things. Solutions emerge because people are in conversation, butting heads, collaborating, trying to reduce inputs and maximize outputs, making bets and often losing, sometimes winning, but always learning.

So get started in doing all that now. Join communities, talk up your ideas, share your thoughts, be curious, ask questions, get involved in moving yourself up the learning curve. These are the things that very well could lead to a job, and will give you valuable practice in what you eventually end up doing.

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