Finding New Pathways to a Green Job

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Janine Finnell opens the first panel


Finding a green job may not be easy, but with the right mix of positioning yourself, networking with the right people, and having an open mind, it can be done.

To hear perspectives about finding a pathway to a green job, a sold-out crowd of over 80 people attended the third annual Leaders in Energy Green Jobs event on August 18, 2016, held in partnership with ArlingtonGreen and hosted by Arlington Economic Development (follow the conversation #LEGREENJOBS).

Janine Finnell, Founder and Clean Energy Ambassador, Leaders in Energy, welcomed everyone by remarking how terrific it was to see so many like-minded professionals either interested in or already working in green jobs – jobs that support social and environmental responsibility, protect the environment, create clean energy, green products, and services. She highlighted the progression of Leaders in Energy’s Green Jobs events and how they have helped the organization and community to continue to grow. 30-40% of the audience indicated that they were in the job market.

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Alex Iams

Alex Iams, Assistant Director, Arlington Economic Development (AED), was on hand to deliver welcoming remarks, recognizing Leaders in Energy, ArlingtonGreen, and other partners for spurring innovation in the region. It’s something that jives well with AED’s goal, which is to make Arlington a more thriving and environmentally sustainable place, part of Arlington’s smart growth vision.

Iams said that to accomplish this vision, the area needs people with the right skills. He invited the crowd to find a place in Arlington and to be the next generation of clean energy leadership in Arlington.

Janine introduced the sponsors (EMO Lilker Energy Solutions, SolarCity, and Career Confidence) and why they chose to get involved with this topic. Jack Levenson, who first spoke on behalf of SolarCity at our April 2015 Green Jobs event, returned as a sponsor seeking to hire green job seekers. Scott Donelson, who attended our Green Jobs event in 2014, returned this year as a speaker to discuss what he looks for in hiring as a small business owner in the energy efficiency sector.

Perspectives on Finding a Green Job

Edythe Richards
Edythe Richards

The first panel was moderated by Janine Finnell, Founder and Clean Energy Ambassador, Leaders in Energy, with three panelists:

  • Edythe Richards, Career Counselor, Arlington Employment Center and Northern VA Community College
  • Scott Donelson, President of Home Energy Medics
  • John Gaffigan, “Outsourced VP of Sales” for Green Companies

Richards spoke about her motivations for getting involved in the market for green jobs as a career counselor, including her Quaker upbringing. She argued that colleges do not do a good job of preparing people for the world of work. Also, people going through a mid-career transition often do not have enough resources to help them get their next big break. What Richards does is to work with people to figure out what their target is and how they can leverage their skills. Read more about her top five green job tips.

Scott Donelson
Scott Donelson

Donelson is an Arlington-based entrepreneur who started a home performance company to help customers maximize the energy and other resource performance of their homes. He said he has seen explosive growth in the home performance sector – which includes services such as energy audits. Improving performance make a huge difference in energy consumption and costs.

Gaffigan believes the green economy is a growth economy – meaning that there are opportunities available to those who seek them. He went from a layoff to looking for a traditional job to being a free agent. Then he started reflecting on what he really wanted to do, and that’s when he decided to try to be the architect of his own destiny. Since that pivot, he has been consulting for several companies in the green economy. Read more about his journey.

John Gaffigan
John Gaffigan

Moderator Janine Finnell echoed Gaffigan’s observations about the job market going more and more towards a Gig Economy. In the future, the job market is likely to be made up of jobs or gigs with 1099 forms instead of traditional W2 jobs.

The discussion was rich with tips for people in all stages of their careers.

  • Richards: To attract interest as a candidate, follow the Platinum rule – in other words, follow the Golden rule PLUS do unto others what they are looking for.
  • Donelson: Take the time to do a customized cover letter for the job announcement
  • Donelson: They look for true passion for green sector and for helping people solve their problems.
  • Gaffigan: If you are looking for consulting gigs, get a good consulting agreement that gives you and the company equal terms. Many contracts are one-sided.
  • Gaffigan: To get leads as a freelance consultant, once you’ve done your due diligence, call the CEO directly. Go in from a position of strength and purpose – tell them what you can do for them. This tip resonated with Donelson, who said his company hired someone who came in unannounced with a fancy and well-developed portfolio.
  • Richards: Don’t apply to job board postings – they’re often outdated. Also, special resume formatting often generates errors in application systems that screen applicants out.
  • Donelson: The old adage that employers just do a ten second – one minute resume scan is true. Keep it simple and to the point.

Learning from People Who Have Landed or Created a Green Job

Robin Pence
Robin Pence

The second panel was scheduled to be moderated by Agustin Cruz, Executive Director, ArlingtonGreen, but due to a personal conflict, Finnell continued with moderating the second panel, with panelists including:

  • Bob Reno, Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Robin Pence, Director of Marketing and Communications, Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia
  • Andrew Dawson, Principal Engineer, Resilient Systems Engineering, LLC
  • Helaine Cooper, Business Development Manager for Tellabs

The panelists talked about how they landed their jobs and gave valuable tips:

  • Reno: Although the first panel agreed that a simple resume is best, in the federal government it is completely different. You have to throw all of the keywords in the USAJobs application system so that the keywords rank your application highly. Each job can have 1,000 applicants or more.

    Helaine Cooper
    Helaine Cooper
  • Pence: She created her own job by networking and by being in the right place at the right time.
  • Dawson: Much like Gaffigan, after considering a number of options, he started thinking about what he would do in an ideal situation. He decided to start his own company. If there’s something you’re interested in, he said, pursue it.
  • Cooper: After some reflection, she decided to ask friends what they thought her strengths and weaknesses are. She also started rigorously networking and testing the market. In the end she was seen in action by the right person who was in a position to hire her, and she created a job.

6 IMG_1268Our members have told us many times that they are looking for advice, information, and opportunities to network to find their next job in clean energy. Over the past few years we’ve heard from an impressive group of members who’ve landed great jobs and from experts in the field. Here are a few of our favorite articles.

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Thanks to all who joined us and to our wonderful panelists! Read more about our panelists here. These events could not take place without our wonderful sponsors below.

CC is a company that teaches candidates to have the confidence to get the job they want.


EMO started in 1998 by providing energy audit services for the federal government and has since expanded into LEED consulting and other services. They merged with a New York based firm to create Lilker EMO Energy Solutions. They have an immediate need for two people.


Jack Levenson is a Regional Sales Training Manager for SolarCity and has hired 45 people since joining three years ago. He said that there are three ways to help build momentum for solar power – through advocacy, employment, and referrals. SolarCity looks for candidates that are able to demonstrate grit and integrity.

More information on Leaders in Energy is available at and in the Leaders in Energy Research, Communication, Policies & Analysis (LERCPA) LinkedIn group. The mission of Leaders in Energy is to build a community of leaders to enable solutions for a sustainable energy system, economy, and world.

We invite you to contact us if you are interested in helping us to spearhead an event on a topic of interest to you, help us in arranging sponsors, writing a blog article, assisting us with our events, and collaborating on a project. Learn more about how to get involved with Leaders in Energy.

Photographs courtesy of Elvin Yuzugullu and Travis High.

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