Growing Opportunities for Careers in the Green Economy

Growing Opportunities for Careers in the Green Economy

By Trinity Mills


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “green”? These days, the word doesn’t just refer to the color in the middle of a rainbow. It has a plethora of meanings, but there are 3 that are most prominent… aside from the color itself, that is.

Green could mean fresh, new, emerging, and growing. It could refer to those slips of paper that run our lives: money. Or, my personal favorite, relating to sustainability and the environment.

What do you get when you combine all three? The message of Leaders in Energy’s 8th Annual Green Jobs Forum! The forum was a part of Resilient Virginia’s 2021 Conference: From Recovery to Resilience (held August 25-27, 2021). It featured insights from a variety of passionate sustainability professionals, including Leaders in Energy’s Executive Director, Janine Finnell, and Director of Training and Development, Dr. Beth Offenbecker. The Forum’s keynote speaker was Ms. Peggy Brannigan, Director of Global Sustainability at LinkedIn.

The Big Green Shift is happening. This is being reflected in the job market, in industry initiatives, and in public opinion. Not-so-coincidentally, this corresponds perfectly with the three meanings of green.

Peggy Brannigan brings good news: “We are in the midst of a global transition to a green economy.”

Green job opportunities are growing. Not only are new job titles relating to sustainability becoming ever-more prevalent, but the emergence of new environmental businesses and organizations means that even traditional roles now have green connotations.

The “code red for humanity” that was issued by the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has opened eyes and inspired a sense of urgency on an already growing response. The most glaring takeaway from the report is a double-edged sword. Emphasized by Ms. Brannigan is the finding that there is no doubt that climate change is human caused. However, this also means that we can and will be part of the change- and it’s already begun.

As the Director of Global Sustainability for LinkedIn, Ms. Brannigan has far-reaching insight into the greening economy. Backed by LinkedIn workforce data, Brannigan assures that all levels of stakeholders are responding to the climate crisis and “clamoring for change”

Businesses are increasingly putting less stress on cost, and more stress on sustainability. The people care and they’re forcing industries to care too.

This doesn’t just mean consumers becoming pickier about the sustainable and ethical sourcing of products, or the market reaction of investors preferencing sustainability. It also refers to the talent pool. According to Ms. Brannigan, “76% of Millennials will consider an employer’s environmental commitment when they’re looking for work.”

The moment is now to break into the green jobs sector. Green talent includes not only those that have a passion for sustainability, but also professionals that are looking to find their place in the green economy. The session’s next speaker gave valuable insight for career transitioners and new talent to seize this opportunity to do good for green.

Dr. Beth Offenbacker is Leaders in Energy’s Director of Training and Development, as well as the Founder and CEO of Waterford, Inc., a company of “green industry people experts.” She provided valuable insight to green job seekers looking to capitalize on the growing green economy.

Dr. Offenbecker’s primary advice? Know your goal. Workforce data supports Ms. Brannigan’s assertion that green skills are growing across industries. This means not only more opportunities, but also more competition. This combination prompted the theme of Dr. Offenbacker’s talk: direction.

You have to know where you’re going in order to get there according to Dr. Offenbacker. The best way to do this is by streamlining yourself. Implementing direction is the key behind the 3-step approach that sets green job seekers on the path to contributing in major ways to the Big Green Shift.

Key Point 1: Have a Strategy

Dr. Offenbacker makes this easy by breaking down the expansive nature of the green jobs market by simplifying the 16sectors in the field into 4 quadrants. Focusing on one specific quadrant allows a job-seeker to intimately understand the specific issues that sector is tackling, and “position [themselves] as the best solution to that problem”.

Based on Carol McClelland, 2009

Key Point 2: Build a Plan


Network Network Network! The most important element of not only creating a plan to secure a green job, but enacting it is building a network. The connections one makes in their given field, quadrant, and sector will be the key to succeeding at their next green role and 85% of the time those connections are also the key to landing it.

Key Point 3: Take Action

Dr. Offenbacker provides some excellent resources and tools for job seekers to utilize in enacting their plan and taking action to secure their dream green job. Two are online platforms that can be used as tools to align skill sets to jobs and help job seekers to identify what experience gaps they need to fill  in order to achieve their goal: Onet Online and ZipRecuiter. Job seekers interested in supporting the circular economy can also use tools such as GreenBiz and the Ellen MacArthur  Foundation.

Dr. Offenbacker’s organization Waterford, Inc. also provides workshops for Green Careers! For an even more in-depth coaching to aid in the green jobs search, check out Waterford’s Inc. info session on October 25th. The green career workshops will be this November!

Dr. Offenbacker’s talk on how to find your place in the green sector was brought to a point by the first panel session forthe Green Jobs forum: the success stories. This group of individuals had previously been involved in Leaders in Energy’s Green Jobs  fora and have since landed jobs in the green sector.

Ms. Brannigan mentioned a campaign that was run by LinkedIn back in April: The Earth is Hiring.  Ms. Brannigan’s data, Dr. Offenbacker’s advice, and the success stories of the panel members reinforces this.

The Big Green Shift is happening. Leaders in Energy is giving us the tools and motivation to mobilize for it. As Janine Finnell said when kicking off the Forum: “The Earth wants YOU! Answer the call.”



Trinity Mills is a native of Virginia and a recent graduate of Christopher Newport University. She achieved her Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and is currently pursuing the start to her career in conservation and sustainability. She is presently applying her degree by writing grants and articles for organizations that share her passion for the environment. She is an avid outdoorswoman and spends her free time hiking, kayaking, and traveling. Her other hobbies of writing and film photography she utilizes to share her love of nature with the world. 

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