By Anthony Gray
Aldo Leopold, author and environmentalist, once said “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land”. There is no doubt we are becoming more conscious about how our actions impact the world around us. Everyday there are advances in sustainability to preserve and maintain the natural resources we have left. If you are thinking about making an impact in the future, then this article is perfect for you! Leaders in Energy’s 7th Annual Green Jobs Forum welcomed Catherine McLean, William R. Ellis, and Florence Navarro for a discussion on how people can join the green industry and lead the way towards a sustainable future.
The panelists included:
Catherine McLean – Founder and CEO of Dylan Green, a hiring agency focused on helping people find their place in the green industry.
William R. Ellis – Senior portfolio manager of energy efficiency programs at PEPCO Holdings, an energy delivery company that serves over two million customers on the east coast of the United States.
Florence Navarro – Chief Empowerment Officer at Kichocheo LLC, a recruitment company based in Washington D.C. that works with mission driven- startups to find the best candidates for their stage of growth.
Dr. Beth Offenbacker, the moderator of the panel, serves as the founder and principal of Waterford, Inc., a human resource consulting firm that prepares individuals for the green industry. Dr. Offenbacker asked each panelist their opinions on how to land a career that will help accelerate a sustainable future. The following is a summation of the panel’s discussion.
What skills, experience, and expertise are you or your clients looking for when hiring Green professionals?
McLean initiated the discussion by mentioning skills are dependent on what position a person is looking to occupy. Whether you are looking to work in finance, data analysis, or computer-aided design, you should have the necessary skills and experience in that field. The greatest skill a candidate should have, according to Ellis, is passion. You have to be passionate about the role and industry you want to work in, and this will take time.
Constantly search and never settle until you have found what you like. Navarro mentions candidates who are eager learners stand out the most. Navarro explains that it is important to have expertise in one role, but you should also be able to demonstrate soft skills such as emotional intelligence or the ability to work well in a team.
How are the organizations you work with responding to the increased emphasis on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity today when hiring new team members?
McLean explains that if a company wants a diverse workplace, then they have to show they want diverse people. A company or business can fulfill this by marketing their companies’ values to the outside world. Ellis mentions that companies should go directly to their customers and engage with their communities. He mentions that PEPCO shows “diversity in the workplace by matching it to the community we serve”. PEPCO holds events to show interest in candidates from all socioeconomic backgrounds, so if a company wants diversity, then they have to start engaging with their community. Navarro adds that companies must be clear about their values. Staying transparent and committed to them throughout the hiring process can help alleviate bias.. If your organization is serious about diversity, inclusion and belonging, holding hiring managers accountable for hiring diverse talent can be helpful. when they fail to hire a diverse group of candidates.
What trends and opportunities are you seeing in the Green industry for organizations in the DMV, regionally, nationally, internationally?
Ellis pointed out the increase in opportunities within the renewable energy sector. Countries across the globe are starting to invest more in research that would make renewable energy sources more efficient and cheaper. Ellis notes that people who enjoy fast-paced environments and hands-on work would love to work in the renewable industry. Ellis also mentions that candidates who are looking to work in energy should be comfortable with technology and learn critical skills, such as programming and data analysis.
McLean added to Ellis’ comments by mentioning the purchase of Vivint Solar by SunRun in July for $3.2 billion. She notes that 2020 is the year of solar energy! Solar energy is growing rapidly in the United States and the rate of solar will increase exponentially in the next five years as energy storage improves. Navarro recognized more companies are beginning to incorporate sustainable values within their mission statements.She believes it is necessary for companies to improve people’s lives not just with products or services, but in an environmentally conscious way.
What are the organizations today doing to adapt in these times of COVID and what advice do you have for candidates based on that?
During the past couple of months, we unfortunately saw an economic downfall as a result of COVID-19. However, Navarro notes that the green industry has lost fewer jobs than other industries! We are now more reliant on technology for work, so Navarro adds that people should adapt to online interviews. Interviewers are new to working online, so if you can master an online interview then you will stand apart from the other candidates. McLean added to Navarro’s answer by emphasizing the importance of practicing video interviews. Although you may not meet your interviewer in person, it is imperative to practice and treat the interview as if it were in person.
Ellis also explains that for an interview, whether it may be in person or online, you should always do your research. Learning about the position and company you would like to work for is an indicator to the hiring manager that you want the position. Ellis recommends following the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format for your interview. You are essentially selling yourself in any job interview, so show passion, demonstrate the skills you have, and most importantly, show that you are capable of working in a team.
What 2-3 top tips can you share with people looking to land a Green Job about what to do and what not to do?
McLean urges people to build rapport if they are looking to land a job in the green industry. Whichever industry you may want to work in, you should become associated with the community and read as much as possible about the industry. You want to become an expert in your field so that you can interact with members of the community. Many people feel discouraged when they are rejected from job offers, but Navarro urges candidates to never lose hope and persevere. Ellis’s main insight was for candidates to never stop learning. As Ellis views it, a majority of industries in the sustainable world are new, so constantly seek out information and, like McLean mentioned, become an expert in your field.
What insights do you have for working effectively with recruiters — or following up with a hiring manager when networking in general or after an interview?
Connecting with people was Navarro’s best advice for working with recruiters. Navarro emphasizes that people have to network, especially in the green industry, since this is a new and growing community. Ellis stressed that people should not negotiate too hard after a job interview. This will put off hiring managers or interviewers and ruin your chances of getting the job. McLean added on to Navarro’s insights and underlined the importance of networking. Networking not only increases your chances of gaining new opportunities, but it strengthens your communication skills and fortifies your knowledge about the industry you hope to work in.
The green industry is flourishing and new opportunities continue to arise. If you have not found your dream job, do not feel discouraged. Continue searching for the job you love and never settle until you are satisfied.
Additional recap articles and presentations from the Forum panels are available in our Event Archives.
Anthony Gray is the Founder and CEO of PoweredXSolar, a company focused on educating homeowners and business owners about the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy. He is currently completing a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Engineering Physics from Fordham University.