By Adrian Johansen
Sustainability has become a priority in our society over the past several years. The line that marks the irreversible effects of climate change is drawing closer, and there is an urgent need for everybody to make changes in their lives that have a positive impact. As an individual, one of the ways that you can help make a difference is by taking a career path toward a green job or with sustainable businesses.
However, it’s important to note that jobs with companies that hold sustainability as a central part of their operations are increasingly popular with candidates. While a report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts the green economy could create 24 million jobs by 2030, we’re still a little way off from that. As such, if you want to pursue a career in a role that makes a difference to the environment, even just on a sustainable operations level, you need to stand out among the competition.
It’s not always easy to know exactly how to go about this. So, we’re going to explore a few key tips that can help you make a positive start on your road to a career with a sustainable company.
Gain Relevant Experience
As with any job, experience is often crucial when applying to sustainable companies. You may find it most valuable to approach this from the perspective of gaining certifications in skills that help address the unique challenges of sustainable operations. There are certainly green industries that, while their methods are positive, still pose an element of risk. Biofuel manufacturing is still subject to hazardous materials, solar energy workers can still be exposed to arc flashes and use hazardous equipment. For companies in these sectors to thrive, they need workers who are well versed in the safety standards of their industries. As such, it is worth researching the types of hazards prevalent in the sector you’re targeting and gain relevant experience.
However, it’s also important to note that not all of your experience needs to be strictly professionally focused. Getting involved as a volunteer in organizations that work toward sustainability in the community can provide you with key insights into what less-obvious practices may be harmful and how business activities can be improved. This may be valuable to an organization that is always looking to make strides in sustainability. Not to mention that having hands-on connections to sustainable projects both suggests an agile skill set, but also shows your commitment to the green goals the company you’re applying to may value.
Learn About the Company
While gaining more relevant skills can help you in a general way, it is also important to take a personal approach to the companies you want to work for. In many cases, businesses that prioritize sustainability do so because it is part of their core values. As such, there is the potential to make a good impression by taking time to learn about the company’s goals, its activities, and even its community efforts.
Start with their website. Many businesses that push for sustainability will outline their efforts in detail on a dedicated page. This will usually give you insights into the types of sustainability — environmental, social, economic — that form the basis of their focus. In some cases, the leadership of the organization will participate in TED talks, conference keynote speeches, or panels that give insights and even career perspectives on sustainability within their companies. Doing this research allows you to both identify which businesses have sustainable missions that align with your own and this will enable you to target your job applications accordingly.
One of the ways this can be especially useful is when you attend job interviews. There are several standard questions that most companies will ask candidates during the first round of interviews — details of your leadership experiences, how you manage stressful situations, your definition of success among them. It’s always worth practicing your answers to these to put you in good stead. However, the research you have undertaken about the company and its sustainability goals also allows you to tweak your answers in ways that reflect this information. Talk about experiences that you’ve had that demonstrate the responsibilities you know they value, share stories that showcase your green skills.
Create a Relevant and Agile Resume
Though the employment landscape is changing, and how businesses recruit candidates is developing, one of the most valuable tools for your job application is still your resume. This piece of paper can be the deciding factor in whether you get selected to go through to the interview stage, or whether you’re left on the pile. As such, you need to devote time to making yours appropriate for the sustainable businesses you’re targeting.
Consider the types of skills and experience the sustainable businesses you’re applying for will find attractive — your research into the companies will help here. Keep it simple, but ensure your resume demonstrates a good balance of the three types of skill sets that impress employers. Hard skills are more technical in nature and may be centered around the green operations that their business utilizes. Soft skills are personal attributes such as communication, leadership, and environmental awareness. Transferable skills are abilities that you can take from job to job; this is an opportunity to outline the sustainability skills you gained in previous green jobs or in volunteer projects that you can bring to the position you’re applying for.
Don’t aim for this to be a single, catch-all resume that you send to all potential employers, either. Make a standard template for your resume, but design it to be easy to change the emphasis upon differing skill sets that are most relevant for the position you are applying for. If you are attending career fairs for green jobs, it can be well worth your time checking what companies are attending beforehand, so that you can print versions of your resume catered toward each so that you can hand the best version to the representative.
Careers with sustainable companies can help you make a positive impact on the planet. There’s a lot of competition out there, so it’s worth taking the time to prepare to the best of your ability. Honing relevant skills, learning more about the companies you’re applying to, and keeping your resume relevant can help you along the road to an enriching career.
Adrian Johansen strives to prioritize sustainability and ethics in all she does. To that end, she writes in multiple fields, applying and promoting sustainable methods and ideals as much as possible. You can find more of her writing here.
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