My 22 year-old stepdaughter recently moved back home after a year in New York City. She put her hopes of breaking into the fashion industry on hold, discouraged by the drudgery of a Manhattan retail job bookended each day by an hour-long commute from her Brooklyn apartment. My wife Tara has been urging her to consider a career in the green technology field -- as solar and wind power companies grow to meet the demand for clean energy in New York and beyond.
This booming industry -- it generated $63 billion in investment last year -- is just one of dozens of opportunities in the green marketplace for aspiring college grads or mid-career professionals looking to help stem the planet's growing environmental problems. What's interesting is that there are exciting jobs for people with a broad range of skills and experiences -- from writers and graphic specialists to engineers, ecologists, planners and financiers. (For job ideas, visit www.ecoemploy.com.)
My own career has run the gamut, almost always with an environmental link. Fresh out of college I worked as an entry-level bureaucrat at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, writing speeches and policy papers for one of its top administrators. I headed for Alaska to do fisheries research on grizzly bear-infested streams, living 200 miles from the nearest road. After grad school I was a managing director at a bank, financing hydroelectric projects and the cleanup of Boston Harbor. I then shifted back to government, serving as deputy commissioner of New York's environmental agency, then commissioner of Maine's. Along the way, I edited a magazine about the history and culture of a region of France -- but hey, variety is the spice of life, right?
My advice for young people contemplating a green career is to get some science under your belt in college -- ecology, biology, geology, oceanography, meteorology, physics, chemistry. You'll be more effective in any job in the environmental field if you understand the natural forces underlying the earth's problems. At the graduate level, go for a marketable degree -- e.g., an MBA, law, a master's in urban planning. If you're thinking of making a mid-career shift, identify your target segment of the industry: green technology, environmental consulting, land preservation. Write a resume that presents your professional experience and skills in the best light for this market. Then contact people in your professional or alumni network who may be willing to help you break into organizations or businesses where there are jobs or growth potential.
Most important, get started today! There's no time to waste!
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