From photojournalism, chemical engineering, urban planning and finance, to more traditional jobs in corporate sustainability, solar power and climate advocacy, the opportunities for environmental careers are extraordinary.
I know, because I spend lots of time connecting with some of the world’s most inspiring emerging leaders who are using their jobs to make a difference — the alums of EDF’s Climate Corps program.
Much like many of today’s job seekers, they, too, want paychecks that come with a purpose. And they’re earning these paychecks through planet-saving careers that come in all shapes and sizes.
If you’re interested in using your own career to help save the planet, our new Green Jobs 101 bootcamp — a project of the Degrees podcast — is for you. It’s designed to help you get a planet-saving job by offering resources and tips for turbocharging your career search.
Like these three key pieces of expert advice:
1. Start with some soul searching
Green jobs are popping up in nearly every industry, so navigating the landscape can be overwhelming.
To get started, Climate Corps alum and planet-saving careers guru Trish Kenlon offers some words of wisdom.
Saving the planet will require jobs that span industries, sectors and geographies. That’s why it’s important to figure out which issues you care most about. Is there an issue that gets you really fired up?
Then ask yourself some key questions, says Trish. For example, if you’ve been in the working world for a few years, what did you like or dislike about past jobs?
Make a pro-con list to help assess your core values. This can help you decide if you want to tackle local or global challenges, work in the private sector, the nonprofit arena or in government, and if you want to work in a big, small, established, or entrepreneurial environment.
An honest assessment of your skills and experience is crucial too, to help determine if you’d benefit from standalone courses or certificate programs — which take less time and cost less than grad school.
2. Navigate the green job surge by networking
John Davies, senior analyst at GreenBiz and author of the company’s annual State of the Profession report, notes that sustainability jobs in the private sector grew 10% in 2019 — twice as fast as job growth in other sectors.
In the last 18 months, John has also seen a sea change in corporate America: Businesses large and small are focusing on environmental and social justice as never before. This means even further projected growth in the sustainability jobs arena.
Figuring out how to cut through all of the green jobs noise and find what you’re looking for, however, can be tricky.
That’s where networking comes in, says Sam Charner of Net Impact, the global networking group that connects job seekers to planet-saving projects and to like-minded peers looking to make an impact for good.
According to Sam, an hour of networking is more useful than an hour of searching for and applying for jobs you just find on the Internet. But there are guardrails to networking, he says: Know what you want, and make sure you’re networking with the right community.
3. Turn any job into a planet-saving career
If you’re in the market for a purpose-driven job, it’s important to be open-minded: Any career can play a role to make the kind of impact you want.
Take Steven Washington, for example. As a transit planner for the city of Houston, the Climate Corps alum analyzes public bus and rail routes to help plan for emergency evacuations.
But his work also intersects with environmental justice issues, such as the disproportionate impact of air pollution of buses and trains on local communities.
If you’re not in the job market but want to incorporate planet-saving into your day-to-day, you can reach out to your company’s sustainability team to help out. No sustainability team? No problem. You can also check out this guide [PDF] for how to activate your own employer on climate change.
Purpose-driven careers can have tough days, but when you’re devoting your talents to making the world a better, more equitable and more sustainable place, you will never feel like you’re wasting your time or your talent. That is the biggest reward.