How to network for a green job with purpose driven LinkedIn expert Nick Noon
May 3, 2023
Building a network in a new field is tough. But an estimated 80% of all jobs are found through networking—and to get the green job you want, you can’t avoid it. How can you make it both more enjoyable AND more effective? Get just the right hacks from TechChange CEO and founder Nick Martin, who teaches purpose-driven jobseekers how to network—or, as he calls it—how to build relationships.
With a LinkedIn following of more than 200,000, Martin has made it his mission to help people who want to change the world expand their professional connections. People flock to his page because he’s constantly curating job postings, resources, and people to follow, all around social impact work. He shares his methods for understanding the network you already have, even when you don’t realize it (spoiler alert: it involves spreadsheets), and how you can get the most bang out of LinkedIn in your green job search.
Technologist and entrepreneur Nick Martin founded the social impact company TechChange. He’s taught graduate courses at several colleges, including Columbia University. Martin is also known for his LinkedIn presence. Known as Nick@Noon, he has more than 200,000 followers who come to him for social impact career tips and resources.
Building a network in a new field is tough. And if you’re an introvert like me… it’s just straight up scary.
But, as I’ve learned over the years, to get the green career you want – you gotta do it. So today… we’re going to lean into that fear. Or, if the idea of networking doesn’t fill you with dread, you’ll hear some great insights on how to up your game in today’s show.
OK, let’s do this… let’s… talk… networking.
Change is coming, oh yeah
Ain’t no holding it back
Ain't no running
Change is coming, oh yeah!
[MUSIC FADE OUT]
Welcome back to The Year of the Climate Job: a five-part Degrees mini-series designed to help you get a green job. I’m Daniel Hill.
I’ve worn all sorts of hats over the years. I’ve been a social entrepreneur, a sustainability consultant…and an energy auditor. Whatever I’ve done, one thing has always been the same: I love helping people who want jobs solving the climate crisis. As we discussed in episode one, though, getting your foot in the door is difficult.
I’ve heard from thousands of green job seekers – and a lot of you experience the same four headaches in your searches:
- You don’t know how to find companies and roles that match your interests.
- You don’t know which of your skills can transfer to climate work.
- You don’t have direct experience in climate-related fields. And every job post you see seems to require a lot!
- And finally, you don’t have any personal connections or a network in the climate world.
But the advice to network?
I get this image in my head of one of those happy hour networking events. Y’know, in a trendy bar, packed with strangers wearing name tags; it’s too loud so you kind of just nod at things and no one knows what to say to each other. I don’t know about you, but I sweat just thinking about going up to one of these name-tag-wearing strangers to, (air quotes) network.
But thankfully, networking can be something very different.
I want to just get rid of the word networking and I want to talk about relationship building.
That’s Nick Martin. He has some hacks we can all use to make just one connection – just one – and get that, um, network growing.
I think networking has this sort of dirty connotation that you're trying to transactionally get something from somebody else and you need to put forward a certain face or presentation that may be inauthentic. All relationships are to some degree transactional, but we're really going to try and think about networking as building relationships for the long haul. Because you never know where the hell your opportunities are gonna come from: your next job, your next consulting opportunity, your recommendation letters, you just do not know.
Today, we’re going to talk about building relationships. We’re going to show you better ways to use LinkedIn; and we’re going to help you network, even if you have to keep your job search a secret.
I’m talking to Nick, who founded the social impact company TechChange, because he’s made it his job to help people who want to change the world, build relationships.
These days, he has a LinkedIn network of more than two hundred thousand people! People flock to his page because he’s constantly curating: job postings, resources to know, and people to follow - all around social impact work. Which might either fill you with envy or make you think he’s another tech bro.
You’d be wrong.
He’s a poet.
That’s right, a poet.
So I was a modern poet and was a modern poetry major, studied education in undergrad.
He really wanted to do work that would have a positive impact on the world. And his first instinct was to become a teacher. But while he admired classroom work, it wasn’t the right fit. Searching for what was next, he decided to pursue a master’s in peace education and human rights from the University for Peace in Costa Rica. The UN’s general assembly established the school several decades ago with the goal to train future leaders wanting to address global problems. He had all this passion and multiple degrees. But…
I entered, or attempted to enter the job market, and really fell pretty flat. I don't think I was really prepared for how hard it was going to be, you know, 2006, 2007, almost, you know, almost 15/20 years ago now.
Something that kept Nick motivated through the frustrations of job hunting was grabbing coffee with people, talking to them about their careers, their lives. That really inspired him. And all of those conversations eventually led him down the path of founding TechChange.
But like I said before, what if you don’t know people who work on climate.
Nick took this mystery and made it methodical. His secret weapon?
After I graduated, I spent a lot of time looking at the networks I did have. I mapped it out. I sat down with a pen of paper, you could do this with endless numbers of online tools. But I started to do spreadsheets and I started to think, ‘Well, who do I know?’
Nick believes everybody has a network, whether you realize it or not.
A lot of your opportunities are not going to come from your great connections, right. Your opportunities are going to come from second-, third-degree connections.
Second- and third-degree connections. A friend of a friend, a casual acquaintance. People you share some kind of community with.
Friends of the family, church communities. Summer camp was a big one for me randomly.
Nick also tapped into his alumni databases to find people.
These communities where we share connections, people feel an emotional affiliation to that community, and they may not know you personally, but they know that community and what you're doing is you're connecting to that emotional journey you've both shared without necessarily having a whole lot of like, actual time together to stand on. And when you start to map some of that out, I think the picture looks a lot more rosy for those of us that are just starting out. You start to really see how big your network is by documenting it. I think that's a powerful realization.
Let’s say you’ve exhausted your summer camp and book club communities. And you still don’t have people on your list or in your spreadsheets in the climate space. What then?
Well, Nick has also spent a lot of time, year in fact, thinking about LinkedIn and its potential for building relationships with people in the social impact workforce. That’s how he’s built his own following on the platform. And here’s the LinkedIn optimization advice he has for green job seekers.
I would find 10 to 20 people in climate and ESG and sustainability, Who are posting at, somewhat, a regular cadence on LinkedIn that work for organizations where you might someday want to work.
ESG, as you may know, stands for environmental, social and governance.
People whose ideas you really value and connect with. And I would hit the little bell on their profile. There's a little bell in the top right of everybody's LinkedIn profile. What that does is it notifies you every time that person posts. And what would I do when that person posts? I would sit down, look at that comment and meaningfully comment on the post. I would try to have a conversation with this person who I really value.
And if you’re unsure where to find those 10 to 20 people, start with LinkedIn’s Top Voices in the Green Economy list. Not only are they regularly posting but often they’ll post about others to follow too.
Nick says you want to try to comment as soon as you get that notification because he’s seen that the first comments tend to get the most attention and engagement.
And I know, it’s hard to be patient when you so eagerly want to do climate work. But Nick says relationship building can’t be rushed. And he suggests commenting thoughtfully on a person’s LinkedIn posts for months before sending a direct message or asking to chat one-on-one with them.
Really what I'm doing, by commenting on their content, is I'm building a relationship, a rapport. I'm having a dialogue with them without asking for it. And I'm having it publicly. So to me this is the greatest hack on LinkedIn is that we can have these kinds of conversations.
He says you don’t have to go deep with these comments nor long. Writing a verbose comment isn’t what’s going to make you stand out. It’s simply being present, early and showing some appreciation for their work.
Just thanking people is a powerful technique.
Nick’s got some more LinkedIn ideas for you – like I said, he’s been thinking about how to do this for a long time. But first, let’s take a short break.
Let’s get back to Nick’s advice on how to get the most out of LinkedIn in building your green job network. Even if you have no climate work experience, Nick has some easy ways to jump in on climate conversations happening there, including, write your own posts about climate work.
It's the ultimate like signal that you're a serious person interested in job seeking. So what I tell folks here is that you would probably be surprised at how much you could write about. There are so many ways. I mean, I've seen some tactics I love are like, Go read an article about ESG that just came out on Harvard Business Review and summarize the key points and then link to the article. Take a free online course on Terra do and then come back and say here's why I loved it. Go find 10 climate jobs and share those because you're looking anyway, you're out there looking for this stuff and tag all the organizations that you know are hiring and put yourself on their radar.
It’s true. I’ve experienced this firsthand. I recently posted a round-up of my favorite green job resources, just saying why I like each one, and it had great engagement with people outside of my network.
But let’s get back to those coffee chats. What if you just want to talk with someone now! That’s one of the reasons why I started the Open Door Climate movement. Over the years, I’ve received quite a few cold messages from people wanting to talk about my green job journey and ask me some questions. But I could only talk to so many people. So, I started asking other climate professionals to implement an open door policy to speak with people that want to work on climate. And now, hundreds of us are posting on LinkedIn with the open door climate hashtag so people like you can find us, reach out, and have a chat.
Okay. Let’s talk about another problem: the need for secrecy.
HILL ON TAPE:
Nick, let's talk about stealth mode. So for those that have existing jobs, let's say they've been working in an industry for 10 years. They don't want it to be very public that they're looking for a job or be very visible on things like LinkedIn where their coworkers are, what are some tips or what are some ways that they can still engage in these relationships and make those connections without necessarily being as public?
Even if you're in stealth mode, you could sign up for a course. You could go and attend an event.
It’s a great point. How many times have you been in a class or gone to an event and learned a ton? But the most valuable thing ended up being someone you met there? I know it’s true for me. I met my co-founder for Green Impact Campaign, a nonprofit we started, in a business accounting class. To this day, I still don’t know accounting. He doesn’t either. He played online chess in most classes. Not the point. The point is we did get something big out of it: a valuable connection.
So maybe you can’t post publicly about how badly you want to leave your current job and follow your dream of working on climate. That’s okay. There are plenty of dedicated communities, courses, and events, like the Work on Climate Slack community, Terra do courses, and GreenBiz conferences, where you can join and have those same conversations without your boss knowing.
Maybe you can think about how, in your current role at your organization, you become the climate person.
We’re going to get more into this idea of greening the job you’re in now in a future episode. In fact, this needs to happen to reach local, national and international climate goals. Companies will have to make the transition, which means all kinds of roles will change. So there’s a good chance to green your existing job without leaving your current company.
Of course, some of you don't have a role to make more green. You might be entering the job market for the first time — or for the first time in awhile. Nick teaches a graduate course at Columbia University in New York City. And offers some advice to students, including his own, who are graduating this spring. You need two things, he says: routine, and momentum.
You can spiral quickly on the job search if you're not building in and celebrating those small wins and like trying to get those coffees.
Part of that routine and momentum is also doing some homework, Googling, researching, and following people like Nick on LinkedIn to see opportunities they’re posting about.
And there's just so many great resources out there for people to start getting their foot in the door with this stuff. We talked about Terra.do and like they have great courses online you can take. Some are paid, some are free. I just put up a post today about Dream.org.
He’s talking about a new scholarship fund from Dream.org. Awarded to people of color interested in climate tech jobs.
There’s some advice, however, Nick wouldn’t give to his students. Nor anyone.
HILL ON TAPE:
I'm curious what's the worst piece of advice that you've gotten personally in a job search?
I feel like I've had this advice from several people, but I think it may be the, what do you want to do in 10 years plan. I'm so impressed when people are like, I have this great plan. And I'm going to be at this stage at this stage. But like, oh my god, friends, like everybody had that plan heading into the pandemic. And now, you know, what good was that plan?
Okay so it’s not like he’s completely carpe diem about every career. For doctors, lawyers, teachers… you have to plan into the distant future because of the education these professions require. But climate careers are different. When I was graduating, people asked me about my 5 year plan. I would tell them, I don’t think the job I want in five years even exists yet!
Nick does think strategic planning is important. But more in the six months to two years range, not ten years.
For something like climate and green jobs like there is this incredible explosion of opportunity. Renaissance phase. We're here. Like we don't know how this is going to evolve and we have such urgency around like really trying to to mitigate a lot of the effects of climate change that like we're really in this together. So all this to say I would be a little more fluid with that long term plan and that was some bad advice.
HILL ON TAPE:
I think that couldn't be more true for the climate field too. Because to your point, it is rapidly changing. New issues are coming up all the time, new technologies that need working on. So kind of shortening that timeline can be really helpful, and I think a little less overwhelming for folks when they're trying to figure out what to do next.”
And before Nick and I said our good-byes, he had one more thing to share.
The last thing I'll say is, like the first big contract we got at TechChange came from my aunt's high school best friend, who hadn't even talked to my aunt in a while. And she happened to work at this malaria foundation. This was like in 2011. And you could say OK, that's nice you had a family connection, but a random one, not one that really made any sense. And so you know, I share this to remind folks, like you really don't freaking know where your opportunities are going to come from and that ended up being kind of a big flagship project for us in the early days.
That was Nick Martin, founder and CEO of TechChange. And a master networker, er, relationship builder.
Before we wrap up: here’s a quick recap of what we learned today – some things you can do right now!
- One: Write down everyone you know, whether it’s from school, a place of worship or, like Nick’s experience, summer camp. And look for those second and third connections, people who aren’t obvious … but who you’ve shared community with.
- Two: Be bold on LinkedIn. Who do you admire or are you curious about? Follow them and be one of the first to comment on their posts. Build a rapport in their comments. And even post your own content!
- Search thehashtag opendoorclimate to find climate professionals who have already volunteered to talk with you about their career. That hashtag’s in our show notes.
- And three: If you can’t be so public about your job search, find other ways to build community: join a group, take a course, go to a conference if you can.
That's it for this episode! Make sure to listen and follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening now. Sign up for our newsletter in the show notes to get the latest news on EDF’s Green Jobs Hub and new episodes. And share this podcast with a friend.
On the next episode of “The Year of the Climate Job” – we discuss how to transfer the skills you already have to a green job… with Eugene Kirpichov (kur-pei-chov). He left his job at Google to co-found Work on Climate, a Slack channel that’s helping get people into green jobs.
Degrees is presented by Environmental Defense Fund. Amy Morse is our producer. Podcast Allies is our production company. Stephanie Wolf, Elaine Grant, Andrew Parrella and Eric Aaron worked on this episode. Our music is Shame, Shame, Shame from eco-conscious band Lake Street Dive. And I’m your host, Daniel Hill. Find me on LinkedIn and let’s chat green jobs. See you next time.
Resources from this episode
- Follow Nick Martin on LinkedIn.
- To find people to follow on LinkedIn, visit LinkedIn’s Top Voices in the Green Economy list.
- Search the hashtag #OpenDoorClimate on LinkedIn to find climate professionals who are willing to chat with you. (This is the movement founded by Year of the Climate Job Host Daniel Hill.
- Learn more about climate career scholarships from Dream.org.
- Check out Environmental Defense Fund’s Green Jobs Hub.
- Read the 2022 LinkedIn Global Green Skills Report.
- Join the following climate-specific communities and attend their events:
- Browse other climate-related job boards:
- Here are some articles we love::
Degrees: Real talk about planet-saving careers is presented by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Daniel Hill hosts The Year of the Climate Job. Yesh Pavlik Slenk hosts Degrees. Amy Morse is EDF’s producer.
Podcast Allies is our production company. Stephanie Wolf is senior producer; Andrew Parrella is our production manager; Matthew Simonson is our audio editor; Elaine Appleton Grant is CEO of Podcast Allies and Tina Bassir is podcast manager. Our music is Shame, Shame, Shame from Yesh’s favorite band, Lake Street Dive.
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