The Future of Green Careers

May 2, 2016

~By Gina Sawaya, Class of 2017

If I had a nickel for every time somebody asked me what I am going to do with my major, I would still be poor, but at least now I have a few ideas. As an Environmental Science major, many people are curious about what that means for my future career. I have wanted a green career for most of my life, but I did not know what that meant until this year. I am in a research lab in the Biology department, but, like a lot of students involved in undergraduate research, I still want information about careers outside the lab. When I found out about the EcoAmbassador program, I saw this position and felt relieved. I could get credit for doing career research? This position has allowed me to do job research not only for myself, but also for any student interested in a “green” career.

A green career can be defined in many ways, and a few sources have attempted to assign certain characteristics to these careers and quantify their impact. First, the Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that these careers can either be “Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources,” or “Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources” (BLS 2010).

These sustainable activities are restated in a survey from the New Hampshire state government. Their report adds that a green company will offer a green product or service, or uses green processes such as “environmental management” (State of NH, 2011). Next, I found a few podcasts dealing with green careers, and one of the podcasts on a site called Green Biz explains that a green career “[reduces] environmental impact or [promotes] environmental restoration,” or it is a career “that affects, in a positive way, what’s referred to as people, planet, profit” (GreenBiz). A green career is one that helps the employees and customers, ensures decisions are being made with a focus on the environment, and helps the bottom line.

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For my project, I interviewed nine professionals with green careers and posted them on the Cohen Career Center’s website. My interviews include two salesmen, an environmental consultant, a handful of directors of sustainability, a local government leader, and a science communicator. If you are interested in pursuing a green career, or just want to learn how to conduct an informational interview, please listen to my podcasts.

Through these interviews, I have learned a great deal about how to achieve a green career, and I want to tell you what I learned about networking. First, get a LinkedIn. Making a profile takes 10 minutes, and I promise it will make your networking so much easier. Then, join groups on LinkedIn with W&M alumni. Once you are in the same group, you can message alumni with jobs that you are interested in. Try to set up a phone call even for 20 minutes, and then ask them how they got to their job. I like to ask questions about skills, their past careers, and what they love and hate about their jobs. Become an expert on these informational interviews, and I promise that you will figure out what you are interested in. Plus, you may get a job offer from these contacts. These interviews were extremely valuable to me, and I hope that by listening to mine and conducting your own interviews you are able to find the green career of your dreams.

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Welcome to Hark Upon the Green! This blog is a shared space for members of the sustainability community at William & Mary to write about sustainability topics on and beyond. If you would like to contribute to the blog, contact Madeleine Boel, Committee on Sustainability Web Assistant, at mgboel@email.wm.edu.
Make sure to visit Sustainability at W&M for all of W&M's progress on sustainability efforts. Catch up with William & Mary Sustainability on Twitter at WM_GreenisGold
To learn what William & Mary's Environmental Law Society is up to, visit their blog at http://envirols.blogs.wm.edu/.

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