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How to get a green job


President Barack Obama likes to talk about creating millions of green jobs. But how does a student, recent graduate, or mid-career professional actually land one of these jobs? At Massachusetts’ Fifth (Annual) Conference on Clean Energy on Nov. 13, a panel of industry experts advised a diverse group of conference attendees on what it takes to go green.

Tom Atkinson advised would-be career switchers to assume that there is a green business that needs their existing skills. After more than a decade with Goldman Sachs’ information technology department, Atkinson left his job to pursue what he hoped would be more meaningful employment. Three years of soul-searching later, he settled on energy efficiency and applied to work at Network Operations Center, where he is the director of the network operations center (NOC) at EnerNOC. NOC helps organizations efficiently reduce their energy consumption during times of peak demand. “It’s funny, but [at the time] they didn’t have a NOC employee,” said Atkinson of why he was hired.

The Brattle Group’s Judy Chang is a consultant who advises clients on financial and regulatory challenges relating to renewable energy investment and procurement decisions. Chang emphasized the core skills required in many green jobs. She urged people interested in combating climate change to familiarize themselves with energy, finance, and public policy. Recalling the many nights she spent years ago reading about wind energy – before cleantech had become fashionable – Chang also urged students and career-switchers to be patient and think long-term. “The thing that you’re passionate about may not give you a return immediately,” Chang said.

Kevin Doyle is the author of the Environmental Careers Organization’s Guide to Careers that Make a Difference. Doyle suggested that green job applicants adopt a positive attitude, educate themselves about the specific industry in which they want to work, and “network like hell.” He also advised applicants to play the percentages. “The bulk of the jobs are… in science, technology, and math,” said Doyle. “Don’t throw out from the beginning that this is ‘not me.’ We need more technicians, scientists, and engineers. Why not you?”

Guest blogger Yoni Cohen is focusing on green business as a joint-degree student at the Yale Law School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


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