The clean tech sector has become one of the most exciting areas of opportunities for job seekers. While venture capital investment was down in clean tech during the first half of 09, over the past couple of months that trend has reversed, and this year’s stimulus plan is designed to make up for it. To jump start your career, get clear on your focus, learn about the industry, concentrate your networking efforts and get involved.
The clean tech sector has become one of the most exciting areas of opportunities for job seekers, and with good reason. The industry has been receiving significant private investment, including $8.4 billion globally from venture capitalists in 2008 alone.
And while venture capital investment was down in clean tech during the first half of 09, over the past couple of months that trend has reversed and this year’s stimulus plan is designed to make up for it, targeting additional billions for a variety of clean tech sectors, including $4.5 billion to modernize the electricity grid with smart-grid technologies, $6.3 billion in state energy efficiency and clean-energy grants, $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy systems, and $5 billion to weatherize homes.
Those are obviously big numbers, and a lot of that money will go to payroll. But that doesn’t solve the central problem of somebody looking for work: Where do you start? Here’s the advice I’ve heard over and over again from recruiters and hiring managers working within clean tech.
Get Clear on Your Focus
Anybody who says they’re looking for a job in “clean tech” hasn’t done their homework. Clean tech isn’t a single industry; it’s a bunch of them. Are you looking at jobs related to the energy grid, in the wind industry, in solar? If you’re looking in the solar industry, do you want a job working at a technology company, a construction firm, or doing project finance? If you want to work at a technology start-up, do you want to work with photovoltaics or concentrating solar power (CSP)? If at a CSP, do you want to work at a company that makes parabolic dishes, solar troughs, or power towers?
My point is that each clean tech sector is complicated, with a wide range of technologies and sometimes challenging-to-understand supply chains. You’re going to need to do your homework to figure out the type of company, and type of job, you’re targeting. The clearer you are about what you want to do, the more effective you’ll be in communicating why you’re the person to do it.
Learn about the Industry
If you’re transitioning from another industry or only learned about clean tech in the last year, then you’re probably not going to get clear on your focus overnight, so why don’t you enjoy the process. Take some time to get to know the different industries. This is networking 101: Go to events, take part in conferences, sign up to hear speakers. Read green blogs and websites. What are the technologies that excite you? What areas of the industry seem most promising? Develop some opinions on what you think needs to be done, and why you’re the person to do it.
Fortunately, most cities have a lot green informational events. Plug into these. They provide a great place to meet people, learn what they’re doing, and make some connections that could help you throughout your job search. You’ll have fun and might make some new friends in the process.
A couple great places to start with your education is to check to see if there’s a local Green Drinks, which is a monthly networking event that takes place in most cities these days, or Eco-Tuesday event as well, which is a networking and educational opportunity for would-be green professionals.
If your city doesn’t have a Green Drinks or Eco-Tuesday, consider starting one. (Select “Start Green Drinks” on the Green Drinks website or the “Ambassadors” tab at the Eco-Tuesday site.) The green movement has an entrepreneurial energy at its core, and hiring managers want to see that you understand the industry but also are involved in the wider movement. By volunteering, interning, and getting involved in what’s going on, you’ll demonstrate your interest, gain new understanding and insight, and build your network.
Making It in Clean Tech
The green movement is ultimately about making the world a better place. But clean tech companies are businesses, and all the warm fuzzies in the world won’t get you a job at one. However, developing a connection to the larger community where you can communicate your solid business skills, deep understanding of the industry, job you want in it, and passion for the work will help you find a role in this rapidly emerging field.
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