green economy careersThere are a growing number of industries and sectors are making concerted efforts to rethink their business practice. It is important to be aware of the full range of your options when positioning yourself for green career change or you could be limiting yourself. To make sense of the industries and sectors that make up the green economy take a look at the green economy map.

by Carol McClelland, PhD, author of Green Careers For Dummies and Founder of Green Career Central

Post your green career questions in the comments section below. Carol will be checking in on Green Economy Post throughout the day, on Tuesday March 23, to answer your questions and to help you figure out how to advance your green career.

As you consider career options in the new economy, are you aware of the full range of options or are you thinking your options are limited because the green economy is made up of renewable energy, energy efficient buildings, and the smart grid? I have been astounded by how many industries and sectors are making concerted efforts to rethink their business practices.

Although some green industries aren’t as mature as the ones that make the mainstream press on a regular basis, there are an amazing number of green/sustainable developments in the works. As time unfolds, we’ll see more and more evidence of these green initiatives throughout our economy.

To make sense of the industries and sectors that make up the green economy, I created a visual representation to provide career changers with to view the green economy at a glance. The following bullet points provide a description of these sectors in broad brush strokes. 

Our Environment (top half of map)

Green Economy Map
Green Economy Map
  • Natural Environment – Traditional green careers fall in this category and range from environmental scientists in a variety of disciplines to careers in natural resource management. Knowing how the natural ecosystems work and how to manage natural resources in sustainable ways are sought after skills as we shift to the green economy.
  • Built Environment – As you move around your city and neighborhood, you interact with the built environment – the electric grid, information technology systems, buildings, and transportation systems. In many instances our current built environment, which provides comfort and convenience, also emits a large proportion of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. By rethinking how we design, build, and operate our built environment, we have the opportunity to curb greenhouse gas emissions and handle other green, sustainable goals such as waste reduction, water conservation, and more.

Our Tangible Products (lower right side of map)

As you scan your surroundings while reading this blog post, it’s likely you are surrounded by a huge array of manufactured products from your electronic devices, the clothes you are wearing, the furniture you are sitting on, the food you are eating, and building you are in. Manufacturing all of the items that create our world generates greenhouse gases and waste.

Rethinking and redesigning the entire manufacturing process from raw materials, manufacturing processes, transportation, packaging, and waste management can have a huge impact on our cultural carbon footprint.

Our Experience of the Green Economy (lower left side of map)

If you are looking for non-technical careers in the green economy, you’ll be interested in this quadrant of the Green Economy Map. (Keep in mind that as companies in the other quadrants mature, they’ll also be hiring people in various non-technical functions to help their companies thrive.)

  • Shaping the Green Economy – One of the most important sectors right now are the professionals who are working hard to define policies, regulations, certifications, and financing options to give form to the green economy. Although people in these jobs don’t have a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions or waste production, their work defines the playing field so that companies and communities know what they need to accomplish by when.
  • Educating, Inspiring, Motivating, Persuading – Another group of professionals are those that are encouraging individuals, groups, companies, and industries to take greener, more sustainable actions. The people in these careers are likely to be using environmental education, media, marketing, and consulting to shift people’s thinking about their actions.
  • Green Services and Experiences – In this sector, industries that provide a service or create an experience for their customers are revising their businesses to offer a greener experience. Think restaurants, hotel, spas, cleaning services, and travel as a starting point.

By having the full picture of the green economy in mind as you consider your career options, you’ll have a better sense of where your skills fit in.

To learn more about the industries that make up each of the sectors I’ve described here, go to the interactive version of the Green Economy Map and click on each sector.

Don’t forget to post your green career questions in the comments section below. I will be checking in on Green Economy Post throughout the day, on Tuesday March 23, to answer your questions and to help you figure out how to advance your green career.

Recommended Green Career Resources Provided by Carol

SEVEN STEPS TO YOUR GREEN CAREER AUDIO – In this recorded audio program, Carol McClelland, shares a seven step plan you can follow to find your green career. In this audio you’ll discover: How to shorten the path to your green career with our 7-Step Action Plan; Tips to keep you moving forward to your goal; and answers to your questions about your next steps.

HOW TO SHORTEN YOUR PATH TO YOUR GREEN CAREER – This free ebook is a step-by-step process helping green career seekers use their passions, interests, experience, and training to plug into the green economy.

UNCOVERING YOUR GREEN NICHE – One of the most important skills you can have as a green career seeker is being able to articulate your green career niche. This free ebook shares the secrets of finding your green niche.

SIX STRATEGIES TO FIND YOUR GREEN CAREER – This free ebook is a step-by-step process helping green career seekers use their passions, interests, experience, and training to plug into the green economy.

© 2010, Carol Mcclelland. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Carol Mcclelland (4 Articles)

Carol McClelland, PhD, author of Green Careers For Dummies, is one of the nation’s leading green career experts. Throughout her career, Carol has helped thousands of people find work that matches their values and interests. Green Careers For Dummies is designed to be a resource for finding your fit in an environmentally responsible job for both those looking to make a career change and recent college graduates. In addition to writing Green Careers For Dummies, Carol is the Founder and Executive Director of Green Career Central. This online resource center dedicated to providing career guidance, coaching, and resources to clarify the ever-evolving world of green career possibilities for professionals, students, and career counselors. Follow Carol on Twitter at: or become a fan on her Facebook page.

  • Zachary


    Was wondering about approaching a company that i am really interested in joining.
    What is your advice for unsolicited job search/ resume submission or introductions?

    How does one go about this without offending or jeapordising future opportunities?

    • Carol McClelland


      I would definitely recommend doing all you can to get networked into the company first.

      There are a couple of ways you can approach this challenge.

      1) Ask your contacts if they know anyone within the company. The higher their job title

      the better, but don’t turn down introductions! We never know who our friends, family

      members, and colleagues know unless we ask. You can also ask them if they know

      anyone in the same industry as your target company. Getting a warm referral definitely

      helps open doors.

      2) Use online social networking tools to identify people who work for the company now or

      have in the past. LinkedIn is probably your best bet here. (Twitter, Facebook, and Plaxo

      can be helpful as well.) In LinkedIn use the search feature to do a company search. If you

      can find the company you’ll see a list of people who have included the company in their

      profile and how you are connected to them. You can also learn a few details about the


      3) Within LinkedIn I’d also encourage you to become active in industry related groups.

      Due to the way LinkedIn is structured, you can contact people directly when you are in

      the same group. You can invite them to connect or send them a message. This is a great

      strategy for finding people.

      4) You might also want to set up a Google alert for the company and their main products.

      When you get alerts you’ll gain up to the minute information about the company and start

      learning the names of key players. Although you may not be able to contact them

      directly at this moment, getting a sense of the organizational structure will help you

      understand who you need to talk to.

      5) Attending networking meetings, job search groups, or professional meeting locally can

      be another helpful way to build your network. You may meet someone from the company

      there or you may connect with someone who is well connected in the industry. Having

      the opportunity to talk face-to-face can pay off in a number of ways.

      Hope these ideas help you create a new game plan!


  • Felix Lopez

    Dear Carol, Great article. I was part of the “original green movement” way back in the 1970s. I remember participating in my Ecology Club in high school but was also a “jock”. In those days we called it the ecology movement and that’s when Earth Day sorta started to gel. Later in college I earned a BA in Bio-Science, and MBA, and a Certificate in Urban & Regional Planning with an emphasis the environment and in Energy Efficiency. I was able to carve an excellent career in the “Green Economy”.

    There are a host of interrelated careers so my advice to all students and job seekers is to follow what you love and what brings out your passion. There is no sense in going into the green economy for job-sake if you don’t love what you are doing. However, the good news is there are many many correlated professions.

    Good luck to you all and thanks for your time.

    • Carol McClelland

      Felix, Thanks for sharing your career journey. I think it’s important for people to see that
      one’s career takes different forms at different times in their lives. Looks like you’ve gained
      a variety of valuable skills as you progressed in your own green career path.

      I wholeheartedly agree with your advice to focus on something you are passionate about
      and well-suited to do in the green economy. From a big picture perspective, the
      opportunities are vast and it’s critical that people looking to get into the green economy
      define their green focus. That focus will become more and more refined as they learn
      more and experience more in the green economy. Having a clear focus, even if all you
      know is the industry sector you want to work in, is key to having an effective job search.


  • Hinton Human Capital


    What is going to be the greatest challenge for those who are looking to get a job in the Green Economy?

    • Carol McClelland

      “What is going to be the greatest challenge for those who are looking to get a job in the
      Green Economy?”

      I’m not sure there’s just one challenge :) Any time we transition into a new economic era
      there are inherent challenges. The same concerns I’m hearing from job seekers now I’ve
      heard before during each new wave of technology in the Silicon Valley. What will the jobs
      pay? I’m not technical, what can I do in this new economy? What are the job titles?

      So one of the challenges is that we are in the early stages of a new economic era. As a
      result, some of the tools and strategies we typically use to identify career paths and find
      job openings aren’t yet available. Being a pioneer, where you have to create your own
      path, isn’t for everyone. Some people thrive on the opportunity, excitement, and
      challenge of this kind of transition, while others are stymied as to what to do and how to
      move forward.

      The other challenge is the timing. Different industry segments of the green economy are
      growing and taking off at different rates. Companies in these various industries are also
      developing at different rates. As a result you could be targeting a job in an industry that
      isn’t ready to hire you yet. If you don’t look at the big picture, you may not realize that
      this disconnect isn’t about you. It’s about where we are with the evolving economy. If you
      need a job now, you may need to look for an interim job. A job that’s not necessarily
      green, but that will put you in a good place to move into the green economy when it is
      ready to hire someone with your skills.

      Whether you have the skills to move right into an existing green career, you need to
      prepare yourself for that position, or you need to find an interim position to tide you over,
      it’s critically important for you to keep your finger on the pulse of developments in the
      overall green economy and in your target industry sector. You can’t rely on common
      wisdom to know how your skills will fit in the new economy. You must figure it out and
      that takes research, conversation, networking, and creativity. It’s not likely to happen
      overnight, but the time you invest now will put you ahead of everyone else who isn’t
      preparing themselves for the biggest business opportunity of our time.

  • Erik T


    With nearly 30 years experience in resort management and real estate development and sales management, and a lifelong passion for the environment, I have moved into Sustainability consulting. Both of these industry sectors are extremely depressed in the current economy, and while they have significant interest in greening their operations, I have been hard pressed to identify any clients that can afford to pay consulting fees. Any ideas?


    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Erik,

      It’s always frustrating when you’ve found your niche, but the industry you are ready to
      serve isn’t able to hire you. A couple of ideas that may help.

      I once had a consultant colleague whose consulting fee was a percentage of the money
      she saved the company. Are there sustainability projects you could pitch to companies
      that would save them enough money that you could be paid out of that amount? With this
      model the company isn’t investing up front in what they hope you can do. You have to
      succeed in your efforts to get paid. In this scenario you take on more of the risk, but in
      the end you are likely to have companies who believe in you and your work. You wouldn’t
      necessarily have to use this fee structure for every project, but it might be a viable way to
      get their attention during tough times. What company isn’t looking for ways to save
      money in this economy?

      Another option would be to take what you know about sustainability and apply it in an
      area that is thriving. You may want to look at your own background more carefully to see
      if you can discovery analogous industries you can gain experience in while the resort/real
      estate industries are getting back on their feet. Or you might look at your target industry
      geographically to see if there are regions of the country where those industries are in
      better shape.

      Hope these ideas open up a few new ideas for you.


  • Nandini Mouli


    I believe that the greatest challenge for a job seeker is to find the right recruiter who can match his/her skill-set with the openings in a company. There are innumerable openings but without proper contact with the company, the resumes do not reach the right people. Enjoyed your career advice yesterday at the Green Career Central. Thanks to Carol and you for hosting the session. — Nandini Mouli

    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Nandini,

      Glad you enjoyed the interview we had with Stephen Hinton of Hinton Human Capital last
      night about how to work with a recruiter.


  • Michael Henderson

    Hi Carol:

    I worked as pharmaceutical sales professional for about five years until my company was purchased and I was laid off. I would like to transition into the green economy, hopefully applying my sales skills, but I do not know how to going about doing that. Do you have any ideas?

    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Michael,

      To find a position in sales, you’ll need to focus on the industries that have a viable product/service/process to sell and have a strategic plan to grow rapidly.

      A couple of factors to keep in mind. You’ll need to do research to understand the industries that are growing in your region. Read local media, attend local green networking events, and use LinkedIn to find companies in your area. Think of yourself as a detective for this portion of your job search prep! You’ll need to collect every clue you can find.

      You’ll also want to find a company/industry that is a good match for your sales style and experience. Think about the products you’ve sold, your customer base, and the sales cycle you are accustomed to. Use this information to help you narrow down your target green industry.

      I’d also recommend tracking VC investments in your area. The sooner you start this research, the more you’ll be able to pick up trends about which companies are growing and may soon be ready to hire sales people.

      If you need a job asap, I’d recommend keeping your eye out for an interim sales position that you can take in the traditional economy as you track developments in the green economy and wait for the right opportunity to show itself.

      All the best!


  • Cynthia Mowry

    I have read that the Obama Administration is giving a lot of money to states for retrofiting and that energy auditers will be in demand. I was thinking about getting certified. However, I do not see many jobs for this type of work and I was wondering if getting certifiied will be a waste of money, of it there will be demand for this type of work in the near future


    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Cynthia,

      Yes, the Obama Administration has recently announced the $6 Billion HomeStar program ( As I understand it, President Obama outlined the basic purpose of the program, but it is up to Congress to put it into law. This means that it’s in the works, but no one is ready to write the rebate checks yet!

      I have also heard that larger cities in California have received money to create energy efficiency/conservation plans in their regions. I know my county is planning to launch a training program in the next few months to train auditors and installers to meet ambitious energy efficiency goals that were associated with the stimulus funds they received for this project.

      Before you leap into training, I would do a bit more research to understand how energy efficiency is unfolding in your state and region. It’s likely that it will unfold in stages. Doing your homework now will save you from wasting your money or help you plan your training in a timely manner.

      Remember, rebate programs can definitely spur on an industry. We’ve definitely seen this happen in state after state in the solar industry. So at a minimum, the Obama announcement is a good sign, but you want to understand the program, track how it’s developing, and how it is landing in your area.

      Good luck!

  • Hector Alverez


    What would be the best way for someone with a software development background to transition into a green career?

    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Hector,

      If I had a software development background I would learn as much as I could about the smart grid. Many are seeing the smart grid as a sector that is bound to have a larger impact on how we live/work/play than the Internet.

      The smart grid includes everything from clean energy generation, transmission of that power, and distribution of that power from the substations to utilities to end users.

      Within the smart grid there are/will be ample opportunity to create smart appliances that are able to communicate directly with the grid to assess electricity prices and availability. Managing energy consumption in real time is another opportunity for software developers interested in creating applications for industrial, governmental, educational, and residential settings.

      This sector is moving forward and will continue to develop for decades to come. Some say this sector will launch industries we can’t even begin to imagine at this point. But it’s not all in the future. Early players are getting funded right now and stepping up their businesses to fulfill contracts they’ve already landed. Companies to watch include start ups such as eMeter and Silver Spring Network and large well known companies such as IBM, Intel, and Cisco.

      Your first step is to learn all you can about the smart grid so that you can see where you are likely to be able to have the most impact. Green Careers For Dummies includes an overview of the sector with a number of links you can use to deepen your understanding of the field. I’d also recommend the Smart Grid Dictionary and blog by Christine Hertzog ( as a starting point.

      Good luck!


  • Jake Reilly

    Hi Carol I brought your book last week and find it really informative. When green jobs were being hyped in the media last year, I was really excited. But here we are a year later and there do not seem to be many green jobs. Do you know why? Will this ever change? If so, when do you think that will happen?


    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Jake,

      I feel your pain!! I think everyone was excited about green jobs a year ago! There are a few factors that are influencing the slower than desired/expected unfolding of the green economy.

      1) The stimulus money was touted as the economic panacea that would allow green jobs to “sprout” instantaneously! The mainstream media didn’t really dig deeper into the story to share the full picture. A couple of facts to keep in mind.

      —– Only 12% of the stimulus money that was distributed in 2009 was slated to go to green/sustainable projects. The vast majority of the money went to health and income security projects. Go to to track the funds landing in your region.

      —– The stimulus money will continue to flow through 2012…in the last year, over 60% of the funds will go toward green/sustainable projects.

      —- A lot of the stimulus money went to research institutions, which is a great sign for innovation in the long term, but it doesn’t produce jobs in the short term.

      —- Most of the contracts/grants/loans from the stimulus funds had to go to “shovel ready” projects, those that could be launched within a few months. Many of the serious green/sustainable projects were just taking shape last year. They didn’t have sufficient plans in place to be able to leverage the stimulus money. VC money has been flowing to the clean tech/smart grid arena.

      2) We are at the earliest stages of an economic shift that some are equating to another Industrial Revolution. The first and second Industrial Revolutions took 150 years to transform the agrarian economy into an industrial one. Although I doubt the shift to a low carbon/green/clean/sustainable economy will take 15 decades, I do believe it will take some time before we see the FULL impact of the economic shift.

      Keep in mind that opportunities are out there. If you read Green Economy Post on a regular basis you know that there are developments happening every day. People are making those developments happen, which means they have green jobs!

      3) I think the biggest frustration is for those who are hoping for job openings! I think it’s safe to say that the economic downturn of Fall 2008 had a detrimental effect on the green economy just as it has had on the traditional economy. We are starting to see signs that green companies are increasing their hiring plans. Some green industries are coming to life a bit faster than others, so you may or may not find jobs in the areas you are targeting.

      4) Politically we’ve also hit some walls. The fact the health care bill was the focus of debate for so many months has meant that the Climate/Energy bill that has been in the Senate since June 2009 has not made as much progress as many of us hoped. There are, however, signs that this bill is making progress again. This bill will be something to track. Without a clear national plan (or knowing we aren’t going to have a national plan), it’s difficult for companies to invest to meet goals. It’s like jumping into a game when you don’t know the rules.

      So. as you can see, there are a number of factors that have influenced the pace of growth in the green economy. What I’d recommend is that you focus your attention on your target industry. Choose the industry that is likely to be the best fit for your skills and interests. Then dig into understanding and tracking that industry. I promise you that there is more going on under the mainstream media’s radar. You may be amazed at how much is actually happening when you take a look.

      Watch for signs of forward movement. Remember this is a complex transition with a lot of interlocking moving parts. The parts aren’t all coordinated at the moment, but there are signs that things are definitely still moving in a forward direction.

      I hope this gives you a broader perspective of the green economy.

  • Chris Lewis

    What might be a good way for an attorney to apply his skills to getting employment in the cleantech or related industry?”

    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Chris,

      There area couple of ways to you can use your skills within the cleantech world and the green economy.

      Certainly cleantech companies will need legal guidance in issues related to incorporating, patents, trademarks, partnerships and alliances, and contracts. In addition, as more and more companies enter these industries, it’s likely there will be consolidations, mergers, and acquisitions.

      Look to your own background as an attorney to see which tasks you enjoy doing and find companies and industries that are in the stage to need you guidance.

      Beyond corporate law applications, you might also explore how you could influence and shape the green economy through policies, regulations, and certification programs. In these instances you might work for an advocacy organization, the government, or a third party that evaluates products to ensure that they are what they say they are.

      There are also specialties such as energy law, environmental law, land use law that will be treading on new ground as renewable energy begins to shift how we generate our electricity. Associations are already predicting new legal actions about where to site renewable energy plants and how these plants will change land use throughout the country.

      Hope these comments open up some ideas for you. Remember that the key to finding your place in the green economy is to focus in on the areas where you have a passion for the topic and issues. I’m sure there are legal applications in every sector of the green economy…it’s just a matter of understanding the industry and the law to see where the opportunities will be.



  • Shalimar De La Cruz

    Everyone says that the best way to find a green job is through networking and that you should network using social media. How do you use social media to network and find a green job?

    Thanks Carol

    • Carol McClelland

      Hi Shalimar,

      I agree with you that at first glance it’s difficult to see how the two are related.

      The key is in remembering that finding a job is all in who you know! When you network you expand the list of people you know and the people who know you. If you activate your network effectively you’ll expand the number of job openings and opportunities you hear about.

      So the question is HOW do you use social media to build your network. I recommend starting with LinkedIn first and then adding Twitter.

      Within LinkedIn you can search for your target green companies and see who you know that has worked or is working for the company. If you are connected to the people through your network you’ll be able to read their profiles which can provide you with valuable clues about which groups they belong to, what training they’ve done, who they interact with, and what they do in their job.

      LinkedIn Groups are a fabulous way to connect with people who share your values and interests. Use the keyword search to find Groups that match your professional interests. Once inside the group, join the conversation, ask questions, provide resources, learn about resources, and link up with people who you want to get to know. As members of the same group you have an affiliation so you can contact them directly.

      While you are in the groups, keep you eye out for recruiters who work in the industry. Become aware of them and what segment of the market they focus on. If you are active on the group, you’ll be raise your visibility with the recruiters as well.

      If you are targeting a specific company, and you aren’t directly connected with the people you want to talk with, you may be able to request an introduction from someone in your network.

      Be sure to check out job listings on LinkedIn as well…as a source for your company/industry research and as a source for potential job openings.

      Now with Twitter, the game is a little different. Within Twitter it’s all about the conversation and who you follow. You can use a social networking control panel like Hoot Suite or TweetDeck to set up searches on Twitter so that you can see all the tweets on specific keywords. When you find someone who tweets a lot on topics that interest you, follow them. If there’s a strong connection, reach out with a comment, a resource, or a direct message. It’s amazing what can transpire through a conversation based on 140 character messages!

      You can also use hashtag searches to pull up conversations about topics you are interested in. We have a series of green career tips from Green Careers For Dummies that will show up if you search for #greencareers. By following your target industry or topic of interest, you’ll pick up on the hashtag terms that are relevant to you. Then go to to pull up the tweets about that topic.

      You might also want to check out, which is a job search tool that leverages Twitter.

      If you want to get more ideas, I dedicate an entire chapter to building your green network (both in person and online) in Green Careers For Dummies. If you’ve never used these networking tools I provide step by step instructions on how to get started.

      Good luck in your job search!

  • Susan L Reid

    I have been a fan of your green economy map ever since I first saw it. So amazingly helpful, cohesive, and visually appealing.

    • Carol McClelland

      Thanks, Susan. This is my 13th version of the green economy map since March 2007 when I first started researching the green economy. The key to creating a workable map was to realize that a silo configuration wasn’t possible. Every part of the green economy interacts with and influences all the other parts. Converting to a circular map allowed for the collaborations more effectively.

      The clickable version of this map ( allows people to drill down to see which industries are included in the various sectors. A wonderful interactive learning tool for those interested in understanding the green economy in more depth.