Cents and sensibility: Should you have aneco-career?

January 09, 2008 12:00 am

By Kelley Atherton

Triplicate staff writer

For those who are looking for a new job this year and are environmentally conscious, "eco-careers" are the way to go. Check out this list of suggestions for starting or revitalizing a career from Grist, an online magazine of environmental news, by Keith Doyle, the president of Green Economy.

1. Set goals for the next year

Step one is to define goals for the next year. Striving for a particular goal within a deadline puts everything into perspective. Plus, there's the feeling of joy that comes with reaching a goal by its target date.

Homework for January: Choose green career goals for 2008—where do you want to be in January 2009?

2. Having a vision

Part of that vision is defining what an eco-career is and what it would accomplish for humankind and the planet (saving the environment, plus getting paid!) Having a vision keeps people inspired during hardships, setbacks and mundane activities, Doyle says.

Homework for January: What does "mission accomplished" look like? Mentally picturing the end of the goal can be a great motivator.

3. What's your role?

Think about the profession you're in. Careers are not easily defined anymore and many people are blazing their own paths. Old-school careers can be transformed into sustainability careers.

Doyle gives this example: "So yesterday's mechanical engineer is today's wind energy specialist is tomorrow's climate-change solutions professional."

Homework for January: Identify what your profession is and what you want it to be. This will affect the decisions you make this year.

4. Skills needed

Technology and information are rapidly changing. Doyle says it's important to note that no matter how skilled and knowledgeable you might think you are, you've probably fallen behind and will keep falling behind

Training and education is not an option, it's a necessity. Doyle says not only do people going into new careers need technical and computer skills, but "soft" skills like leadership, supervision, teamwork, negotiation and stakeholder involvement.

Homework for January: What training and/or education do you need for 2008 and how can you get it?

5. Networking

Figure out who is in your network and how viable that connection is. This is a good starting point for developing a broader network that could lead to more job opportunities.

Homework for January: Look at your Rolodex and ask yourself, "Who do I not say in touch with, who am I not committed to staying in touch with and who do I want in my network?"

6. Peter Drucker challenge

The management guru Peter Drucker once said: "There is nothing quite so meaningless as doing well that which need not be done at all." According to Doyle this is one of the greatest challenges for 21st century environmentalists. Due to the pressing threats to the environment and endangered species, the world can't afford to waste time, energy and passion.

Homework for January: Look at what projects and programs you are (or will be) working on and ask whether their successful completion will make a meaningful difference for the concerns you care the most about.

7. Job Security

Pensions, Social Security and the Stock Market are not as reliable as they used to be.

Financial planning for retirement no matter what your age may be needs to be a part of your 2008 eco-career plan. So after defining goals and what it will entail to have the career of your dreams, plan for the financial repercussions. For example, if you decide you need to go back to college, take the next six months to save money.

Remember though, most dreams are worth the struggle it takes to achieve them.

*Kevin Doyle is the coauthor of The ECO Guide to Careers That Make a Difference: Environmental Work for a Sustainable World and is currently at work on a new book about climate-change careers. For more information about Grist visit www.grist.org.

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