Climate jobs are on the rise and the demand for them is high. However, thousands of people struggle to find and secure climate jobs.
Since starting the #OpenDoorClimate movement, where climate professionals make time to talk with people interested in climate action, I’ve heard from nearly 3,000 green job seekers. And I’ve heard their biggest pain points when trying to transition into or start a climate career.
To help overcome these barriers, I spoke to some of the leading climate professionals in the field. And while there are always barriers outside a job seeker’s control, there are tangible ways to overcome some personal pain points.
Lack of personal relationships in the industry
With 80 percent of jobs being filled through personal and professional connections, networking is an important part of any job search process. And for many green job seekers who are transitioning from another industry, it can feel like starting from scratch.
Fortunately, there are some amazing climate networking communities like Work on Climate, Climatebase, and the MCJ Collective that can provide instant networking. Many of these communities host online forums, events, job fairs, and office hours as a way for people to build their network and learn from experts.
Traditional networking platforms such as LinkedIn can also be very valuable, if used properly. In addition to trying to connect and mentor people, LinkedIn expert Nick Martin suggests following climate professionals you admire, commenting on their posts and focusing on building rapport. He also suggests creating your own posts to indicate your interest, which is as simple as sharing your thoughts on a sustainability article you read.
Uncertainty about how skills will be assigned to roles
A common misconception about climate jobs is that they all require climate-specific technical skills. The truth is, a lot of climate careers are made up of traditional job functions, such as marketing, sales, human resources, and project management, that are applied to climate issues or solutions. Evaluating the skills you’ve already acquired and using those in job searches on climate job boards is a great way to see how your skills can translate.
Another way to demystify the skills needed is to talk with people who have already secured jobs in the climate space. Ask them what their daily lives are like and what skills they have carried over from their previous jobs. The aforementioned communities are a great place to find these people. Or you can check out the #DayInTheLife database where climate professionals share the skills they use in a typical day at work.
For those with financial resources, a career coach or a self-guided course focused on climate careers—such as the Walk of Life Coaching, The Environmental Career Coach, or Careers for Social Impact—can help you learn more about the career landscape and where your skills fit.
Concerns about being overlooked due to lack of direct experience
Many employers claim unrealistic experience and credentials in climate job advertisements. But in this evolving industry and workforce, these job descriptions should be seen more as suggestions than needs. Meaning, you should apply for jobs that you think you can do, regardless of whether you checked every box in a job posting.
If you feel you need more experience in this field, try promoting yourself as a freelancer to companies you are interested in. Offer to help with specific projects based on their current work or job vacancies. Or if you’re early in your career, try finding a fellowship or internship in the field of sustainability. These short-term projects are great ways to build your expertise, credibility, and network, even if they don’t lead to full-time offers.
Besides finding a new climate job, let’s not forget the path of greening existing jobs. We need traditional roles that apply a climate perspective and drive action from within existing companies.
Another great way to gain experience is to take climate-focused courses such as those found on the Terra.do or UN SDG: Learning platform or through a certification programme. Even if you don’t learn all the skills you need to function perfectly on the first day on the job, taking classes can build on experience and show employers that you care and are willing to learn.
Challenges finding organizations that align with areas of interest
Sometimes the biggest challenge is not knowing where to look for potential jobs. If you are new to the climate sector, learning about the companies and roles can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are some climate-specific job boards such as the Green Jobs Board, Climate People, and GreenBiz’s Sustainability Jobs board. These job boards allow you to narrow your search to only browse organizations and roles within the sustainability space.
If you’re not sure what to look for on these job boards, start with some simple self-reflection. Kristi Drotman of the Green Jobs Board suggests pairing your skills with what you love. For example, you could pair your data analysis skills with your interest in solar energy.
And if you’re not ready to start browsing job boards, following sector-specific news and analysis centers can help you learn more about the industry and companies. For example, if you are interested in climate technology, you might want to follow our Climate Tech VC newsletter.
Consider making your current job green
Besides finding a new climate job, let’s not forget the path of greening existing jobs. Yes, we need climate-specific roles and companies. But we also need traditional roles that apply a climate perspective and drive action from within existing companies. In many ways, this will lead to the greatest impact on the planet and gain professional climate expertise.
Jamie Beck Alexander of Project Drawdown likes to say, “Every job is a climate job.” Her team has put together job action guides detailing concrete actions you can take to make any job a job a climate job.
No matter the roadblock or path chosen, don’t go it alone. Find support, connection, and opportunities with like-minded people going through a similar journey by joining some of the communities mentioned in this article.