With jobs in sustainability increasing in popularity, it's more important than ever to stand out in a sea of candidates. Here are five simple steps to put yourself in the limelight and land the job.
Our recent talent searches for sustainability professionals to join our team at Renewable Choice drew more than 1,000 applicants! And why shouldn’t they? Green jobs are hot right now, and many people are looking to build their career in, or make a change to, the sustainability sector…which is good news for us—but not for the 998 applicants we didn’t hire.
As a job applicant looking for a position in the emerging green economy, what can you do to make yourself stand out in the crowd and land that perfect green job you’ve been looking for? Here are my tips for finding—and scoring—an awesome opportunity.
1. Put Your Best Foot Forward
Call me old-fashioned, but in my playbook, a professional resume can still spell the difference between success and failure. Although approximately 60% of applicants land jobs via networking, a well-polished resume (and/or LinkedIn profile) is key in putting your best foot forward—regardless of the job. Simple errors in formatting, spelling and grammar communicate to your future employer that you don’t pay enough attention to detail, that you rush things, or, worst of all, that you don’t really care about the product you’re producing. Take the time to make sure that you present yourself as a competent professional; it could make all the difference.
2. Highlight Your Transferable Skills
Professional recruiters will tell you that they spend very little time scanning resumes; like a website, if you can’t catch your reader’s attention in a few seconds, you’re not likely to make the cut. As a result, it’s critical that you include the most relevant information on your resume/profile, particularly when looking to make a career change into the sustainability sector. Keep in mind that companies in every industry (including sustainability) still need professionals in traditional roles like finance, sales, marketing, etc., and you might have just the relevant experience they’re looking for.
Some quick tips:
- Always put your experience first and leave your education for later.
- Bullet those accomplishments that demonstrate the skills you could apply to the new position—even if you’ve never before worked in sustainability.
- Do your homework and highlight the competencies required in your desired company or position.
- Include examples of your “soft skills.” You can always learn technical jargon, but the ability to innovate, communicate, engage, facilitate, network and collaborate is critical to your success as a sustainability professional.
- Consider a functional resume format that emphasizes your knowledge, skills and experience over the companies and industries you’ve worked in.
3. Develop Your Value Proposition
You may not be looking for a marketing or sales position, but it’s critical that you develop enough understanding of the challenges facing sustainability companies and their customers that you can distinguish yourself from the rest of the crowd.
Even if your background hasn’t been in the sustainability sector, get educated. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go back to school—the hard truth is that new graduates and MBAs, even PhDs, are flooding the market—but it does mean that you need to understand the complexities of implementing sustainability solutions. Specifically, a recent study published by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals found that the biggest challenge facing sustainability professionals is communicating the value of sustainability. If you want to get hired, expect to be able to articulate the value of sustainability from the very beginning.
4. Network, Network, Network!
Not only are you more likely to land a job networking, but you’ll build valuable skills in the process. Networking helps to build confidence, communication skills and relationships, all critically important competencies for sustainability professionals. Plus, it can be attractive to your future employer to know that you are a person who knows people.
Consider the following as you begin your job search:
- Join LinkedIn groups relevant to your desired position, but don’t just join. Get active on the boards and in discussions. Recruiters can find you via your activity in these groups, so make yourself stand out by asking—and answering—questions.
- Network with as many people as you can on LinkedIn. Widening your immediate network means that an increasing volume of people will have access to your profile.
- Find out if there are Meetup groups in your area with an emphasis on sustainability or green jobs. Attend the meetings to make connections and learn what’s happening in your region.
- Contact the companies you are interested in and request an informational interview. This low-pressure situation helps you get exposure to the recruiter or hiring manager while also allowing you to learn more about the companies you want to work for.
- Find out who in your network can connect you with a professional already working in the field you’re interested in. Offer to take that person for coffee so you can pick their brain about how to land a position in their industry.
5. Finally, Be Confident… Not Desperate
Let’s face it: times are tough out there for many, many Americans. Our current economic climate means there are more applicants than jobs available. Unfortunately, that means that companies can take their time in recruiting and can be more selective about their hiring.
You don’t help your case if you apply for every position available in a company or if you harass the recruiter by calling them every day to check on the status of the position you’ve applied for. When it comes to looking for the right position, sometimes less is more. Spend time beefing up your resume and doing your homework on the company you’re applying with. Focus your cover letter, resume and phone calls so that you come across as polished and professional and not desperate. And if you are currently unemployed, keep active. Volunteer with agencies doing the type of work you’d like to do, or blog about relevant topics that are of interest to you.
Jobs in sustainability are popular, but they’re also on the rise. Narrow your focus and take some simple steps to put yourself ahead of the crowd, and you might find yourself making the cut!