Green Career Fairs in the Midwest?

Are you a college student or a recent graduate?  Have you followed the educational path to a shiny new sustainability or environmental degree?  (If so, bless you and your commitment!)  But are you ready to look for work in this field?? Are you looking to network?  As a part of your search, I bet you’re planning to hit up some career fairs.  Should be helpful, right?  Unfortunately, for aspiring sustainability and environmental professionals, this may not be so easy.

Career fairs exist to give potential employees face time with employers.  They give us a opportunity to socialize, make important contacts, and perhaps even make acquaintances in similar fields. 

Career fairs are hosted all the time.  Unfortunately, many career fairs that I have attended (or planned to attend before viewing the exhibitor list) were filled with exhibitors that may not have been there to recruit sustainability and environmental professionals:  financial institutions, insurance companies, major corporations, retailers, grocers, etc.  (It’s certainly true that these companies NEED Environmental Specialists and Sustainability Coordinators, whether they know it yet or not.)

But for us ‘green’ folks out there, opportunities to connect in-person are few and far between: monthly meetings (Sierra Club, Green Drinks, USGBC, etc.), occasional seminars/conferences/fairs, and, of course, annual Earth Day events. (See ‘Getting Sustainably Involved in St. Louis.’)  Now I’m no social butterfly, but I could certainly use more frequent opportunities to mingle with my local tree-huggers.

Currently, however, it seems like many Earth Day and green events are geared toward education and outreach (excellent goals!), not recruiting and hiring.  They may not be expecting you to ask about a job.

But maybe they should.  I believe there is a need for Green Career Fairs in this part of the country (especially in St. Louis and Kansas City metros).  Until that torch is taken up, Green Career Fairs could easily be integrated into Earth Day celebrations!  Many relevant organizations are already in attendance.  Exhibitors could expect job-seekers as well as the general public, with just a little notice.  Event planners could attract job-seekers and job-providers to network table-by-table throughout the event.  Or perhaps a separate mini-networking social could be arranged, eh?  Green Events could give relevant organizations face time with the general public AND with potential employees.

We green folks need the face time to educate one another, lift each other up, connect with each other, and bring about that change we wish to see in the world.

Hello Mr. Steward

To be straight forward, I am exploring my career paths right now, so this is more like an open cover letter than a blog post.  This is in light of the 3 million ‘green’ jobs that were available last year.  I’ll have one of those, please.  But what makes a job green?  What qualifies someone to take on a green job?  How can one get experience in a nascent industry?  How can one jump the experience-needed-for-job/job-needed-for-experience hurdle in an exceptionally young and broad industry frontier (and during an economic downturn)??

These are all questions I have asked myself as I pursued an undergraduate degree emphasizing sustainability and a MS in Environmental Sciences. In undergrad, I was immersed in interdisciplinary studies among biology, botany, environmental health, geology, aquatic ecology, economics, and political science.  I even took the capstone sustainability course (team-taught by a geologist, an economist, and a political scientist), which led me to feel that all college students should be exposed to an interdisciplinary, introductory sustainability course.  In graduate school, I took fascinating courses like pollution ecology, plant ecology, GIS, hydrology, and environmental law.  For my thesis project, I delved into the world of living architecture.  I evaluated the stormwater control potential and urban heat island benefits of living retaining wall systems.  As a part of the same laboratory group, I also helped with numerous green roof projects at SIUE.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the academic world.  But for now, aside from studying for and recently obtaining a LEED Green Associate credential, I’m done with academia.   I’m ready to find one of those new-fangled green jobs.  But which job?  I suppose with my broad educational experience, there are a few possibilities.

But based on my interests and education, I’ve got a few paths that may yet be passable.

Consulting

I’ve always been a listener and an observer.  On top of that, graduate school brought with it hours of research experience.  Researching means finding solutions and giving greater advice.  With training or perhaps an apprenticeship, I could consult on topics of green building, living architecture, sustainability, or perhaps even ecological restoration.

Green Building and Living Architecture Advocate

I’m already entrenched in this field with experience researching living walls and green roofs.  I attended and presented at the 2011 Cities Alive Conference in Philadelphia.  I’ve been involved with a new company that markets living wall systems.  I just became a LEED Green Associate, so I’m now more familiar with the rating system and how living architecture enters into the green building equation.

Conservation and Ecological Restoration

I’ve been fascinated with native plants and the restoration of natural areas for years.  I have particular interest in reclaiming old fields, restoring and expanding prairies, and protecting riparian zones.    I’ve had exposure to some plant, fish, and aquatic macroinvertebrate taxonomy.  I’ve enjoyed classes like Ecology of Plants, Taxonomy of Flowering Plants, Aquatic Ecology, Pollution Ecology, and Environmental Biology.  Since last May, I’ve even had the pleasure of volunteering as a horticulturist at a nature reserve.  There I’ve helped collect and clean native plant seeds.

Some days I envision a great paying job with an office; other days, as I wade through restored prairie, I feel as though my office could be outside.

For now, the networking continues.

Speaking of networking, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Coal Creates Jobs

OK, so I was rather frustrated with the political debate over job creation/stifling by environmental regulation. So here is a brief rant describing some of the jobs created by or resulting from the coal industry.

Yes, coal creates jobs. lobbyist jobs. marketing jobs. mountain demolition jobs. mining jobs. home and town construction jobs, mine-induced healthcare jobs, secondary exposure healthcare jobs, cancer screening and clinical jobs, environmental health jobs, water quality specialist jobs, aquatic ecotoxicology jobs, remediation and restoration jobs, coal burning jobs, air quality jobs, environmental injustice placement of power plants jobs, carbon sequestration jobs, climatologist jobs, “clean coal” promotion jobs, EPA coal regulation jobs, scrubber jobs, EPA coal deregulation lobbying jobs, coal subsidy lobbying jobs, renewable energy subsidy opposing jobs, “October Sky” jobs.