In the same way that plants require sunlight and water for healthy growth, the environmental industry requires a combination of hard and soft skills to grow the best careers for their new hires.
When searching for students and new grads to bring into the expanding green industry, environmental employers look for a well-rounded candidate who can not only perform the necessary technical tasks and research, but who also has the critical thinking and communication skills to work with the rest of the environmentally-friendly workforce.
After all, there’s no “I” in “save the planet.”
So what exactly do environmental employers look for?
In ECO Canada’s 2012 Employer HR Strategies study, the employers surveyed identified the following skills as currently in demand or lacking in applicants for environmental jobs:
Hard skills in demand in the green economy
“Hard skills” don’t just refer to skills that are hard to get. Hard skills are things like the technical skills, certificates, accreditations and experience you have gained.
Since the green sector is a relatively new field, employers are also particularly interested in taking on new hires that demonstrate prior experience either through course fieldwork or internships.
Getting these technical competencies are not always available through the typical academic program, so seeking opportunities outside of the classroom and getting those skills can help you get an edge in this competitive field!
These skills, knowledge, training and experience are also currently in demand by green employers:
- Industrial trades/occupations
- Reducing environmental impact
- Innovative green ideas/products
- Customer, public and government relations
- Energy conservation
- Alternative electricity production
- Sustainable products
- Remediation/pollutants/waste disposal and treatment of the environment
Soft skills in demand in the green economy
While “soft skills” don’t actually feel cushy, they do involve how you make other people feel. Soft skills refer to how you conduct yourself, how you’re able to communicate, and how you work both on your own and within a group of co-workers.
According to the report, the skills that are most lacking for environmental new hires are communication and critical thinking skills. Employers identified the need for business-savvy candidates who can express themselves in an intelligent way to customers, clients and co-workers.
Additionally, ECO Canada says that “since staff in this industry often need to work independently with minimal supervision both in the office and in the field, employers need self-starters who are responsible and confident, with a ‘can-do’ attitude.”
For job seekers, this means learning to be resourceful, and perfecting those leadership skills so you can work well both independently and as part of a team.
Should you call yourself an environmentalist?
While a passion for the planet is a prerequisite for any job in the environmental job, be careful not to call yourself an “environmentalist.” According to the study, employers tend to be wary of those who label themselves as political advocates or activists for the environment.
Instead, terms such as “scientist” or “sustainability expert” are preferred. Employers value employees who have a balanced and objective perspective, and don’t jump to the first “green” conclusion that pops into their heads.
Perfecting your skill set is only part of the battle. Since these are skills that employers are looking for, make their search a bit easier. Emphasize your technical abilities and your softer side in both your resume and cover letter, and during the interview process. Demonstrate that you’re perfect combo and you’re sure to get the green light from Canada’s greenest employers.
Is your dream job a green job? Attend the Green Jobs Forum on Sept. 17, 2012 in Toronto – admission is free! Register now.