Resumes for Green Jobs


Job seekers looking for a “green job” need a resume that shows skills and experience, as much as they need passion for the environment.

Many people who are looking for a job in sustainability are doing so as the result of a career change. Not everyone, of course, which I prove nearly every week when I ask guest speakers who already have careers in sustainability to speak to my internship class. But, many people have been accountants, or teachers, or mechanics, or, or… the list goes on.

Common Mistakes

With that in mind, most of these green job seekers that have been turned loose on the green job hunt need to review their resume. In fact, most of these green job seekers need to blow up their resume and give it a complete overhaul. Being “passionate about the environment” or “excited about the future of renewable energy” are not reasons that employers will hire you.

I used to see this a lot when I hired job candidates for jobs in the nonprofit sector. “I want to give back” or “I want a job that makes me feel good” were common reasons I would hear when I would ask why the person I was interviewing was the best candidate for the job. I see, but what I really want to know is what type of managerial experience you have, or how much public speaking you have done, or how much money you have raised in past jobs.

Skills are The First

It’s about the skills. Getting jobs is not about the passion for the work. If it was only about the passion, I would have worked for Rolling Stone right out of college. I had an impressive collection of Rolling Stone magazines. I had been a subscriber since junior high. I was really “passionate” about music. Wasn’t that enough?

Your passion for what you spend eight, nine, or ten or more hours doing five days a week will help you want to do the work, but it will not necessarily make you more qualified to do it. Your resume needs to show your qualifications for the job you want. Look past the “green” and see what skills the company or organization is asking for. Then make sure your resume (and cover letter) have those skills prominently placed.

This or That

If you do have some experience in sustainability, whether that be at a job, as a volunteer or even relevant coursework, be sure to include those things on your resume, too. Your resume is prime real estate and you need to think critically about what stays and what goes. Do not give your job as a retail salesperson at the Gap eight lines of your resume when you should be giving that space to your volunteer work for the Sierra Club or the Green Chamber of Commerce.

Career-changers are often more successful with a functional resume rather than a chronological resume. The functional resume focuses of skills and experience, rather than a chronological list of jobs that may not, on the surface, relate to the job you are seeking now. There are thousands of sample resumes on the internet. Review several, experiment, and see what works best for you so that you are putting your best foot forward in your job search.