Skills Needed in Green
What skills can help me get into green?
Skills for green jobs are often the same skills you need for traditional jobs. It's your ability to transfer those traditional skills to a green project or process that could launch you into green. Explore the examples below to find out how to apply your skills to a green job.
- Mechanical skills/aptitude/knowledge. Mechanical skills and aptitude are needed for skilled manual work common in green jobs, such as operating mechanical equipment in an ethanol plant, troubleshooting laboratory testing equipment, or installing and repairing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Mechanical knowledge is needed for conceptual tasks such as testing hybrid vehicles or re-designing the layout of a facility so that it is in compliance with environmental regulations.
- Math skills. Although some green jobs don't require advanced math, most require at least basic math to perform analytical or operational tasks. Examples of basic/intermediate math include: recording expenditures, preparing drawings and specifications, operating programmable control tools, and collecting/analyzing quantitative data (geospatial information, lab test results, biological survey results, etc.). Advanced math skills are needed for statistical analysis or scientific and engineering calculations.
- Technical skills. This very broad group of skills will become more in-demand due to the complex, technical nature of environmental problems businesses and communities are starting to face. Technical skills are necessary to evaluate, design, install, operate, monitor, or correct malfunctions of anything from an air duct to a technology-intense environmental compliance program. These skills also include the ability to apply theoretical knowledge (such as scientific or legal) to develop or improve environmental compliance or conservation programs/services.
- Design skills. These skills are used to develop new green products or find new ways of making existing products/processes more environmentally sustainable. The green economy needs workers with a high level of creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking skills combined with technology design skills. Design skills are acquired through rigorous training and experience in technical fields like engineering, science, architecture and drafting, or IT.
- Research and analysis skills. These skills are needed for scientific investigation, compliance auditing, data collection, quality control analysis, and the accurate reporting of findings. Employers often ask for personal qualities like "detail-oriented" or an "analytical mind" when recruiting for this type of position.
- Project management skills. Many kinds of green activities come in the form of projects, such as site remediation projects, sustainable building projects, or conservation planning projects or programs. Although project management can vary widely depending on the type of industry, there are responsibilities (and related skills) that are common to all projects. These may include but not limited to: defining the project's financial, market and business goals; communicating and coordinating across all project stakeholders; tracking and adjusting plans when necessary; quality review; and document preparation. In its purest form, project management requires the mastery of the following management skills: time management (including the ability to multi-task), personnel management, budgeting/management of financial resources, and management of material resources.
- Sales skills. These skills, particularly in "consultative" sales, are based on technical knowledge of the product and the development of long-term relationships with the customer. To succeed at consultative selling, you must be interested in listening to and working in close collaboration with the customer to identify new product/market opportunities and customized solutions.
Soft skills are less technical in nature, but are found across a variety of different careers.
- Learning skills. After "hard" skills are learned, they need to be maintained. This is often challenging in green sectors where technologies evolve very quickly. The ability to absorb and apply new knowledge, along with the personal desire for continuous learning is a quality employers often seek in workers at all educational levels. An example of technical learning is grasping the differences between operating a biomass-fueled boiler and an oil-fired boiler. An example of non-technical learning is the ability to grasp customer issues (often using intuition or business acumen) and turn them into business actions.
- Communication skills. Communication skills are needed in all areas of green, from the most basic customer service job to the most advanced engineering manager job. Examples of communication skills most often reported as critical to job performance are: the ability to collaborate with others, the ability to communicate within multidisciplinary and multi-functional teams, and the ability to develop strong relationships and/or networks with both internal and external customers. In many cases, the adoption of sustainable practices across the organization cannot happen without the help of facilitators that can relate to all organizational functions and levels and carry on a shared vision.
- Problem-solving skills. The growth of the green economy is in part driven by need to find commonly accepted solutions to a new set of complex problems. Today's apparent solutions could be tomorrow's problem if they do not take into consideration long-term and system-wide impacts. Problem-solving also requires flexibility and the ability to pull information together that hasn't been pulled together before.
- Persuading, handling conflicts, and influencing change. This ability is found in a small minority of green jobs, but shows the type of leadership skills that are needed to affect change within an organization or among a group of stakeholders. These skills are used to identify and achieve corporate responsibility goals or community sustainability goals.