Finding a Job with a Socially and Environmentally Responsible Organization

Ten ideas that can help you find a meaningful job and make the world a better place at the same time.

[posted from Orlando]
leaflag4Many of my readers would love to be working in jobs that help, rather than hurt, the environment and the interests of peace, democracy, community and sustainability, but either because they think they lack the qualifications, or because they believe there are no real prospects for such a job, they have given up trying.

Peter Blanchard, who manages the wonderful GoodWork Canada site, which carries a very thorough list of such jobs, contracts, internships & opportunities (paid and volunteer), has just written an excellent article explaining how to find such a job. Here are the key points with a few of my editorial comments and amplification thrown in for good measure:

  1. Know Where and How to Look: The Internet is a powerful tool you can use to learn about issues, approaches, organizations, and potential opportunities. Be sure you’re familiar with the major eco-portals and directories. Set aside a day to focus and explore them thoroughly. Here’s a list of links to all the major eco-portals, networks and directories in Canada and beyond. While you surf, take notes, bookmark, set priorities, start a “do list”. Develop standard resumes and application letters that you can customize to each situation. Build an active list of potential employment sources and an online network of contacts.
  2. Use Your Network Aggressively: Actively network and participate to learn, make contacts, and find your way around. The most effective networking happens when you’re actively involved — whether as an organizer, participant, volunteer or consultant. Take every opportunity for face-to-face meetings with people in your networks (but never be dishonest about your objectives in such meetings). If you go to conferences and trade shows, remember that the most important exchanges at such meetings happen outside the main agenda — in breaks and post-even socials, in the corridors, and in follow-up appointments made at these events where you don’t have to compete for attention with the rest of the crowd. Be positive and energetic, smile, relax, and have fun. In a previous article I identified ten keys to effective networking. To recap, they are:
    • Do your research (who you want to meet, and when/how best to meet them)
    • Develop ‘elevator speeches’ (rehearse what you want to say to make powerful first impressions)
    • Don’t underestimate the ‘strength of weak ties‘ (the people who know the people you know, who can expand your connections and lead to important new relationships whose value you cannot anticipate)
    • Listen and help (show you care, and that you can offer something, before you try to sell anything)
    • Never lie, and don’t tolerate bullshit from others
    • Understand that every conversation is an implicit contract (know what the other person wants from a conversation, and be clear about what you want)
    • Follow through and follow up (never break a promise or procrastinate)
    • Learn to tell stories well
    • Prune your networks
    • Manage your networks (move relationships with the most important contacts forward first)
  3. Join the Club: Join at least a few organizations that interest and inspire you. As a paid member you will be privy to regular communications from the organization — possibly including the first word on participation, volunteer and job opportunities. If you do participate actively, you may find yourself becoming even more “in the loop” (or if not, maybe it’s not the right organization for you). Your membership and participation is of great importance to the organizations you support, even if it’s hard to see. Here are some environmental and peace organizations across Canada to consider.
  4. Do Your Research: If you find an opportunity that interests you, even if you don’t get an interview consider how you can position yourself to know more about them and meet with people in the organization so that the next time they post an opportunity, you’ll have an inside track. And also research other organizations that do similar work and make contacts with them so that you’re positioned in advance if similar opportunities come up with them.
  5. Participate: Volunteer or attend events of organizations you’d like to work for. But don’t take on tasks you dislike or can’t do, don’t promise what you can’t deliver, and don’t overcommit. Do such a great volunteer job that when paid work arises they’ll see no point in posting the opportunity widely. But first, give some thought to what kinds of roles you’re looking for, and why. Other than one-time help at events, applying for a volunteer position should be given the same degree of thought as applying for paid work. Do a little research, do some planning, and have a resume at hand (and a cover letter, if it’s a competitive posting). Even if you don’t need a cover letter, writing one can help you think about your interests and competencies. It’s all about matchmaking — understanding your own needs and wants, and those of the organization. And
    communicating them effectively. To do less can be a waste of both your time and the organization’s. Rapid volunteer turnover (or unreliability) can be a real burden — it’s the main reason why some organizations no longer seek volunteers (or may need to be convinced that you’re worth investing time in). So don’t take it lightly.
  6. Reduce Your Need to Work: If you live simply, economically and sustainably, and focus your life and activities on things that really matter to you, you may find your salary needs drop substantially, which means you will have a greater choice of job and volunteer opportunities to choose from, and the choice of what to do might become less urgent and more obvious to you. You might even find you don’t need to work at all.
  7. Increase Your Knowledge and Expertise: Learn more about the issues and questions that the organizations you’d be interested in working for are facing, and about some of the possible answers to those questions. For example, you might bone up on fundraising techniques, writing grant proposals, sustainability, brownfield development, climate change, bioregionalism, or improve your communications skills. And learn about what is strategically important to such organizations, so you can advise them on ‘big picture’ issues.
  8. Create Your Own Job: Find a need and fill it with your own Natural Enterprise.
  9. Know What Makes You Happy, Who You Are and What You’re Good At: Magic happens at the intersections of needs, passions and competencies — yours, and potential employers’ and customers’.
  10. Be Innovative: Most people and organizations don’t know what’s really needed, or how to meet these needs creatively, economically or differently. Come up with some new ideas, talk them up, and work with others to get things you really care about implemented. Chances are if you get associated with such successes, your talent will not go unnoticed and new career opportunities will open up.

Peter welcomes additional listings, publicity, sponsorships and donations, since he maintains all of this on a shoestring. And his PlanetFriendly site is a goldmine of useful information, links and resources.

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6 Responses to Finding a Job with a Socially and Environmentally Responsible Organization

  1. Kevin says:

    Thanks Dave, another timely post as I am just finishing my year of school getting ready to get out there and get a “saving the world” type of job!

  2. Wendy says:

    Dave, thanks for the excellent and practical advice from Peter and yourself. These suggestions are helpful ways to gain more knowledge, whether or not a new career is the main goal. Wendy

  3. aisling says:

    dave, your words are inspiring, and I give solid answers for the individual in becoming more active. and gettting online and making instant connections with others and organizations across the globe is key, in working together to affect change. cheers, Aisling

  4. Dale Asberry says:

    Hi Dave, testing some ideas out… <!– how does an html comment look after submission –>

  5. Dale Asberry says:

    another idea… testing

  6. Dale Asberry says:

    and this: <meta class=”xyz” />

Comments are closed.