Since May of this year, I've taken on the task of transitioning to a new career in sustainability. In so doing, I’ve taken advantage of every resource available. Needless to say, it's been quite a learning experience. Here, I'd like to share some key insights with those of you in the EcoTuesday community who are in the middle of a job search or interested in transitioning to a new career. I hope you find them helpful wherever you are on your career path!
In early August, I received some non-traditional advice through a career services workshop. Seasoned career coach Josh Hernandez recommended contacting organizations that have recently won grant money to convey interest in their new project as another way to discover job opportunities. In mid-September, I found out about one such recently funded food access project in Baton Rouge – the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative’s Fresh Beginnings Project. I called them immediately to share my enthusiasm about their one of a kind initiative as well as to provide a relevant resource I thought might prove useful. At the end of the conversation, I asked if I could email my resume for them to keep on file if and when paid opportunities should arise. Three weeks later, I was sent an application for a full-time Fresh Beginnings Grant Coordinator opening, which was not posted anywhere online. I ended up actually meeting the woman who was hiring for the position at the Louisiana Food Access Summit, where she saw me volunteer to coordinate the next Baton Rouge Food Policy Council meeting. She emailed me the next day to set up an interview, and last week, I had the very great fortune of being offered the position!
1) Looking for a job? Network, network, network! It’s estimated that nearly 80% of new jobs are landed as a result of a personal recommendation rather than applying online. Vivian P. Panou, Director of Special Events and Projects at Earth Friendly Products(EFP), met the CEO of EFP at her daughter’s soccer game where she shared that she was looking for work and was later offered her current position. Her advice? Talk to everyone! Don’t just rely on your existing network. Seek out new volunteer opportunities that will help build your experience, relevant events that will expand your contacts, and information interviews over coffee, lunch or cocktails with those who are already established in the field that you’re interested in.
2) Monetize now! Tess Mateo, Managing Director and Founder of CXCatalysts, pointed out that most people follow the traditional career path of returning on investment (ROI) – get a degree in order to get a good entry-level job so that you are eligible for a management position that will hopefully, eventually qualify you for the position and career that you actually want. Mateo recommends another strategy: returning on assets (ROA) – identify your expert skills and services and monetize those right now through freelance projects and/or consulting! If monetary compensation is unavailable, suggest a work trade to avoid providing free services. Work hard to ensure that you have a great professional reputation doing whatever it is that you want to get paid to do.
3) Brand yourself! If you’re not already plugged in to professional networking sites like LinkedIn, now is the time. But don’t stop there. Increase your visibility on LinkedIn by sharing valuable resources that some of your contacts might be inclined to share with their networks. Join relevant groups and lead compelling discussions. Blogging and publishing articles on your work will also help to build name recognition and expand your clientele and network. Nikki Pava, founder of EcoTuesday and Alegria Partners, reiterates: “Create a brand now! Become the expert that everyone comes to. [Then,] people will have all the evidence they need to do business with you in the future”.
4) Thinking about starting a nonprofit? Think again! Founder and CEO of Local Orbit Erika Block finds that lots of people are trying to address social dilemmas with new nonprofits, but explains that what we actually need are more social entrepreneurs! Identify the missing links in the market you’re interested in and consider meeting those needs with a socially responsible business. Socially responsible investing (SRI) in areas like environmental stewardship and social justice is on the rise. Also, see the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership for resources on training and financial assistance.
Lyndsi Lambert, M.A., is a local food networker studying Sustainability Management at LSU. She currently serves as Development Manager for Greater Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition. Connect with her on LinkedIn or via email at email@example.com.