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Exchange-Based Tools for Moving Your Green Career Forward

One of the key areas I’m speaking on at webinars hosted by groups like the Green Jobs Network, the Women’s Bar Association of DC/Energy & Environment Law Forum, and the Women’s Energy Network DC Chapter is…networking.

This is an excellent time to continue building your network with fellow professionals who work in the “green” space -- truthfully, it’s always a good time for this and now could not be better.

Hiring is on hold among many organizations as they regroup amidst the crisis. Here are a few recommendations that I’m making, to the Green Professionals I work with and in talks I’m giving, about how to be ready when things begin to move again and going forward when they do:

  1. Set aside a specific time each week for networking. Make an appointment with yourself to make sure you spend time on it. Put it on your calendar. This is an investment in your future. Remember that more than 80% of jobs are not advertised. Your network is essential for that next opportunity, and particularly the more senior you go in our field.

  2. Review and update your network. If you don’t have an active list -- outside of LinkedIn -- this is the time to do this. You can’t know what part of the industry or at what level you need to best grow your contacts if you don’t know who’s in your network. You can easily export your contacts from LinkedIn as a place to start. I suggest using Excel to create a spreadsheet with three tabs or sheets: Core Network on Tab 1: The top 25 or more people who know you very well. These are likely people you’ve worked with before, advisors or mentors, and colleagues you know from professional associations, etc. The screening criteria here is, “colleagues who would say a positive word about me or my work” in conversation, including a subset you could go to for hiring references. Growth Network on Tab 2: The top 25 or more people who know you somewhat and who you want to get to know better. The screening criteria for Sheet 2 is, “colleagues who know me or are connected with me, and who I want to know better.” Examples of possible reasons you want to know them better are because they currently work/previously worked for an organization you want to work for, or they may be a peer or senior level contact in your part of the field. Think critically about the reason you want to get to know them, so you are choosing on purpose. New Contacts on Tab 3: The top 25 or more people you currently don’t know but want to get to know. You may not have them on your current download from LinkedIn. People on Tab 3 include managers or senior executives at organizations where you’d like to work, people you’ve heard speak at conferences, and people in your industry who you admire. Again, think critically about the reason you want to get to know them, so you are choosing on purpose. Go back to this list when you do your weekly networking. Find ways to connect with the people you want to get to know in ways that serve genuine mutual professional goals or interests. Spend time talking by phone with contacts in each of the tabs each week, even if it’s one person on each tab, in addition to social media outreach.

  3. Identify people in each part of your network and actually talk human-to-human with a person. Reach out to them to schedule a call, or if you know them well, just give them a call. It can be by Facetime, Skype, Zoom, or by telephone. The goal is to have a meaningful conversation: The difference, psychologist Laura Ott says, is “‘I like your post’ vs. ‘I understand something about you and want you to understand me, too.’” We tend to remember and have stronger social ties with people we interact with, person-to-person. Stronger social ties is one of the goals of professional networking -- people who know and like and remember you. And people right now seem more primed to want to talk to people, the New York Times reports in The Humble Phone Call Has Made a Comeback.

  4. Find out what’s important to people when you talk to them. One of my favorite books is “Influence Without Authority,” by Allan R. Cohen and David L. Bradford. It’s been my go-to for several years and the authors describe 5 kinds of “currencies” that are frequently valued in organizations and they also often map over to people’s own interests. For example, noticing a colleague’s excitement about big picture ideas in their organization or work might signify that they’re someone who values “vision” (on the list below) -- that means they might be a good person to email about a new resource you came across on visioning strategies. Cohen and Bradford’s 5 currencies include: Inspiration-related currencies -- Vision, Excellence, and Moral/Ethical Correctness Task-related currencies -- New Resources, Challenges/Learning, Assistance, Task Support, Rapid Response, and Information Position-related currencies -- Recognition, Visibility, Reputation, Insiderness/Importance, and Contacts Relationship-related currencies -- Understanding, Acceptance/Inclusion, and Personal Support Personal-related currencies -- Gratitude, Ownership/Involvement, Self-Concept, and Comfort

Do you know what you need to be doing -- today and over the next year -- to move up in your Green Career? I’m a trusted career advisor, with extensive experience working with individual contributors, mid-level managers, and senior executives, and who knows the Green industry. Contact me, Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our one-on-one Green Career Coaching services or our Green Career workshops are right for you.

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