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The Value of Experimentation on Your Green Career Journey

Updated: May 25, 2021

This post is the fourth in a series on Green trends and foresight in support of our forthcoming GreenSenses Workshop: Practical Strategies for Career Pivots

Why is it natural to refuse the calling? How do you prepare for the journey?


  • It is natural to feel hesitation in starting a journey to a new, green career because there are competing stories you hear inside and out

  • Recognize that some of the stories are false

  • Focus on the goal, outline the steps, and take the first step

As you listen more closely to your yearnings and dreams, you may experience a growing capacity to cut through the daily chatter and, as Michael Casey wrote, see and hear something “that is not universally perceived…a deeper sound beneath the noise.”

Perhaps the “deeper sound” is an urge to do something, in general (as in, “I want to work in sustainability,” or much more specific…like, “My dream job is creating virtual reality experiences that demonstrate circular economy principles in the forest products industry.”) For many, that is an invitation on a journey to a more personally rewarding way of working and living.

Some eagerly RSVP to the invitation and, like the Nike slogan, just do it. Many, however, deny the invitation, using perfectly plausible reasons for staying put. These reasons include:

  • I’m too young

  • I’m too old

  • I don’t have the right skills

  • This invitation is unrealistic

  • I have responsibilities

  • No one starts something like this in winter…or summer

  • The most insidious: I don’t deserve the invitation

  • But the best/worst reason for you is the one you think has the most power to stop you from moving forward.

As Jim heard the call, many of those reasons, plus a few others, came up. As he worked through each, he finally came to the real reason—fear.

He certainly did not want that as a reason, but there it was, manifesting itself in “what if I fail?” That led to some personal searching:

  • Have I failed before? Yes

  • Did I survive? Yes

  • Did I learn anything? Yes

The last item was key and it took some help from a career coach (Elatia Abate) to shift Jim’s thinking to realize that he could count them as failures or consider them experiments.

When experimenting, you likely have some idea of the outcome and the experiment will tell you if that idea is valid or not.

You may have heard the quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

We are not suggesting that you try out 10,000 career variations. But we are advocating that you consider what your journey’s end might look like, using criteria that you decide, regarding impact, specific work, domain, location, hours, pay, and so on.

Identify those things that are important to you and create an ideal job description or, if that is daunting, a menu of characteristics.

At this point, you may find yourself in an unusual mindset—still in your current situation, but not in a new place, essentially, in that in-between transition space, not quite starting the journey, but also not quite firmly in your current place.

You may find yourself a bit vulnerable and when your friends and family suggest that your ideas are a bit silly or they repeat reasons you have already rejected, know that likely they are not being mean. What they are saying to you just represents false stories for you.

So, what to do? Your options can be:

1. I guess this was a bad idea; no journey for me

2. I will just plunge forward; journey here I come

3. This is a great/exciting (even a slightly scary) idea and I will start with a first step

Whether you do Option 2 or 3, we suggest that you lay out the possible steps on your journey. Start with the end in mind and work backward, asking yourself: what would it take to reach my career goal?

We suggest that this be an open exercise and you can be as precise as you do or don’t want. The important thing is to identify that first step—then take it.

Some questions to ponder as you prepare to take that first step:

  • Why is this journey important to me?

  • What if my experiment doesn’t work out? How can I minimize those risks and make it okay to try?

  • Who might be a possible mentor or colleague I can call on, who can guide me on the path?

Learn more about our upcoming GreenSenses Workshop: Practical Strategies for Career Pivots

Can we help with building and sustaining the skills you or your team need to advance professionally? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Green Career, Executive/Leadership Coaching, Small Group Coaching and Mentoring, or Learning & Development services are right for you. We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.

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