Three Stupid Mistakes That Sustainability Job Seekers Make

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http://www.sustainabilityconsulting.com/blog/2011/7/29/resources-3-stupid-mistakes-that-sustainability-job-seekers.html In the course of running a boutique sustainability consulting firm, I get a lot of inquiries about jobs in sustainability. Some people want to know if I’m hiring, others want an informational interview to understand the sustainability job market in general, and yet others want to hear all about how I started my company in hopes that they will walk away with an idea of how to blaze an entrepreneurial trail through the industry.

After seeing the same blunders again and again and again, I thought it might be helpful to put together a short list of common mistakes that will blow your chances of getting a job in the sustainability profession.

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Three Stupid Mistakes That Sustainability Job Seekers Make

  1. 1. THREE STUPID MISTAKES THESUSTAINABILITY JOB SEEKERS MAKESSC Blog
  2. 2. Three Stupid Mistakes ThatSustainability Job Seekers Make In the course of running a boutique sustainability consulting firm, I get a lot of inquiries about jobs in sustainability. Some people want to know if I’m hiring, others want an informational interview to understand the sustainability job market in general, and yet others want to hear all about how I started my company in hopes that they will walk away with an idea of how to blaze an entrepreneurial trail through the industry. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Three Stupid Mistakes ThatSustainability Job Seekers Make After seeing the same blunders again and again and again, I thought it might be helpful to put together a short list of common mistakes that will blow your chances of getting a job in the sustainability profession. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Mistake One: Leading With YourPassion In the piles of emails and letters that I get every week from sustainability job seekers, more than half of them use some form of the word ―passion‖. Here are a couple of excerpts from cover letters/bios I’ve received in the last week: ―In my last ―My passions for corporate role I renewable energy initiated corporate and sustainable sustainability development have initiatives, mostly driven my fueled by my own success…‖ ―I am passionate passion…‖ about helping companies create cultures that support and inspire their employees and community.‖ www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Mistake One: Leading With YourPassion Here is a hint: Passion isn’t a selling point, it’s the minimum requirement to ride this sustainability roller coaster. We are ALL passionate about sustainability, and we’ll assume you are too. (Because honestly, who applying for a job in sustainability isn’t passionate about it?) www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Mistake One: Leading With YourPassion Yes, it’s great to be enthusiastic Here is what leading with – but when EVERYONE is your ―passion‖ says to me: passionate about a topic, it no You have mostly longer becomes something that enthusiasm, rather than makes you stand out. experience. When I see a cover letter with You don’t have any hard the word ―passion‖ in the first skills to bring to the table. paragraph, it automatically gets put into the ―no thanks‖ pile. You are emotional, not practical. Why? www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  7. 7. Mistake One: Leading With YourPassionIf you are one of those people with―passion‖ in your cover letter, youmight be arguing with me right now—insisting that you do have practicalskills, that you are results-oriented,and that you have the right kind ofexperience to excel in a sustainabilityjob.And you might be right—but I’ll neverknow because you are hiding thoseelements (the ones that will REALLYget you the job) under a obfuscating Solution: be enthusiastic—but let that excitement showcloud of enthusiasm. through your discussion of your skills, your experience, and your approach to working on sustainability projects. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  8. 8. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproach Don’t just shoot off a resume and cover letter to every sustainability job that comes across your computer screen. Please, please, please show a little restraint. For one thing, you will forever be on my hiring blacklist if you send me a cover letter addressed to the WRONG COMPANY because in your hurry the copy-and-paste job got a little sloppy. (I wish I could say that this happens only rarely.) www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproach Even if you don’t make an obvious mistake like that one, let me assure you that it is easy to spot a ―buckshot‖ approach to sustainability job seeking. The same generic resume, the same boring cover letter. It’s a waste of your time. You need to switch from shotgun to sniper mode. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproach The individuals that have gotten my attention are able to instantly demonstrate that they know my company, understand how they fit into the larger sustainability industry, and are familiar enough with me to avoid my hot button issues. (For example, on the ―about Jennifer‖ page of my website, I clearly state that I hate when people use the term ―passion‖ when talking about sustainability.) www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  11. 11. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproach You understand the organization’s approach to DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE sustainability (treehugger vs. techie YOU APPLY. geek, antagonistic advocate vs. industry partner, ―right thing to do‖ vs. ―drives I know this is a no-brainer, but innovation‖, environmental sustainability vs. triple bottom line, etc.) I’m pretty sure that every job-hunting advice column continues You have skills that meet their needs (e.g. don’t spout off about your experience in renewableto include this recommendation energy when talking to a sustainable forestrybecause people just don’t get it. outfit unless you have a stellar reason for doing so, but don’t make the opposite mistake of You need to be able to leaving your skill set vague.)demonstrate, at a minimum, the You fit in their organizational culture (you love following things: that it’s a small company, or you thrive in teams, or you love the challenge of working with big, bad companies facing a swatch of sustainability issues) www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproachIf you can’t answer those questions, thenyou haven’t done enough homework. Ifthis information isn’t readilyavailable, you’re going to have to dosome digging. Check out their executivesLinkedIn profiles, stalk their Facebookpage, follow their Twitter stream (be adear and RT once in a while—it flattersthe ego and shows that you cancontribute to spreading the word).Exhaust your network until you findsomeone who can tell you about what it’sreally like to work there, what kind ofprojects have been keeping peoplebusy, and what the internal atmosphere islike. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproachI hope that it goes without saying thatyou need to do this research BEFORE youmake an official inquiry about a jobthere…you need to come to the tabletotally prepared.The executives on the receiving end ofyour attention need to feel like youalready belong there, that you are readyto come onboard immediately, and thatyou’ll fit right in with the team. The bestway to do this is to be so knowledgeableabout the organization that you reallyDO seem like one of the team before youwalk in the door. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  14. 14. Mistake Two: Trying a BuckshotApproach Yeah, it’s going to take a LOT more time than you may want to spend. But if you can narrow down the number of potential organizations that you want to work for (by avoiding that buckshot approach), you’ll have more time to spend on your short-list of the most relevant and exciting prospects. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. Mistake Three: Not FollowingDirections This is an easy one, with an easy solution. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS. If the website says no phone calls, then don’t call. If they say only the applicants selected for an interview will be contacted, then don’t harass the poor HR manager about whether or not you have been chosen. I know, it’s so tempting to just break all the rules and go after the job you want (and I’m ashamed to see other job advice and career counselors recommending breaking the rules) but I promise, it doesn’t work. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  16. 16. Mistake Three: Not FollowingDirectionsYou probably know someone, orhave heard a story about someonewho broke the rules and byshowing persistence got the job.This is the exception to the rule,and it has the unfortunate effect ofmaking lots of people think thatthey too can be the exception tothe rule.By not following directions in the job seeking process, you are essentially tellingme that you won’t respect my organization’s rules, policies, and procedures. Ineffect, you place your own desires above the success of my company. Andyikes, that is not a person I want to spend my time talking to—let alone a personI want to hire. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. Mistake Three: Not FollowingDirectionsIf you can get Use someone in my network as an ―in‖.introduced to methrough one of my However, that doesn’tcolleagues, there is a mean that you are Through myMUCH better chance powerless. Here are Run into me at an event.that I’ll agree to have company’s blog, e-coffee with you. Even if newsletter, my Twitter three examples of how account, and ourI’m not at allinterested, I feel a Facebook group, you Can you introduce me people successfully got Offer to do me a favor.sense of obligation to can pretty much figure to someone that I might want to meet? around my company’s out where I’m going tomy network—and onceyou have me in your be. And since I hate Connect me to an rules for contacting usgrasp, you can unleash standing awkwardly alone, a public event is organization that might want my about informationalyour sustainabilitymagnetism and make a great place to corner services? Get my interviews, internships,me forget all about my me and chat me up about your company free publicity? The sad and full time positions.reluctance. sustainability goals. truth is that the job seeking process is very one-sided. You take, and I give (or at least, that’s the way it feels on this side of the equation). If you can help even that balance, I’ll be more amenable to seeing how I can help you. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  18. 18. Three Stupid Mistakes thatSustainability Job Seekers Make I’m sure there are other common mistakes, but these three are the ones that push my buttons the most frequently. Talking to otherorganizations, I fear I’m not alone. So do us all a favor (including yourself) and take a harsh look at your job-search process and see if you are committing any of these mistakes. They are easy to rectify, and will drastically improve your chance of landing your next position in the sustainability industry. www.sustainabilityconsulting.com Copyright © 2012, Strategic Sustainability Consulting. All rights reserved.
  19. 19. Read this blog and more by visiting the SSC websitetoday:Strategic Sustainability Consulting BlogWhat are your thoughts? Join theconversation on twitter @jenniferwoofter!

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