On Change, Water, and Blog Action Day


Generally, I write about careers and job search. But today’s post is part of blog action day and I’m writing about water—as are others all over the world.

Like many Americans, I have spent my life surrounded by water. (Did you know a majority of the population lives within 50 miles of a body of water?)  I was born on an island—Galveston Island in Texas; and I live on an island today—that of Manhattan. I’ve spent many vacations in Maine, and I’ve frequently dreamed of living on an island in New England. But for now, it’s two blocks from the majestic Hudson River for me. I am not complaining.

In my work, I help people connect with jobs and employment opportunities. I scan the market, keep in touch with recruiters and colleagues, and help my clients research the market for what’s hot in terms of industry sectors, job trends, and sought after skills. Green jobs almost always makes the “in demand list” published by media, industry analysts, and career management experts. “We need people who can do more environmental work,” echoes the chorus. “The future is all about clean energy and sustainability.”

And yet, in my experience, while there’s always a strong interest in “working green,” I’ve yet to see signs of a Federal and private sector push to make green as mainstream as traditional technologies. I understand that there are so many technologies that have not yet evolved to the point where they are cost efficient. Take fuel cell processes for example: my understanding of current technology is that it requires far more energy and resources to produce “green energy” than it does to maintain the status quo. So, many production companies carry on as they have before.

When environmental accidents or health hazards come into the public eye, there’s a cycle: We resolve to do better, we say that things must change. We’ve done it this year as Congress has investigated the Gulf Coast oil spill, as the coal miners come to surface after 69 days, and as water became undrinkable in Boston due to a water pipe break.

In my experience, the public accepts and makes changes in policy the way that most of us respond to new developments—slowly and over time. As Gordon Livingston, one of my favorite authors says, “Only bad things happen quickly.”

Finding a job in environmentally-related work is a process. Take the state of New Jersey for example, there are great programs available for former Wall Street Workers to "go green" and gain techical skills. Participants can receive tuition reimbursement for their coursework. And yet, unemployed members of my NYC-based Job Seekers Meetup tell me their is a wait list of several months to apply and get into these programs.

One of my clients is having a similar experience finding a "green job." She has been passionate about water conservation since the age of nine. She’s earned a Master’s degree in the field, she’s written community conservation guides, She has taught classes to diverse audiences. And she’s been looking for a job in her field for over a year and a half. While everyone agrees water is important, there are very few positions in water management where she lives in the Southeast: In general, water is too plentiful, and too accessible. There’s an agreement that it is important, but non-profit and advocacy organizations don’t have enough money to fund a large number of positions. She’s gained widespread visibility and praise for her efforts, hired as a volunteer and invited to contribute to an expert publication in her field. But finding an open position in her field has been as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack—even after the Gulf Oil Spill happened in her backyard. As soon as her lease is up, she will move to the Southwest—where there are more water problems and opportunities. She’s working in another field, and laying the groundwork to make good things happen—even if job options present themselves gradually.

My hope for blog action day is that it will raise awareness of this important issue—and increase funding for positions in water conservation and management. All of us need clean water to survive and thrive. And as soon as you don’t have access to it, you’ll realize how critical the need is. (You can read about my family’s experience with a drought here. It is nothing in comparison with the challenges that millions of people and thousands of communities experience on a daily basis, but it was a wake-up call for us)

I'm hoping that the availablility of pro-water management and conservation positions grows from a trickle to a flood…you? Read more about why this is important on the Blog Action Day site.

Cross-posted on Career Hub.

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