2023: The Year of the Climate Career
New Year, New Career
New Year is an excellent time to take stock of life plans and career goals. Nearly half of all Americans make New Year resolutions, and around half of them report one year later that they were successful keeping those resolutions: that’s a lot of people achieving their goals.
Without a doubt, addressing climate change is the biggest issue of our time and it makes total sense to consider how you might be able to make this the focus of your working week in 2023 rather than whatever can be achieved with modest lifestyle choices.
There are now a steady stream of studies and reports that show a need for people to make climate an integral part of their working lives. For example, Microsoft’s recent report Closing the Sustainability Skills Gap has three recommendations that connect with people in various stages of their career:
- We all need to work together to develop a shared understanding, based on better data, regarding evolving jobs and the sustainability knowledge and skills needed for them.
- Employers must move quickly to upskill their workforce through learning initiatives focused on sustainability knowledge and skills.
- The world must prepare the next generation of workers for the sustainability jobs of the future.
From a more selfish point of view, we have what might be called a “golden green opportunity,” because there are three important aspects coming together with green jobs and climate careers that are unique. Getting a green job is: the morally right thing to do; the interesting, creative, and innovative thing to do; and, if you play your cards right, the lucrative thing to do. It is difficult to identify any other moment in history when these three things have come into alignment.
The Future of Green Jobs
So what is the green economy going to look like in the short-medium term? The LinkedIn Global Green Skills Report 2022 shows a steady increase in green jobs that is not met by an equal increase in qualified candidates: “While job postings requiring green skills grew at 8% annually over the past five years, the share of green talent has grown at roughly 6% annually in the same period.” The report also predicts a steady increase into the future.
Like many evidence-based reports, these numbers tend to paint a rather conservative picture that assumes some kind of linear progress. But one thing we’re learning about climate is that linear models are not always sufficient for predicting the future and it might be more appropriate to take into account exponential progress and tipping points. Viewed in this light, LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue’s comment that “half of all jobs will be redefined by climate change” starts to make sense.
Consider this provocation: in the future, there will be no green economy because the whole economy will be green. At first glance, that sounds somewhat hyperbolic. But consider this: last year Deloitte rolled out climate literacy to all 330,000 members of its global workforce, and more generally we are now witnessing the decline of explicit sustainability roles and departments as sustainability becomes a horizontal across the whole business. We’re already getting to the point where the real question is not “should I get into the green economy?” rather “can I afford not to get into the green economy?”
Climate Literacy Focus
Of course, deciding to get into the green economy is the easy bit: actually doing it is more challenging, and as a society, we do not yet provide enough support. There are different strategies about how to effectively do this depending on where you are in life: some advice is targeted to undergraduate students, other advice to careers switchers. But one piece of advice that works well for everyone regardless of career stage is focus.
Climate is one of the most complex subjects known to humanity. It is impossible to become an “expert in climate,” which suggests that you have to find some kind of focus in order to have any chance of developing the above-average climate literacy in one particular area that will enable you to compete in the green economy. Note, “above-average climate literacy” is not the same as being “an expert”: it is well within reach of the average person.
Without that focus, it will be challenging not just to develop that above-average climate literacy, but also to network with the right people, and brand and position yourself in the right way. This can be frustrating for people with diverse interests because they think, “well, I’d be just as happy to work in renewable energy as the circular economy.” Keeping as many doors open as possible is certainly tempting (and even appropriate at first), but at some point there is a danger that by doing so you won’t actually walk through any particular one.
Once you’ve got that focus, the whole process of learning and job-seeking feels much more manageable: that’s your homework for the first quarter of 2023!
About the Author
Joseph Gelfer is founder of Ecotopian Careers, which helps people in mid-career transition to green jobs. He is also convener of the Work and Careers group at Climate Coaching Alliance and an En-ROADS Climate Ambassador. Sign up for his free Ecotopian Careers weekly newsletter and check out his online course, How to Make a Mid-Career Transition to a Green Job. Follow him on LinkedIn here.