Career experts answer 6 top questions from climate jobseekers

Want to break into climatetech? Canary Media convened a panel of three industry experts to help you do exactly that.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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Looking for a career in climatetech? We’ve got you covered: This week, Canary Media convened industry experts to discuss how jobseekers can pursue a role in the climate space.

Climate work — meaning jobs that focus on some part of the clean energy transition, environmental remediation and other forms of carbon management — has been growing in recent years, and that trend isn’t changing anytime soon. Deloitte projects that more than 300 million green-collar” jobs could be created worldwide by 2050. But despite the rise in climate jobs, figuring out how to break in can be tricky.

That’s why we tapped three recruiters with extensive experience in the industry for their top career tips: Anne Downing, senior recruiter at Climatebase; Jamie Durfee, senior recruiter at Pachama; and Jennifer Applebaum, managing director of workforce development at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Here’s the advice our expert panel offered in response to six of the most commonly-asked questions about climatetech careers. You can also watch a video replay of the full conversation below.

I want to work in climatetech. Where do I start?

Network like your career depends on it — because it just might. Online communities like Climatebase, and Work on Climate can be helpful here, both for finding job postings and as networking opportunities. But talking face-to-face can still go a long way — to find in-person networking opportunities, check with nonprofit organizations in your area, local government websites or even LinkedIn for events with folks who work in the space you want to get into.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of informational interviews. Reach out to people whose roles or companies you find interesting and ask for 1520 minutes of their time for an informal chat. You’ll probably get some rejections, but if you reach out to enough people, someone is bound to say yes. And when they do say yes, make sure you’re prepared with questions, whether about their specific role, their career story or just the world of climatetech in general.

For more on this question, check out this article Canary published last year that compiles some additional groups and resources.

What jobs and skills are most in demand?

In general, technical skills are most desirable right now. Data scientists and analytics professionals are in high demand. A lot of climatetech companies are also hiring machine-learning engineers, software engineers, lab technicians and various other specialized technical roles. Hardware-focused climate firms will often hire engineers even if they don’t have previous experience in the industry and simply invest in in-house training and development. The demand is there for those ready to apply their technical skills to solving climate problems.

There are also opportunities for entry-level positions that may not require a traditional four-year degree. These roles often call for technical know-how and hands-on work through trade skills like installation, repair and electrical work. The trades are the clearest entry point for those looking to do hands-on work in the climatetech space.

What if I don’t have a technical background but still want to work in climatetech?

Don’t worry, there’s a role out there waiting for you, too. As the industry matures and companies grow, they need operational roles filled as well. After all, climatetech companies are still companies, and companies need sales staff, human resources, project managers, designers, lawyers and any other traditional function you can think of. So don’t be discouraged if your searches turn up mostly technical roles at the moment — eventually, more nontechnical roles will materialize too. Plenty of nonprofits are also doing great work on climate, and oftentimes they have less of a need for technical or engineering skills than, say, a climatetech startup.

Also, if you don’t fit 100 percent of the requirements for a role but have some of the relevant skills, apply anyway. Hiring managers will need to choose from a pool of candidates who don’t fill all the requirements in the job posting but can offer other skills or demonstrate they have room to grow. And once you do land that job, you can inquire about professional development opportunities — such as funding for classes or other educational resources — and down the line, you might be able to transition to a different role within the same company.

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How can I make my application stand out? 

Keep your resume concise — no longer than one page — and make sure to include a link to your LinkedIn profile. Oh, and make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.

If the application asks for a cover letter, make sure to be thoughtful in writing it — this is your chance to shine through and make your resume come to life. Emphasize why you would be a great fit for the role and why you are eager to be part of the work the company or organization is doing. It can be time-consuming and tedious to write different cover letters for each job you apply to, but if you want to stand out, that’s the way to do it. You also need to do the writing yourself. It might be tempting to have ChatGPT help you write applications, but recruiters are already hearing some fatigue from employers who can tell applicants are using these tools to generate cover letters. It’s also always a good idea to ask a couple of friends to read over your resume and application to help you catch any mistakes before you submit.

Don’t underestimate the power of the post-interview thank-you email. And don’t just do it to be polite — this is your opportunity to show people how you synthesize information and re-emphasize any key points you want to leave them with.

What is unique about climatetech and the work culture in the industry?

Climatetech companies are unique in the sense that their work has a direct impact on something many people personally feel strongly about. The ability of people to work for and contribute their skills to solving a problem they are passionate about, like developing climate solutions, is an important motivator and often means people seeking to enter the field will have a strong work ethic. Being mission-driven also fosters a greater sense of collaboration, which is a great trait in teams and leads to a positive culture as well.

Because of the nature of the work, there also tends to be more of an emphasis on diversity and inclusion at climatetech companies. If there is a mission to work on improving communities, that will trickle into the work internally and into leadership, which can translate into more intentional hiring and more diverse teams.

What advice would you give someone going through the job-search process right now?

Be patient, and don’t get frustrated or discouraged by rejections. Most of the time, they are not personal; it’s just a matter of how many people are applying for a particular job — it can be very competitive. But be persistent and thoughtful in how you approach your job search, and make sure to do your homework on the roles and companies you are applying to, and stick with it. Also, don’t be afraid to be yourself through the hiring process. People are looking for authenticity, so being yourself can go a long way in building trust and give you a leg up in the process, too.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.