While the national unemployment rate hovers around 9.5%, different demographic groups are facing a disproportionate degree of joblessness. One example that I am particularly concerned with is professionals in my age-group, Generation Y (those born between the 1979 and the early 1990s). Gen Y has been facing higher unemployment rates than the national average for the past several years. In January of this year unemployment for Gen Y was already up to 11%. Tack on to that the fact that most of us graduated with about $27,000 in student loans and you can see the economic disadvantages facing Gen Y. Many young professionals who are holding down jobs are currently under-employed. I know friends and former classmates with MBAs who have the same entry-level sales positions they had when they finished their undergrad degrees and others who have passed the Bar exam and are substitute teaching or working for free as interns. What is Gen Y to do to avoid becoming a lost generation? While it is tempting to further your education to delay the avalanche of student loans and move back in with the folks indefinitely, there might be some other options: seeking a new career path in the new "green" economy.
One of President Obama's campaign promises was to create 5 million new green jobs. According to a recent Washington Post article and interview with Van Jones, Special Advisor to the President on Green Jobs, these new employment opportunities don't have to be complicated, though they may require a leap of faith. Jones notes in talking with the Washington Post that it isn't easy to convince an "unemployed construction worker that it's time to start thinking about installing solar panels instead of aluminum siding". The same is true for Gen Y, which didn't necessarily envision working for a greener America while in college. More likely we were dreaming of the numerous job offers that would magically appear, signing bonuses and all, as soon as we had our Bachelor's Degrees in our hands. Alas, it looks like Gen Y might have to take a few risks and work a little harder for the glory than we expected, but we might be able to do some good while we are at it!
CNN recently listed green jobs as one of seven fields poised for growth. The article lists areas such as researching, manufacturing, marketing and selling green products and services, consulting on recycling procedures, energy, transportation, agriculture, waste, and waste water and environmental research and advocacy as growing green opportunities. CNN notes that green job growth in 38 states and D.C. outperformed the national average between 1998 and 2007.
The green movement being promoted by the White House is both political and economic, and Jones is hoping to convert fervor that of Obama supporters (particularly young professionals and college students) showed during the presidential campaign to power his revolution. Since before joining the Obama team, he has advocated for an organization called "Green for All" through a series of You Tube videos where he promotes a green economy as a solution to several over-arching problems: poverty, unemployment, chronic health issues such as asthma, damage to the environment, and energy dependence. I think you'll find him a very dynamic speaker and a great motivator.
If you would like to learn more about green job opportunities here are some useful resources:
Justmeans.com: This is a social networking site where you can connect with professionals and volunteers who are looking to make the world a better place through their work. It also has a substantial job board of not only green jobs but also jobs focused on corporate social responsibility.
Greenjobsearch.org: Very simple site. Search for jobs by sector, employer or location. Employers pay $25 to post jobs.
Edie.net: Most of the green jobs listed here are in the UK but it might give you some good ideas as to which fields to investigate state-side. Also includes many other resources such as info on green products and news articles related to environmental regulations and trends.
There are also dozens of Twitter users that provide regular info on green job opportunities. Here are a few that I follow:
Also, there are a many twitter feeds for green jobs for specific cities, so make sure to do a search and follow those who are tweeting jobs in your area.