Image: Tim Patterson via Flickr

Last week I had the chance to attend Foresight Designs Initiative Sustainability Careers Workshop here in Seattle. The workshop was put on by Seattle Green Drinks in collaboration with Foresight Design, based out of Chicago. Facilitated by the executive director of Foresight Designs, Peter Nicholson, the workshop was an excellent interactive exploration of various career paths in sustainability.

Peter was quick to make the point that the idea of a “sustainability job” is more complex than one might first think. There are plenty of sustainability focused jobs and career paths, but sustainability is rarely tangible enough to be a product in and of itself. Rather, sustainability is an issue of systemics. As such, it’s important to recognize that job seekers are likely to be looking at the market from a much wider scope when looking to break into a sustainability based career path. So many jobs can fall into the description of “sustainability related”, everything from green-living businesses, tech, green finance and investing, events, higher education, government, and food just to name a few. The point is that sustainability is something that threads through just about all career paths in one way or another. Instead of looking for a job in outright sustainability, or even a “green-collar job”, people should instead be looking for a sustainability related career, one that supports a variety of values and puts your strongest skills to good use.

[ad name=”Go-RT-Large Square”]

Looking at it from that perspective, finding and being satisfied with a sustainability related career depends on three key things: content, process, and context. The content is the mission, the process is the work, what you do on a day to day basis, and the context is the environment of the job itself, including the human resource policies, culture, etc. Pursuing a career in sustainability for the sake of sustainability might be in line with one of these elements, but it is the consideration and balance of these three concepts that will point job seekers in the direction of a more fulfilling career.

Every time I complete a workshop or seminar like this, I notice two main changes in my personal outlook on my own career path as well as career development in general. The first, and in my opinion the most important change I notice, is that I come away extremely motivated. With new tools, techniques and perspectives at my fingertips, I find myself more energized than ever before, and that energy directly influences my actions in a very positive way. The second lesson I seem to learn and relearn is the essential skill and knowledge of the unending value of networking. Employers are much more likely to hire either from within their own personal network or that of people they trust. In fact the majority of jobs never even get posted. Networking is crucial to career development, especially within a tough job market.

I found the Foresight Designs workshop to be very thorough, informative and most importantly extremely motivating. I felt that the facilitator had a perceptive and intelligent perspective on the field and was excited to share that information in a way that was encouraging while still presenting a very realistic view of the career path. It can be easy to get lost in the passion of sustainability. In the job market, it’s extremely important to temper that passion with knowledge and skill.

The two part seminar will be available in Seattle again next fall. For more information visit Foresight Design’s career page. There you can find not only a more detailed overview of the workshops available but also an events calendar of all of foresight designs workshops and even local community events (based mostly in Chicago).