July 21st, 2010

Getting Social in the Boulder Sustainability Scene

Marketing -

I moved to Boulder, Colorado a little over a month ago from Madison, Wisconsin. All I had to my name was a few hundred bucks, a Toyota Yaris packed with everything I (decided) to own and a drive to make a fresh start on my career and overall life in a beautiful, thriving place.

Luckily I had some resources already in the area where I was moving to: my girlfriend, a cousin and some friends from the Boulder Startup Week that I had met when visiting in May. I’ve become somewhat of a proficient social networker with my past experiences in social media, so I figured that the strong base I had established when visiting Boulder Startup Week would help me get into a renewable energy or cleantech company easily.

How easily I had forgotten about the silos associated with renewable energy and cleantech companies.

After a few weeks of living in Boulder, I had met dozens of entrepreneurs and freelancers like myself who were rabidly looking to get involved with some sort of web-technology based startup within Boulder. I’d ask around, “do you have any contact in the local solar or wind industry?” I’d usually get a glance of either confusion or sympathy from a lot of people I asked that and a simple “nope” followed right after.

What gives? Boulder’s supposed to be one of the most happening cities in the entire country when it comes to Solar PV and other cleantech industries, just like Boston, San Francisco and Arizona. When I lived in Boston, I also had a heck of a time (between 2005 and 2009) getting my foot in the door of cleantech and renewables companies.

Oh, how easily the gainfully employed forget the guerrilla tactics of job searching, especially in niche industries!

Here are my top tips for someone planning to relocate who may or may not have contacts already, but not in the cleantech or renewable energy field they prefer:

  • Find out where industry leaders and representatives are meeting socially. Boulder has so many computer programmer and social media expert meetups that you could fill every day and night of your week with attending them, but you probably will not find the people you want to talk to in relation to getting hired as a cleantech or renewables professional.
  • Job boards are only a small part of the equation. I’ve only gotten one call back from a job board in my renewable energy job search, so I can’t say it’s completely not worth your time, but just be mindful of how many folks you’re competing with.
  • If you don’t have technical skills (i.e. engineering, solar installation certification), assume you know absolutely nothing, but don’t let that stop you for a second in pursuing your passion for cleantech and renewable energy jobs. You’ll just need to shorten your learning curve and accentuate the skills you do have to compensate.
  • Never, ever stop telling your story and asking people how you can help them and vice versa. Networking for any sort of job can be a challenge, but if it’s niche, sometimes you just won’t have a glaring culture of social beings buzzing around with a welcoming mat when you move to town. That’s okay, just be prepared to network twice as hard as you would normally and leave no stone unturned, no hands un-shaken and no business cards hanging.

As for me? Well, I’m just starting to dig my claws into the sustainability scene here in Boulder and I’m feeling good about some meetings I’ve had with chance encounters that manifested themselves from me being a pest to people who I believed to know everyone in town.

I thought to myself, how can the Vice President of one of the most popular and successful small businesses in town not know a single person in the sustainability related industries that I wanted to break into? Well, I asked this gentleman during a meeting he so graciously granted to me and while he didn’t have any direct correlating contacts with the jobs I was looking for, he hooked me up with a friend who knew a friend who was an absolute gold mine.

Now I’ve got 8 names of heavy hitters in town who are making some noise in the businesses I want to be a part of. Time to roll up my sleeves and get busy. I’ll let you all know how it goes!

James Ryan Moreau, a current resident of Boulder, Colorado, is a Worcester, Massachusetts native and graduated from college in Boston, MA with a Bachelors Degree in Public Relations. He was worked as a copywriter, community manager and social media strategy consultant for large consumer and b2b brands. His passion lies in building community and awareness around renewable energy and clean tech companies, personalities and policy through social media and brand evangelism.

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James Moreau

About James Moreau

JR Moreau hails from Worcester, Massachusetts and is current residing in Boulder, Colorado working as a freelance brand and community building consultant for clean tech and emerging tech companies. Particularly interested in renewable energy and carbon sequestration, JR has done research for several studies conducted on innovative emerging technology in The Boston Indicators Project. He also blogs on personal, professional and societal development on his blog at No so Literal . He can be reached at james.r.moreau [at] gmail [dot] com

  • Miles Ryan

    James, this is a very helpful, relevant post for GLD. Since the site is based on the fact that young people can “for the first time, enter the cleantech industry from the start of their careers,” I'm glad you have explored this concept a bit more and told your story.

    We should connect because I've got a nearly identical story, only I've relocated to DC. Chris tells me you're starting GLD Boulder? Shoot me an email because I will be working on a strategy to start GLD DC…

    Good luck!

  • http://www.thegreenlightdistrikt.com Chris Williams

    I'm thinking we should have a call with all the GLD people in each city, Boulder, DC, NYC and me in Boston, thoughts?