April 22nd, 2011

To College Students: If You’re into Green Just Get your Foot in the Door


If you’re in college or just graduating and you’re interested in anything to do with, what I will reluctantly call “green”,  my advice is to do anything. ANYTHING. Just get your foot in the door and go from there.  I’ve recently made the transition and looking back there’s a couple reasons for my strategy.

  1. You don’t know what a good jobs is so any job will be a win-win. You’ll like it, or not, you’ll figure something out in both scenarios.
  2. The industry is growing so fast its likely you’ll be able to move around in your organization once you get in.
  3. Gaining any kind of experience will show that you’re serious and more credible then someone who “has always looooooved the environment.”

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve had four conversation with recent or soon to be graduates about what they’re interested in and passionate about to see if I could help them make the transition. I wanted to share one of these emails because it concisely records my thoughts. The initial email is from someone we can call Steve, who like myself, is also from the greatest state in the Union, Maine.

Hey Chris,

I too am from Maine– I was born in Portland, moved to Duxbury, Massachusetts, and returned to Maine to attend the University of Maine at Farmington to study Elementary Education. I love the state, but after graduation I returned to Massachusetts to take a job teaching/acting for an East Coast production company on a project for an online kids game.

I am currently searching diligently for an opportunity in the sustainable/green industry. During the second semester of my Junior Year, members of the Sustainable Campus Coalition and my Environmental Law Class helped to bring American Environmentalist Bill McKibben to give a talk at UMF about climate change and to promote his organization 350.org. Since, I have been fascinated by the prospect of the green industry, its ethical and social responsibility, and also its financial viability. I read your profile, and I couldn’t agree more that the sales and marketing of clean/green products is critical for the success of the industry. I do believe strongly that as our generation takes hold of the work force the demand within the industry will increase significantly and corporate environmental accountability and sustainability will be of the utmost importance for consumers.

All that being said, I am emailing you for any advice, suggestions, etc. to help me make my way in the industry.  I think that my talents are most transferable to a sales environment so I’ve been looking for primarily in sales. I would very much appreciate any advice you may have and your website has been a huge help for insight into the clean tech industry. Thanks for your time, Chris, I appreciate it.


The Goods

  1. He hit hard on the Maine connection, sold. When trying to connect with people, find something you have in common or compliment on something they’ve created.
  2. He cited specific examples of work that he had done. Although he could be lieing and the extent of his involvement is impossible to prove, it still makes him more credible.
  3. He didn’t ask for too much. It’s kinda like dating, we all know what we’re going for but you can’t just say it. You can’t ask a women to marry you when you meet her, there is a courting process.

The Improvements

  1. The one area that Steve could have improved was asking a specific question at the end instead of just saying “any advice”. The “green” industry is so large it’s almost impossible to give any advice without narrowing it down.

Here’s my response, disregard all horrible spelling mistakes :)


Thank you for reaching out and apologies for the late response. Although I have a blog, I’m not on email much at all.

Well, I do have plenty of advice, so much so that it’s hard to categorize it and write it down concisely. As you’re looking from the outside in, I’d suggest four things.

1) Reader a ton so you know what’s happening in the industry and also how the technologies/concepts work. Check out these: http://thegreenlightdistrikt.com/topic/clean-tech-guide/page/2/

This helps so that when you talk with people, you can actually know what they’re referring to.

2) Make friends in the industry by going to events regularly and asking good questions. I strongly advise never using the term ‘networking’ in the green world. The key is to never ask for anything until you know the person well enough so they’re not a stranger. See –> http://thegreenlightdistrikt.com/2010/09/24/how-to-make-the-best-of-green-networking-events/

3) Be helpful first and ask for help. It’s hard a first but after you get into the thick of it you’ll see what I mean.

4) Get involved in something, anything that sets you apart. Typically this involves working for a non-profit because they always can give you work, and you also learn a ton. When you mention to someone you have worked with XXX, it doesn’t matter who they are or what you did, the fact that its related to renewable energy will give you credibility.

The main thing that sets apart the green industry from others I find is simply passion – very cliche – I know. But I hardly know anyone that LOVES finance. The hard part is just getting your foot in the door.

Does this make/sense and/or help? Let me know and we can catch up sometime if you’re even in Boston. Also, I help to organize and find speakers for the Green Drinks events.


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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.

  • http://www.homes-and-interiors.com/planet-green.html Planet Green

    Great article.

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

    Thank you