Careers: Finding Meaning, Money and Community

Billy Parish

On March 7th, the National Climate Seminar hosted a conversation with Billy Parish on his new book: Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money and Community in a Changing World. Billy Parish co-founded and grew the Energy Action Coalition into the largest youth organization in the world focused on clean energy and climate solutions. More recently, he founded Solar Mosaic, a platform that allows communities and individuals to invest in solar energy projects. Since the biggest obstacle to solar energy is often the upfront costs of installation, this leasing model allows for supporters of clean energy projects to directly invest in local solar projects and recoup their investment as building owners pay back their lease.

How Solar Mosaic Works Credit: Solarmosaic.org

Solar Mosaic is an example of “Making Good,” Parish and co-author Dev Aujla’s idea that the “Millennials” can find careers in areas that not only work toward the larger goals of sustainability and societal improvement, but can also earn a decent living doing so. In the book, Parish and co-author Dev Aujla developed a six step methodology intended to focus one’s career search and goals:

  • Reflect – Be clear on what your purpose is
  • Adapt – Develop skills so that you’ll always be employable
  • Connect – Build a strong social network around yourself and your interests
    • Networking accounts for 80% of job opportunities!
  • Design – Make designs sustainable by learning from smart design and biomimicry
  • Launch – Take the right next step for you personally
    • Change from within? Entrepreneur?
  • Organize – Make it easier to build careers on creating positive change in the world

Parish led participants in the NCS through the beginning of this methodology by asking questions intended to identify one’s purpose and to develop a road map of how to get there–a useful exercise at any point during one’s career.

Take a few minutes and jot down your answers to these questions:

  1. In one sentence, frame your purpose. What you want to do with your career?
  2. Identify the necessary skill. What is one skill that is critical for you to learn to accomplish your purpose?
  3. How can you best learn this skill? i.e. Through a university degree/certificate, work experience, unpaid internship, or can you cultivate this skill on your own?
  4. List the 5 people that you’d like to work with during your career? Who do you want to learn from? It is important to grow and modify this list over time.
  5. Identify how to further build relationships with these people.

Maybe you can’t answer all of these questions right now, but it can be helpful to begin to strategize about your career and develop a set of skills that will make you uniquely qualified to solve a particular problem. Parish also recommended creating a personal mantra, a catchphrase that can be used as a touchstone when you need to get something done and are doubting yourself.

The reality is, today’s “Millennial” job search process often involves unpaid internships. These experiences can be valuable opportunities to find out who the “intrapreneurs” in a company are and to learn from them. When looking to develop important relationships with those who may later serve as mentors, it is important to provide value first to the people you hope will later provide value to you in your career. Parish says, “work your ass off at an unpaid internship.”

Parish believes that the “Millenials” are uniquely equipped to rebuild the economy and society in a just way for a sustainable future. The Millenial combination of tech-savviness, local consciousness, spirit of service, ability to harness the world’s collective intelligence through open source platforms and an understanding of global interdependence, serves as the necessary toolkit to develop careers that not only are personally rewarding, but also improve society. Jobs in the renewable energy and environment fields are expanding and the opportunities are out there for those ready to seize them.

Percent Gains in Job Category Source: Wired Magazine, June 2011

Join the National Climate Seminar on March 21st for a conversation entitled “Getting Green Done: Front Line Sustainability Work” with Auden Schendler, VP for Sustainability at the Aspen Skiing Company. We have an exciting line up of remaining presenters for the spring including Paul Comey, VP of Environmental Affair at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Cynthia Rosenzweig from NASA’s Goddard Institute who will talk about climate and agriculture. Call in at noon eastern on March 21st to join the conversation! Call-in number: 1-712-432-3100; Conference Code: 253385. Send advance questions for Auden to climate@bard.edu. Podcasts of the conversation with Billy Parish and of previous NCS conversations are available here.

Attention climate leaders of the future, apply now to be part of the upcoming C2C Fellows program at Oberlin College April 6th-8th. Two graduates of this year’s C2C workshops will receive $1,000 scholarships to attend follow-on, multi-day leadership trainings, one focused on how to start a green business, and the other, on how to run your own political campaign.

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