Photo via Time
The recession sucks. Unemployment rates are rising to frightening heights as layoffs sweep the nation. And it can be most harrowing on a personal level: What do you do if you get laid off? Well, you turn it into an opportunity to green your job, your routine, your life.
Seriously. This isn't a pithy little feature designed to cash in on recession anxiety. These are real steps that real people—among them my own friends and relatives—can and are taking to turn one of the most painful, unnerving junctures of their lives into a real opportunity. Not only to restructure the way they work and live to lessen their impact, but to launch new careers in an ever-greening world. Here's a guide to how they're doing it, and how you can too:
Photo via Sustainy
Join the Growing Green Workforce
It's no secret that a green collar workforce is growing. A search for "green jobs" in Google's search field shows 51,400,000 results. Creating green jobs is a pillar of Obama's economic stimulus program; and thanks to the funding, very real opportunities are emerging for anyone who's recently lost a job—especially in fields like construction, contracting, engineering or electrical work.
How to Do It
There's ton of funding that will soon be flooding state coffers for green job projects—keep an eye on the news to see when green job training programs are coming to your area, and when new projects that look like they could fit your skill set are going to break ground.
If you're an out of work engineer or electrician, check out Green Jobs. They've got listings for openings across the company, usually for skilled labor, engineering and management positions. Sustainable Business's Green Dream Jobs database is similar, but offers a more diverse range of green jobs, from hiking trail cleanup to grant writing. Or, you can enroll in a class to get solar job training from Solar Energy International or take classes on renewable energy at a local community college. These classes are often taught by industry insiders, who can offer opportunities and guidance in the field.
photo: Mackenzie Kosut via flickr
Opt for Self Employment & Green Your Working Habits
If you're a skilled professional who's been laid off, consider forsaking the search for a new boss—and become your own instead. If you're a writer, graphic designer, or editor, for example, now's a great time to go freelance, even if you've never done so in the past. Magazines and newspapers are cutting staff, but they still need fresh content. Same goes for companies who still need to update their websites pertaining to graphic designers. And if you have another skill set altogether, you can look into consulting work.
How is this green? Most people have a lengthy commute to work, which generates a huge share of your carbon footprint. Working from home is one of the best things you can do to green your routine. You'll have much more flexibility when it comes to what you eat and buy over the course of the day—drinking tap water instead of bottled water every day does make a difference. You'll also be able to manage all your messaging and accounts your way—which can mean going paperless. And one last prime perk: You can deduct money off your taxes for a home office and phone, internet, and utilities bills.
How to Do It
Take stock of your skills and experience—and gather up your previous work into a presentable portfolio. Design a personal website for work if you can, and get ready to send out queries. A great place to start is Media Bistro, a website that not only lists job openings for creative professionals, but has a slew of helpful tips on how to pitch stories to publications and how to launch a consulting business. Then, make sure your fridge is stocked with good, green food. And here's everything else you should know on how to go green and work at home.
photo: Greenforall.org via flickr
Become an Eco Entrepreneur with a Little Help from the Stimulus
The stimulus bill has a ton of great incentives to get people interested in greening their homes—and a savvy eco-entrepreneur can use them to his benefit. Here's a perfect example: I know someone who was recently laid off from his contracting job—so he decided to recalibrate his skill set into something pertinent to the times. He started (or is in the early stages of starting) his own business as a home energy efficiency expert. Now, he's acting as a consultant to people who are looking to take advantage of the tax breaks and incentives for making green improvements to their homes. The story of this landscape architect changing gears is another good example.
How to Do It
Take a look at this guide to the tax credits in the stimulus bill to get some ideas—you could try your hand at selling green hardware for homes, like energy efficient windows and doors, learn how to install pellet stoves, or start a green roofing business. Thanks to the stimulus, these items will soon be in high demand, and if you can beat the competition to the punch, there's real green opportunity to be found here.
photo: Ken Lund via flickr
Head Back to School for a Greener Career
Laid off from a job that was leading you down a career path you weren't happy with? Maybe it's time to shift gears altogether. I know the prospect of saddling yourself with debt to head back to school in these gloomy economic times seems imprudent, but it may be just the opposite. After all, many predictions see the US economy beginning to recover around late 2010. If you head back to school now(ish) the economy could be in far better shape by the time you emerge, fresh degree in hand. And if you want to head off in a green direction, there are plenty of fascinating programs you can look into.
How to Do It
Remember that the recession impacts schools too—so depending on which program you apply to, it might be more difficult to get enrolled. Funding for humanities programs have been hit especially hard, forcing schools to cut the number of students they enroll. However, environmental science programs are apt to be better funded, as demand for educated environmental professionals is on the rise. Now could be the perfect time to go back to school to study a field like environmental science, chemistry, or engineering—the atmosphere is exceptionally invigorating right now. Just some of the programs you might want to check out are University of Colorado at Boulder's Environmental Studies program, Presidio School of Management's Green MBA programs, and Montana State University's Wind Application Program.