"Do not email potential employers bragging about your unparalleled skills and warn them on a missed opportunity. Be confident and describe how you would be a good fit with the position and organization. Above all, grow your network!"
This may sound like common sense, but the panelists at the Environment and Clean Technology career panel discussion, held earlier this week at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, said they were surprised the advice is not followed more often.
The four-person panel included Paula Daniels, Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Mayor Villaraigosa specializing in food policy; Jaime Nack, President and Founder of Three Squares Inc. and Councilmember of National Women’s Business Council; Leeor Alpern, Senior Public Information Specialist, South Coast Air Quality Management District; and Colleen Callahan, Deputy Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation. Nack, Alpern and Callahan are all UCLA Luskin alumni.
All four of the panelists had interesting career paths that ultimately led to the green sector. Daniels was a film and broadcast major turned lawyer turned water rights activist which led her to a career in public policy where she now leads the LA Food Policy Council.
Each panelist described what they look for in employees with writing, public speaking and the ability to take initiative as common themes.
“I won’t even look at any email or resume that has grammatical errors,” said Nack said, who also earned her undergraduate degree at UCLA. “It hurts more if it’s a UCLA student so I stress to you all to be careful and extra professional in your emails, cover letters and correspondence."
The other common theme was networking. Alpern kept repeating how important networking is, urging students to use LinkedIn and build their networks now. Who you know matters and puts you on the minds of people who can get you jobs, he said.
The third theme was all about taking initiative. Each panelist was adamant about encouraging leaders, especially in the environmental and clean technology field which is so new and a perfect breeding ground for innovation.
Callahan described how her interest in environmental policy was sparked by her inability to run as well in Los Angeles due to poor air quality. She took initiative and got involved in environmental health and justice campaigns and even helped to start the Los Angeles Sustainability Coalition, working to unite organizations and people on environmental justice issues.
Students were enthusiastic about breaking into the green market and all panelists agreed it was a good time for the green industry.
“Despite what people are telling you, the economy is good for sustainability jobs,” Nack said.