Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘green careers’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

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An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on Vault.com–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on Vault.com is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on Vault.com soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

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What’s Keeping You From Getting Hired?

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If there was one thing that stood out from Vault’s recent Job Hunting in CSR series, it was the disconnect between candidates and employers. A recent survey by Towers Watson further indicates that this disconnect might be much more widespread because of a difference in priorities for employers and employees.

Job Skills

A survey released by TalentDrive, the team behind online resume aggregation search engine TalentFilter, now adds yet another layer to the troubling scenario. The report suggests a widening gap between current employers’ expectations and job seekers’ actual skill sets.

In a month-long survey, 79,000 job seekers (86 percent actively seeking employment) were asked to assess their personal skill set and attitude toward the current job market. Additionally, 20,000 hiring managers from Fortune 1000 companies were asked if they had noticed a change in the quality of candidates since the recession’s start.

The results of the survey are unnerving:

Almost three-quarters of the job seekers surveyed were pessimistic about their career search: that’s the number of respondents who indicated that they possessed the required skill set for positions, but were not getting hired. Little wonder, then, that 37 percent of respondents expressed no hope that things would improve.

However, 42 percent of the employers surveyed indicated that the recession had not only increased the quantity of candidates, but that they were finding more qualified candidates than in years past.

So where is the disconnect? When candidates believe they possess the required skill sets, why are they not getting hired? Take into account that 67 percent of those surveyed reported having between one and five interviews per month since the beginning of their job search, and that 75 percent of those had not received a single job offer.

Specialization or general business skills?

Since your company started hiring, how many interviewed candidates on average would you consider

Could the disconnect come down to a question of specialized vs. general business skills? According to the report, 71% percent of HR representatives reported that more than half of their open positions were specialized.

Comparatively, 61% of the job seekers’ group considered themselves to be “professionals with broad skill sets.”

Interestingly, my interviews with MBA graduates Ashley Jablow and Geet Singh reveal a flipside to the specialization picture. Having focused on CSR and sustainability at business school, both Jablow and Singh confessed that their job hunts weren’t exactly working out to be walks in the park. However, in their case, partial blame goes to a lack of demand for CSR work. For the respondents of the TalentDrive survey, specialized skills leaned toward more traditional fields like IT and technology.

Job Search Destinations

What source has recently delivered/uncovered the most quality candidates?

If there is one area where the TalentDrive survey shows job seekers and employers in agreement, it is where they are finding each other. The winner: Social Media.

An overwhelming 74% of job seekers said the most beneficial job search method was posting a resume on job boards followed by 27% picking social media, for the first time surpassing traditional methods like classified ads, professional recruiters and networking events.

Agreement was mutual with 27% of employers saying the highest response for most effective search method was social networks, followed by resume sourcing technologies.

Other highlights:

For the types of positions your company fills, what skills/activities make an applicant stand out?

Differs for each position: 55%
Longevity with past employers: 21%
Certification: 16%
Advanced degrees/MBA: 5%
Extracurricular work/Volunteer work: 3%

What category would the majority of your open positions fall under?

Mid level/management positions: 67%
Entry level: 16%
Director/Executive positions: 14%

Since beginning your active job search, how many interviews have resulted in an offer?

No offers: 75%
Less than half: 21%
More than half: 3%
All interviews resulted in an offer: 1%

Given the current job market, how willing are you to transfer fields or change your skill set to adapt to a new work environment or industry?

Not willing or interested: 11%
Somewhat willing, depending on the opportunity: 44%
Very willing: 45%

Does your experience relate to these results? Do you have a story to add to these numbers? Leave a comment, email us In Good Company or connect on Twitter @VaultCSR!

Career Advice from the 2010 World Innovation Forum

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On June 8th and 9th some of the world’s leading experts on innovation gathered at the Nokia Theater in New York City for the 2010 World Innovation Forum (Twitter hashtag #WIF10).

The list of speakers was impressive, and WIF10 blogger Stu Miniman wrote an excellent post summarizing the speakers and their backgrounds.

I also attended the conference (as a blogger) and wrote about my motivations for attending in an introductory blog post. My hope was to hear some of the latest trends and techniques for innovation at large corporations.

For those of you interested in pursuing a career in innovation, I’ve created the following list of advice, with links to the speakers included. Keep in mind that my definition of innovation is “innovation = idea + implementation”, with a strong emphasis on the implementation piece (how to build and deliver new ideas).

Here is a summary of the career advice presented at the conference:

  • Innovation is not limited to engineers. Bringing great ideas to market can best happen when every person in the process becomes a designer. Whether your job is engineering, customer support, testing, or marketing, every stage of the process requires people using strong design skills. This advice was given by one of the top technology designers in the world: Robert Brunner.
  • When it comes to finding innovative jobs, the place to go looking is for corporations that are producing green (or sustainable) products and services. Corporations are looking for individuals that can generate (and deliver) energy-saving and environmentally-friendly ideas. Joel Makower highlighted several such corporations in his talk, including Coke, Waste Management, and UPS.
  • Ursula Burns of Xerox related that employees who know how to “dream with customers” are highly valued. The best source of ideas is often birthed through conversations with customers about their needs.
  • The most valued employees of the current decade will be artisans, and the most successful companies of the current decade will be the businesses that allow their employees the freedom to innovate. Seth Godin encouraged employees to take risks in their job by morphing their work habits to be more artistic: give gifts, do work that matters, and make a difference.
  • One of the more critical innovation skills for an employee is the ability to be a change agent. Chip Heath described the psychology of change and presented some steps for introducing change into an organization.
  • One of the final pieces of advice for an employee was given by Andreas Weigend. Andreas claimed that the most successful businesses will be those companies that know how to leverage communities of people (and the data that they create). It is critical for employees to involve themselves in social media and social media data mining.

Health care and education were also discussed as critical areas needing continued innovation focus (excellent career opportunities). For more information on these areas, refer to Michael Howe’s discussion of the rise of MinuteClinic, and Wendy Kopp’s presentation on Teach for America.

Steve
http://stevetodd.typepad.com
Twitter: @SteveTodd
EMC Intrapreneur

Read more tech career advice from Steve his Vault blog: Innovate with Influence

Extra Insight: Check out Vault’s coverage from the World Innovation Forum

Driven by Innovation: Corporate Culture & Responsibility

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Joel Makower at the 2010 World Innovation Forum

Photo courtesy: PhotographybyDov.com

What themes do you expect to emerge when you gather a bunch of leading businesspeople and experts on innovation and organizational change, and have them present their thoughts in a two-day conference in New York City?

Bonus point if you guessed innovation as a theme, but only because I haven’t yet revealed the name of the conference: The World Innovation Forum. As such, presenters were long on how cultures of innovation can be fostered and nurtured within companies, and very specific in underlining the point that companies that fail to innovate today will fail to thrive in coming years.

Up until the second day of the conference, most of the talk around innovation concerned the how of the subject. If the why was mentioned at all, it was usually couched in terms of general benefit: it’s good for your company’s bottom line; it’s good for your career; it’ll help you keep up with—or stay ahead of—your competitors.

Towards the middle of the second and final day, however, the tone shifted markedly, with three consecutive speakers laying out one of the biggest challenges requiring innovation today, and making it strikingly clear what was at stake. The challenge: sustainability and corporate responsibility. Tackling it were green expert Joel Makower, Seventh Generation founder and CEO Jeffrey Hollender, and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.

The middle speaker of the three, it was Makower who really summed up the position we’re at in terms of the progression the green concept has made in the corporate world. Companies are at the stage where green practices are creating value for them, he said, having passed through two prior phases: the phase of “first do no harm,” where companies simply sought to not cause problems; and the phase of “doing well by doing good,” where corporate responsibility was seen as something nice to attain, but more of a luxury than a means of generating revenue.

Despite speaking before Makower, Ursula Burns proved his key point by demonstrating that Xerox is creating value from green. Her definition of innovating towards a sustainable future is to “take something that’s needed […] and innovate it to use less than in the past.” While that may seem like a strange message from the leader of a company that essentially thrives on consumables—and particularly on usage of paper—Burns stressed that companies cannot afford to ignore what the marketplace is demanding. Accordingly, the company has developed a paper that erases itself so it can be reused, and has invested heavily in solid ink technology, which Xerox’s website claims produces 90 percent less waste than a typical color laser product.

Jeffrey Hollender’s presentation also centered on the idea of reducing waste—a concept that is at the heart of his company and his recent book, The Responsibility Revolution. Expressing his frustration at not being able to reduce Seventh Generation’s footprint more than he has—while better than many, he said the company “is not what I would call good”—he came back to the idea that culture sets the tone for what companies can achieve. Pointing to the recent travails of Goldman Sachs and BP, he suggested that those companies’ problems are at heart to do with culture: “sustainability and green is about company culture,” he said, with a crucial component of that culture being a willingness by executives to listen to their employees and consumers—something that he felt was likely lacking in the cultures at Goldman and BP.

All told, while each of the three speakers covered slightly different ground, the common message in what they had to say suggests that the future of business could be one in which the most successful companies are the ones that manage to create products that fulfil the needs of a changing, more eco-conscious marketplace.

Or, as Hollender suggested “we won’t have businesses that begin to meet the challenges of the society that we live in” until sustainability and CSR is embedded at the heart of corporate strategy, and drives all of the decision making.

Event Alert: Accredited Sustainability (CSR) Practitioner Workshop

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Next month, the Center for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) will complete five years of conducting sustainability seminars and certifying CSR practitioners. The two-day seminar historically have always been filled with useful workshops, individual presentations from practitioners, many debates and rich discussions surrounding the aspects of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Last year, I attended one of CSE’s workshops and came back certified as a CSR practitioner as well as armed with much-needed clarified information on the issue. This workshop, which is conducted by CSE and approved by international think tank, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), attracts executives every year from a range of industries. For example, my session last year had a diverse group including representatives from consulting firms, consumer products manufacturers, lawyers, policy regulators, professors, scientists as well as HR specialists and a pilot from an international airline.

If you are seeking a broad overview of CSR this workshop is highly recommended. Besides theoretical concepts and key guidelines, the forum gives you an opportunity to network with other CSR-minded professionals across industries. This networking and sharing of ideas and more so, learning from what they are doing in this growing field, can prove immensely helpful in carving your career in CSR and green issues.

What is even better is that this year for the first time, in collaboration with Vault and In Good Company, CSE is offering an exclusive discount to our readers. Just make sure to mention “VAULT” during the registration process and you will be able to shave 25% off the fee!

For complete details, including registration process as well as first-person perspectives from last year’s workshop, visit Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company.

Career Paths: Nonprofit Consultant

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There’s a limited perception of consulting as largely computative, focused on economical and technical concerns; in reality, the industry is a multifaceted outlet for countless aptitudes and interests. Ken Goldstein is an example of these diverse pursuits: as a consultant to nonprofit organizations, he applies a number of disciplines to the benefit of charities and foundations. His client roster supports such worthy causes as AIDS treatment, homelessness and the arts, for whom he provides services ranging from fundraising strategy to resource management. Goldstein also accepts temporary management positions to guide troubled or transitioning organizations through restructuring, mergers and even bankruptcy.

Ken Goldstein headshot
Mr. Goldman’s career has taken him through nonprofits and government agencies over the span of two decades, and led him to write his self-published guide Introduction to Fund Development Planning in 2007. In 2003, he went into business for himself under the shingle of Goldstein Consulting, where he offers his expertise with one simple principle of commitment: “I only accept clients and projects that I believe in. When I accept your assignment, your mission becomes my mission and I am committed to your success.” He was kind enough to share with us his insights on the economy’s effect on clients, his self-employed status, and the overlap between advising nonprofits and corporations.
VAULT: Describe how you began consulting for nonprofits. Did you get your start working in the nonprofit sector itself, or at a consulting firm?

Ken Goldstein: Before going into independent consulting, I had already been working in the nonprofit and local governmental sectors for about fourteen years. I had experienced a range of organizations and positions, including doing direct client service work and being an Executive Director, and had wound up as Silicon Valley Director for CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. CompassPoint is a nonprofit itself, but one that serves other nonprofits through consulting, training, and research into the field. I loved learning about the different types of organizations that we served, and different approaches to social problems. It was, in many ways, a continuation of the education I received when getting my Master of Public Policy and Administration degree, and my preparation as a consultant, facilitator, and trainer. When it was time to leave CompassPoint, I also had many connections to get me started with consulting gigs. I love working with smaller organizations and projects that are too small for a CompassPoint or other large firms to take on, so I still get referrals from my old colleagues there.

V: What is the organizational makeup of Goldstein Consultants? Have you given consideration to expanding into an incorporated firm, or do you prefer to remain as an independent proprietorship?

KG: I still chuckle a little at the official sounding title of “Goldstein Consulting,” as it really is just me as sole proprietor, lead consultant, marketer, accountant and janitor. I network a lot with other sole proprietor nonprofit consultants, and we’ve talked about the pros and cons of joining forces, but I’ve always preferred to remain independent. I never want to get to the point where I’m spending all my time running my business (paying other people, more tax headaches, liabilities of taking others on …) and not helping my clients run their businesses. By sticking to solo projects I keep my red tape to a minimum, keep my schedule flexible, and can concentrate on helping the grassroots organizations that couldn’t afford the rates I’d need to charge as “a firm.” Of course, through my networking with other consultants, we do refer jobs to each other, and can share advice and best practices on how to survive as an independent, so I’m not out there completely on my own.
vault career guide to nonprofit careers coverV: Having served a wide range of nonprofit interests, including healthcare and the arts, what would you say is an area you have the most experience with? Is there a particular cause closest to your heart?

KG: If I had to summarize the type of organization that I’m most experienced in, I would describe it as “community resource center.” Locally-based, single-site agencies, with a budget of $1 to 2 million, focusing on providing basic needs assistance to their immediate geographic regions. Things like access to food, health care, and housing, but also early childhood education, parent education, and referrals for mental health, addiction, and job training. I’d also say that the basic needs items—food and shelter—are the causes that are closest to my heart, and are also the causes that I’m drawn to as a donor to organizations, not just as a professional working with them. As you pointed out, I’ve also enjoyed working with arts groups and environmental causes, and I’m grateful for the chance to have a variety of clients, but if I have to choose one area, it would be basic needs.

V: Conversely, have there been prospective clients whom you have had to turn away, either on professional grounds or out of a personal objection to their mission or methods?

KG: I’ve turned away clients based on availability, when I’ve simply been over-booked. And there have been some potential clients that I’ve strongly suggested go back and take a closer look at their own goals and plans before hiring a consultant (usually somebody with a “great idea” for a nonprofit, but nothing concrete yet). But I can’t recall ever having to tell a potential client that I can’t take them on because I object to their mission. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen, just that I’ve been lucky in that regard, to serve a region with plenty of causes that I do believe in.

V: The chief aspect separating nonprofit consulting from the for-profit field seems to be an emphasis on fundraising and specialized accounting; however, your resume lists efforts in everything from M&A to operations development. What are some vital for-profit practice skills that consultants could use to transition into nonprofit work?

KG: Probably the area of management consulting that’s most easily translated is HR. Labor laws are labor laws, regardless of the type of employer. Marketing is also easily transitioned, with just a little extra attention to deciding who you are marketing to, potential clients or potential donors. On the fiscal side of the house, things do get a bit trickier with the myriad of funding streams, the thousands of strings attached to most of those dollars, and the disconnect between income and demand for services. The social services world is one where the same forces that increase demand for services also lowers revenue. I think business consultants who want to take on nonprofit clients can best educate themselves, and serve the sector, by first volunteering to be on a nonprofit Board of Directors. That kind of immersion into the types of issues that the sector faces would be a great education that could then be turned into a line of work.

V: In the wake of the recession, what were the most significant effects you observed of both the nonprofit consulting sector and for nonprofits themselves? Did more organizations seek your services, or were you required to more actively pursue clients and projects?

KG: For better or for worse, when your profession is assisting organizations in trouble, a down economy can be good for business. I’ve been booked pretty solid for most of the recession, and only just this month enjoying my first “down time” in several years. The way the recession has hit some of my clients is as a magnifying effect.

Management and fiscal practices that were questionable when money was flowing become toxic when the money slows down and once strong reserves become monthly cash-flow nightmares. Managing in such an environment requires the willingness to make unpopular and tough decisions. As an “outsider” I have often been better suited to do that than a leader who is entrenched in the problem (or, perhaps, the cause of the problem).

V: Given that much of the nonprofit sector relies on the support of the government, what effect, if any, do you foresee the Obama administration’s economic and social initiatives having on nonprofits?

KG: For the right type of organization, some of the Obama administration’s initiatives can be a great boon, but that’s not without some cautions.

Federal dollars involve the most red tape, but rarely allow a realistic administrative overhead budget line to comply with that red tape. Federal contracts and grants can also be very slow to pay, requiring the agency to spend out of their reserves to provide services until such payment comes. And, always, we have to caution agencies about over-relying on any one type or source of income. A lot of the Obama initiatives are only for two or three years of funding; organizations that do receive this money need to plan from day one how they will support programs when the “stimulus plan” ends. So, yes, if you have the administrative capacity and overhead to handle a Federal grant, fantastic – but a well-diversified fund development plan is still required.

You can find Ken Goldstein on the web at the Goldstein Consulting website, or at his blog, The Nonprofit Consultant. His book, Introduction to Fund Development Planning, is currently available for purchase at Amazon.

For more information on careers in the nonprofit world, check out The Vault Career Guide to Nonprofit Careers.

The Week’s Best Hiring News: Week of May 3, 2010

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In terms of hiring news, the best was kept until last this week: Friday saw the announcement that the economy added 290,000 jobs in April. Unfortunately, that was accompanied by a rise in the official unemployment rate—it went up from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent—as more people actively began searching for work again.

That wasn’t the only good news this week, however. In fact, aside from concerns over the fate of various European economies and their potential for weighing down a recovery, most of the news that emerged this week was remarkably positive. As you’ll see below:

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