Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘Job skills

Five Upcoming Green Career Events You Can’t Miss

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Getting a job in the green economy means networking. After all people hire people, not resumes. When it comes to green conferences there are several upcoming events that I can’t wait to check out. If you want a green job, these are the events you should be attending. Not only will you learn a lot about going green, but you’ll make some great contacts to grow your green network.

1. Good Jobs Green Jobs

When: May 4-6, 2010
Where: Washington D.C.

This event is expected to attract almost 4,000 people and features several speakers from the federal government including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. The conference takes place over three days and feature several workshops and tracks centered on growing green jobs. Registration is $165 for two-and-a-half days of more than 100 workshops, the Green Innovation Expo (with dozens of companies) on May 5th, and Green Jobs Advocacy Day on May 6th. Click here to hear a podcast about this event.

2. Windpower 2010

When: May 23-26, 2010
Where: Dallas

Green Jobs

This is perhaps the biggest event to be held all year. According to their website, last year’s event drew 23,000 attendees and 1,280 exhibitors. Former President Bush is the featured speaker. After looking at the speaker and exhibitor list, anybody who is anyone is going to be there. Texas is the wind power capital of the U.S. (about 20 percent of the state’s power comes from wind). If you want to work in wind this is the conference for you.

3. The National Solar Conference

When: May 17-22, 2010
Where: Phoenix

Arizona is mad for solar so it’s no surprise this event takes place in Phoenix, organized by the American Solar Energy Society. According to the website the show is now in its 39th year, the SOLAR 2010 program will be developed by solar energy experts in all topical areas—technology, buildings, policy, professional education, workforce development and consumer education. Many sessions will offer continuing education credits for architects, installers, engineers, and more.

4. Alternative Fuels & Vehicles National Conference + Expo

When: May 9-12, 2010
Where: Las Vegas

We all know that electric, hybrid and hydrogen cars are coming and this conference is the preview to that world. AF&V 2010 showcases natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel, propane, electricity, and hydrogen, and their companion vehicles. The Conference embraces advanced technologies that result in fuel efficiency, petroleum displacement and emissions improvements. Included are hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid technologies; blends, including hydrogen; fuel cells; and, idle-reduction devices. All of these are featured as part of the diverse program, Expo Hall and Ride-n-Drive.

5. Green Buildings NY

When: June 16-17, 2010
Where: New York, NY

Serving the world’s largest real estate market, GreenBuildingsNY educates building and design professionals on the latest innovations around green products, services and regulations. Over 500 vendors will be in the exhibit hall at the Javits center.

Visit the event section of for a complete list of 2010 green conferences.


—Chris Russell is a ten year veteran of the online job search business. His latest project is the search engine for green jobs.

Should Interning for Free be a Government Issue?

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Turns out it’s not just me that’s interested in the debate over unpaid internships, and their effects on the economy. No less a publication than the Wall Street Journal felt compelled to take up the issue on its editorial page this week, opining that the practice of offering unpaid internships isn’t “exploiting young people. It’s letting young people exploit an opportunity.”

While there’s a lot of truth in that statement, it does rather ignore—as does the editorial piece as a whole—one of the key issues of the debate: that the practice directly discriminates against young people without the financial wherewithal (or wealthy parents, to use the common parlance) to support themselves. As such, while the young workers the Journal claims to be going to bat for will indeed be getting the opportunity to develop marketable skills (which I have to agree is a worthy trade-off, provided the internship is actually focused on skills development rather than unpaid menial work as a cost-cutting exercise), the logical endpoint of the Journal‘s perspective is further stratification of the labor market.

While the Journal is correct in its assertion that “many young workers are willing to trade free labor for a chance to demonstrate their skills and build a resume for the next job,” it stands to reason that those who don’t have the means to support themselves during such a trade won’t have the same opportunities to move onto those next jobs.

Added to that, as I wrote earlier this week, selecting only from a pool of applicants who can afford to work for free is an approach that makes very little sense for any business leader interested in using their company’s intern program as a means for identifying potential future hires. And there’s increasing evidence that that is indeed where companies are finding their newest hires: TIME points out  that companies hired as much as 70 percent of their class of interns in 2008.

So while young people—and their parents—may well be willing to make sacrifices to land the internship of their dreams, we’re clearly at the point where the question of willingness is trumped by a bigger issue: whether it’s right and, if not, what can be done about it. The folks at the Labor Department clearly feel that there are abuses of the system occurring, and are keen to stop them. The Journal feels that this is an example of government overreaching in its responsibilities, and would clearly prefer that companies be left to regulate themselves in this matter.

So is there a solution? Some middle ground that could be reached? Is the Labor Department’s approach a sensible one or an example of attempted social engineering gone mad? Whatever your thoughts, I’d love to hear them–and especially if you have current or recent interning experience, or are considering going down that route soon.

Why Green is the Next Great Job Market

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In case you’ve been living under a rock lately, the talk of green jobs by the media, the government and others has become a very hot topic.

Chris Russell

There is good reason for this optimism. Right now, we are in the earliest stage of this new green economy. It’s kind of like 1996, when the internet was just starting to create a dot com frenzy. Were it not for the great recession we’d be even farther along than we are now.

When the head of one of the world’s largest venture capital firms calls green tech the “greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century” people tend to listen. John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins made those comments on 60 Minutes in February.

So here are seven facts that prove why “green” is the next great job market.

1. The private sector views the clean energy economy as a significant opportunity. Venture capital investment in clean technology reached a total of about $12.6 billion by the end of 2008. In 2008 alone, investors directed $5.9 billion into American businesses in this sector, a 48% increase over 2007 investment totals.

2. The U.S. government has invested 80 billion dollars for research and development of clean energy technology.

3. Legislation in certain states is being passed to require a certain percentage of renewable energy use.

4. Bloom Energy, a Silicon Valley fuel cell start-up has received $400 million in VC funds. When is the last time a start-up got that much cash?

5. The country has never been more energy conscious than it is today. People want to save money by being more energy efficient.

6. The number of jobs in America’s emerging clean energy economy grew nearly two-and-a-half times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007.

7. The U.S. will eventually adopt a national standard mandating that we use renewable energy.

Suffice to say, green jobs are coming. Will you be ready?

—Chris Russell is a ten year veteran of the online job search business. His latest project is the search engine for green jobs.

Also, see Chris’s Interview with, where he discusses what career paths are hot in the green job market (Hint: Engineers, Energy Efficiency…), which industries are hiring and offers insight on what you need to make your own career switch to green! >> Go Green, Get Hired!

Millennials: Lazy Workers or Champions of Work/Life Balance?

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Millennials. The very word sparks debates galore. And depending on who is speaking, these discussions can be depressing, full of expletives, ambiguous or downright dismissive. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, found out that the “new” No. 1 quality that millennials believe makes us unique is technology. It displaces the spot taken by work ethics for decades, and herein is the debate.

For a lot of us who work with millennials, however, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Technology has invaded our professional and personal lives, especially for millennials, who have grown up expecting the ease and immediacy that technology affords us.  But that it would replace “work ethics” in what makes them unique has people in a tizzy. The Washington Post tackled the question in its blog Story Lab asking, “Are Millennials Lazy?” It stated that this survey would make millennials the first generation to not cite work ethics as their No. 1 unique distinguisher.

The Post also compared the top 5 spots picked by millennials and Generation X workers. For millennials, technology was followed by music and pop culture they grew up on, their liberal politics and “tolerance” of others, their generation being smarter, with fashion rounding out the top 5. For Generation X-ers, the list was a tad different. While no. 1 remained technology, close on its heels was “work ethic” followed by conservative or traditional values, their superior intellect, and finally being respectful.

How much should this worry us as employers, mentors and executives building motivated and loyal teams? Clearly, there is a distinct difference in the way the different generations work. Thousands of books have been written on the subject, seminars are regularly hosted for HR executives, and it is always a testy discussion for numerous exec meetings. Some younger companies might have mastered this balance but for most firms, this disconnect remains an unsolved dilemma.’s Phil Stott took up the debate earlier this month, wondering whether millennials were plain deluded, betrayed by society or just too young to know better! Citing a poll that surveyed high school seniors since the recession continue to want more vacation and time for themselves away from the job, he said, “Despite the economic meltdown then in full flow—events that were reshaping their likely career paths before their eyes—that group of students still expected to graduate into a world where they’d be able to dictate terms to an employer based on how much they’d like to work.”

Realistically, besides the emphasis on technology, can millennials genuinely be blamed for devoting less effort and energy to their work in an economy where it’s been made clear that no one is indispensable? And if they are, are we reciprocating by providing them with training, encouraging new thought, changing our internal work policies to accommodate them, or showing them the door? Post a recession that left everyone scrambling to hold on to their jobs, will we be better served to cater to their prioritizations and figure out a formula that allows a juggle of old and new?

As managers, directors and recruiters, you make these choices every day. Do you continue to give demonstration of strong work ethics precedence in the job interview or have yesteryear taboos like asking whether work/life balance would be a problem or whether Facebook and Twitter were restricted at work, replaced top priorities? Leave us a comment here or follow us on Twitter @VaultCSR and add your view to the debate.

Four Tips: How to Work on Your Emotions for Career Success

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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

This guy is interested in a fast-paced risk-taking career in trading but admits he’s not the coolest cat in the alley when it comes to dealing with high-pressure situations. He can’t bluff his way through a friendly game of seven-card stud, can’t watch Man. U. without eating the ends of his nails, and tosses and turns like a four-year old afraid of the dark the night before the big exam. So it would seem that he should chuck in the 400-count Egyptian cotton and ditch his dream of making it big in the world of derivatives, shorts and options, right?


What he should do is this:


That’s right, even controlling your emotions, like times tables and state capitals, can be learned (though, certainly, working on your stress-dealing skills might not be as easy as remembering where the heck Montpelier and Bismarck sit on the map).

And here’s how:

#1: Identify your weaknesses. Take the aforementioned wannabe trader for example. He has already taken step one, outlining his weaknesses, citing his “nervous/stressed mindset.”

#2: What do you want? After identifying your weaknesses, you need to communicate, if only to yourself, what you want. In this example, the wannabe trader wants a good poker face, a calmer countenance when the chips are on the line, and the ability to put out of his mind an imminently stressful situation that will occur sometime in the near future.

#3: Put yourself in situations where you have to work on your weaknesses. To keep this example going, the guy should engage in experiences and events where he’ll be forced to bluff, compete, and be tested. So, he might play more poker (though I do not advocate doing this for money) or watch his favorite football side and try not to yell at the TV or get excited or sign up for a an exam where he has to study. (He could also get some of his buds together and play this game, one of my favorites as a kid and one that I challenge anyone to play in a calm, quiet state.)

#4. Repeat #3 again and again and again.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In the Black

Extra Insight: What if Women Ran Wall Street?

Company “Fit” — A Key to a Happy, Successful Career

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When it comes down to having happy employees, it turns out that there’s a side to the equation that doesn’t show up in the literature very often: getting rid of unhappy employees. A recent article by a Chicago-area businessman on the New York Times’ You’re the Boss Blog underscored that point:

“I have learned the long, hard and frustrating way that as a manager you cannot make everyone happy. You can try, you can listen, you can solve some problems, you can try some more. Good management requires training, counseling and patience, but there comes a point when you are robbing the business of precious time and energy.”

Most people can look around their companies and find examples of the people the author of the above quote describes: people who don’t fit with what the company is trying to do, no matter how well they’re managed, or how much support or help they’re given.

So much of the literature and thinking on management stresses looking after employees as an active part of a manager’s job.  Thus, if a manager wants an open, creative, collaborative workforce, they have to create the conditions for it, train people to act in a certain way, and foster the environment until it produces what they’re looking for. Achieving success in that is one definition of what we’ve come to call good leadership.

What tends to be absent from the leadership canon, however, is the acknowledgement that some people just don’t want to be led, or are determined to resist any change that they don’t agree with. Even highly skilled, experienced workers can fall into that category, and end up not only not doing their own job, but holding back their department or the company as a whole.

When presented as a theoretical problem, the answer to many business issues can seem easy. For example: revenue has dropped 25 percent, and you need to cut costs to deal with it. Where do you begin? It’s similarly easy to recommend firing someone who isn’t performing well in their job. But getting rid of employees simply because they don’t seem to fit with the company culture is a lot harder to do—in large part because there are no hard and fast metrics for assessing “fit”. Nor can there be: it’s a subjective measure.

Ultimately, the issue comes down to a very simple idea, also contained within the Times article: “It’s hard to build a great company with the wrong people.” What’s easy for most of us to do is look around our companies and find people that just aren’t on board with the direction the organization is seeking to go. And even if you don’t know who they are, someone else will: whether it’s the head of one department who can’t get their own work done because of a lack of cooperation from someone else, or an employee who always claims to be too busy with other work to really focus on the priorities being set elsewhere in the firm.

Going back to the canon of management literature, there’s hardly a text in recent memory that doesn’t stress the importance of team building.  There are significantly fewer, however, that recognize in an active sense that building great teams isn’t just about putting the right elements in place. It’s also about weeding out the wrong ones, even if that means getting rid of employees who may not necessarily be underperforming, but who just don’t fit. That, the Times piece suggests, is the secret to making the rest of a company’s employees happy, and to finding success. And who doesn’t want that?

Of course, there are a couple more questions worth considering as well, from an employee’s perspective: first, what does one do if one’s boss or supervisor happens to be the employee who doesn’t fit? And, second: what if you can’t identify that person? Does that mean it’s you? And if so, should you be thinking about finding alternate employment?

Jobs Are Out There for Sustainable MBA Grads if They’re Willing to Do the Work

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In a recent blog post, Vault’s own Aman Singh addressed the growing sustainable MBA trend and noted that employers did not consider sustainability one of their chief interests. Sustainable business education is “growing indeed, but only as a ‘theme’ or the idea of doing good. Because when these students face recruiters, there aren’t many takers.”

So we asked Vault users: What do you think of the trend towards MBA degrees with a focus on sustainable business practices? While the poll is still open online, I thought I’d give you a snapshot of the responses so far.

Vault Sustainable MBA Poll Results_March 11

It seems to be a pretty even split, with 52 percent saying the sustainable MBA trend is going to die down or out and 48 percent saying that sustainability business education is here to stay. There’s no doubt that MBA students love it and want to pursue sustainability and the green movement as a career. But is that realistic? What will their employment prospects look like?

MBA Podcaster recently published a podcast called Career Opportunities for Green MBAs: Generating Green $$ from the Green Movement that addresses this question. They brought together a few industry insiders and sustainable MBAs to discuss different opportunities.

Katie Kross is associate director of Duke University’s Corporate Sustainability Initiative, and Nicola Acutt is associate dean of the Presidio Graduate School:. They argue that sustainability is going to be a bigger and bigger part of businesses moving forward.

Kross: Sustainability is really the hot topic in the business press these days. Companies in all the different kinds of industries, whether that’s Wal-Mart and its supply chain partners or whether that’s renewable energy companies and Cleantech Venture capital firms or whether that’s the investment community looking at new ways to incorporate environmental and social issues and to investment evaluation. So the interest comes from a lot of different industry sectors and it’s growing across a lot of different types of organization and fields of interests.

Acutt: I have observed a significant shift from what I would call the pioneer stage with the early adopter companies, you know, the Cliff Bars and those types of organizations to really seeing more and more traditional companies showing an interest in our students, and for example Clorox and Travelocity recently posted positions. We see the categories of employers, of our students ranging from consulting firms like Saachi and Saachi or Domani Sustainability Consulting who are building targeted client services and new sustainability then across a range of other sectors like government, nonprofit, education and in public service or public sector organizations from PG&E to Blue Shield, Kaiser, the City of Berkley, EPA, Goodwill, University of California. It’s really across all sectors.

But what happens if you can’t get hired after graduation? Many newly-minted sustainable MBAs are going the entrepreneurial route. Says Acutt: “We have, just in our short history, had 12 startups launched and, five of them in the last two years securing over a million dollars in initial funding.”

If you’re not ready to go into business for yourself just yet, there is still hope. Michael Callahan an MBA and co-founder of Powermundo says that although employers aren’t interested in the degree, itself, they are very interested in “what you do with it.” On getting jobs, he says: “It was because the combination of skills and not just the green MBA. The green MBA was a help, but it’s still being defined, you know, what is a green MBA? You still have to have strong finance skills, marketing, accounting. You still have to have all of that.”

I’m sure “diversify” and “be creative” are pieces of advice that career centers are throwing around a lot these days. But for sustainable MBAs, they ring particularly true. Consider your sustainable skills as a part of a larger whole that includes all your other MBA skills and work experience. In addition, because sustainability is still new to many companies, you may have to create the job before you can fill it. Here’s how to make that happen:

Kross: There were two things that kept coming up over and over again about their job search. The first is the power of informational interviews. So many of those practitioners got their jobs as a direct result of informational interviews, which I know sounds sort of mundane but actually this field of practice is so new and so small that having good relationships with people in the industry can really go a long way towards finding a job opportunity, and many of these positions are not posted anywhere publicly. They’re not on the websites. They’re not doing on-campus recruiting. They are positions that job candidates are essentially writing for themselves based on their relationships and their experience. And the second thing that came up over and over again is how many of these practitioners got their job as a direct result of a project that they worked on while they were a student. So whether that’s a class project or an internship or an independent study research project or some other kind of practical project that they worked on while they were a student, they leverage that directly into a job for themselves.

Good luck!

–Posted by Carolyn Wise, Senior Education Editor,

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