The existential entrepreneur
A recent graduate’s field guide to creating the green job you just can’t seem to find
Getting a job has never been easy for me.
I haven’t quite figured out why that is. Perhaps it’s bad timing in the economic cycle. Or maybe I don’t have the skills or education that easily place me in a traditional role. I prefer to think something fundamentally inherent in my character and makeup: I’m more excited by the prospect of creating something new versus filling an existing job. And I don’t think I’m alone -- many graduates are out there looking for a job that reflects the values and principles of sustainability they have grown passionate about during their studies, and coming to the realization that this job may not actually exist.
This may be especially true for those seeking a “green job,” or a job that reflects an integrated approach to sustainability, because many of these jobs simply haven’t been invented yet.
But there is a silver lining for those of us who find the job search akin to fitting a round peg in a square hole. Where there is a gap there is an opportunity for growth, so why not harness your inner entrepreneur and invent the job you want to have?
While you may not immediately self-identify as an entrepreneur, chances are you hold many of the traits that pick one out of a crowd. When you are in the middle of a job interview, do you find your mind wandering to that groundbreaking idea for a business you’ve been mulling over? Do you find your thrills while planning and talking about new business ideas? Do you stay up at night dreaming about what that “big idea” could be, what the company could look like and what it might be named? If you answered “yes” to a few of these, you might just be an entrepreneur.
And this is good news. The reality is that much of green business growth is being driven by entrepreneurs—people who have caught sight of a business opportunity of the future before the rest of the market has. And that’s because green markets are growing fast, and the future opportunity is larger than ever before, so it requires an entrepreneur’s forward-looking insight to really comprehend the potential of the idea.
While certain sectors like solar and wind are already mainstream, many others in the green economy have yet to take hold. Next-generation biofuels, electricity storage, electric vehicles and smart grids are examples of inascent sectors whose potential has not been fully expressed in the marketplace. This is also true, I believe, of many non-technological business opportunities. Consumer goods, financial services, advertising, new media and communications will all see an explosion of new green business ideas in the future.
If you have the desire, and are willing to do what it takes and put up with the inevitable hassles and challenges that come with running your own business, you should consider the option of starting one. Though tremendously difficult and exhausting, the pay-offs are equally exhilarating.
If you choose this route, here is some advice to get you started.
First, just because others say it cannot be done does not mean it cannot be done. But you have to listen to them anyway.
Whenever you pitch a new idea, you will get a much longer list of why it cannot be done than why it can. And indeed, if it were obvious or easy, it would have been done by now. But heed the advice. Satisfying those concerns is important because you will run up against them again and again when you raise money, hire people or pitch to customers. The ability to listen to the objections without folding and walking away from the idea is a critical balancing act.
My second piece of advice is to write a plan, even if it’s just for your own use. Not only will it help get your idea straight in your mind, but it will also help get you feedback and advice, along with confirmation that your idea is a good one.
Finally, surround yourself with intelligent advisors and get them engaged.