Your Stories: Cool, Fascinating and Fun Climate Jobs

Can you find a rewarding career in climate? Yes, definitely. How do we know? You told us.

Two weeks ago, we asked you to talk about your careers in the field. I’m not surprised that nearly everyone who wrote to us said they enjoy what they’re doing. (So do I.)

Many of you had changed careers. Why? Because you cared, you needed meaning, you felt compelled to do something. For some, it meant going back to school to learn new skills. Online communities that post jobs and offer tips have also helped.

We heard from people who work in investment, climate tech, education, outreach, consulting, engineering, research and more. You said your work is exciting and makes you feel more engaged.

Now for the downsides: Many of you said you took a pay cut to make the career switch. Not everyone can do that. But you mostly said the trade-off was worth it.

And, you said it can be overwhelming and scary to think about the climate crisis all day at work. But some of you said you were more optimistic now that you’re doing something about it.

We’ve read all your responses and learned a lot. Here are a few, edited for length and clarity.

Rogier Groeneveld, sustainable housing energy adviser, The Hague:

I love to help people with their home, especially now with the energy/gas crisis. It is wonderful to have house visits and feel where the owners are best helped with. Both technically and financially there are many options to choose from. It is really nice to hear that people like to have a true conversation about their options. The “downside” is that it is a struggle to really DO something with impact. Not to lose faith, since the steps are very small and the challenge is huge.

Ana Yoerg, venture capital, Media, Pa.:

I am the head of marketing at a venture capital firm that invests in climate tech start-ups. It was a midcareer shift from working for a big personal brand, doing content and editorial, to follow my passion of helping deep tech start-ups with marketing and communications.

They were unbelievably compassionate and deeply thoughtful people. I felt like I hit the jackpot. V.C.s with a heart. And a mission to save the planet. Through tech, yes, but also sheer capitalism. They only invest in start-ups with better unit economics than the existing solution. Because they’re practical and understand that a green premium will never catalyze a change in purchase behavior.

The biggest pro right now I would say is the street cred. That is, the interest from others. Other marketing people in V.C. are like, wow, climate? That’s cool. Must be good storytelling. Vaccines for honeybees, biodegradable styrofoam, drones that plant trees at 120/minute? Yes please. My 9- and 11-year-old sons also think what I’m doing is incredibly cool. They haven’t invited me yet to talk to their class, though. So maybe I’m overestimating the hip factor. Dinner conversations are fun though.

Mary Goldman, financial reporting, Cambridge, England:

I like being in a position where I get to challenge the C-suite to think more about climate change and how it will impact their business and start conversations about how they need to adjust their strategy to respond to climate risk. The cons include the internal politics and the feeling of always shouting into a void. Sometimes I have to take clients on a long journey of even acknowledging that climate change is real.

Scott Hackel, research at a nonprofit, Madison, Wis.:

We conduct applied research on new approaches, both tech and human factors, to mitigate climate change equitably. It’s really fun to always be working on new, innovative approaches. It’s ever-evolving. And the applied nature of the work means interacting with all the people that both use these new approaches and those who work on pushing them into the market. Observing the community interaction with innovation is both fulfilling and fascinating. The downside is that applied research takes a lot more time than mainstream implementation, is filled with all kinds of practical barriers, and, ultimately, means a fair amount of failure.

Alexander Flake, patent law, Boulder, Colo.:

As a legal services professional, I found it difficult to find purpose at my previous roles. It didn’t seem like a patent agency with this focus on climate existed, so I made one myself. Since then, I’ve found my work much more fulfilling. Even though I’m doing a very similar job, it feels like I’m part of something larger than myself instead of being motivated primarily by profit. The downside is that I’m making vastly less money than I did at the established firm where I was working previously. As the space as a whole grows, I’m confident I’ll be able to secure more business and improve the profitability of the business without sacrificing on values.

And here’s a final thought: Don’t feel like changing careers? Every job can be a climate job, as some readers noted. You can be the person who pushes your employer to lower the company’s emissions, start recycling, adapt to growing flood risks. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write!

Don’t mention E.S.G.: Worried about accusations of greenwashing and “woke capitalism,” some business advisers are urging clients to avoid talking about climate initiatives altogether.

Mapping superstorms at sea: Understanding the secrets of a warming ocean sometimes requires sailing straight into the biggest hurricanes. It can be a wild ride.

Common-sense compost tips: Don’t fixate on details. Just do it, and focus on the big picture.

Land of the free parking: In “Paved Paradise,” Henry Grabar examines how America’s obsession with parking has transformed streets and cities, none of it for the better.

Jigar Shah runs a federal program that suddenly has a gusher of money to lend before the next election. As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress supersized his agency’s authority to arrange loans for clean energy companies, increasing it tenfold to more than $400 billion. The task comes with enormous expectations — and high stakes.

Claire O’Neill, Chris Plourde and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *