Fundamentally, are there real, core- level differences between a regular resume and a green resume?”
Initially, I thought, “no.” I figured that it was mostly the content within the document that differed. I assumed that the standard rules applied – talk the talk (“lingo”) for your industry, be professional, show experience and emphasize how you stand out. But the more I started thinking about this, the more I couldn’t rest on those assumptions. So, I went on a little journey to see if there was more to writing a green resume. A few conversations, experiments, and hypothesis tests later, I discovered some fundamental differences between a regular resume and one that targets the new “green” fields.
To help with this, I consulted a few recruiting friends in the green industry world to help with a green resume, and I also pulled from my own experience. When I thought I had it close to right, I did a few experiments in which I sent two different resumes to the same company, for seven different companies. By using a unique phone number and email address on each of the two resumes, I could see which ones got results.
So let’s start with a bit of important psychology: To really understand how these orgs are different, think about the fundamental DNA of their organizations. These aren’t “big 3” accounting firms. How might this affect what they are looking for in a candidate, and how you might approach them?
Green fields often have some unique underlying traits that bring together several common industry elements otherwise rarely found together:
Greater Good – Cutting Edge – High Demand – Grassroots
Greater Good – If your idea of fun is a roadside cleanup or a spring break to help others, you’re on the right track. These companies might not have the highest pay possible. They might not have the most luxurious offices with massage chairs. But they will have a team of people brought together by a common, unifying purpose, and the energy (and results) you will share with them will be second to none
Cutting Edge – Green organizations need a lot of thought leaders, independent thinkers, and people that are current or ahead of the curve in whatever they do. You need to have an overarching understanding of the green industry and then a specific understanding of the particular segment you are in (or entering). “Passion” comes to mind here, as it often effortlessly results in these traits.
High Demand – It’s a zoo out there, with a lot of qualified people. What sets you apart? What gives you an edge? If you have the same grades from the same program of study as the next person, what can (or did) you do that gives you the edge? Think in terms of value, too. Why would you be more valuable? Is it your experience? Your passion? Your skills? In what ways will you go above and beyond to land that opportunity?
Grassroots - This needs to appeal to you, and you need to understand (and excel in) this culture. You also need to think differently. What might work for an advertising initiative for Coke-Cola is probably not what you should bring to the table at 350.org. You’ll need to specifically demonstrate your desire to make the difference.
Greater Good – You need to demonstrate that you share this greater-good philosophy. Actions speak louder than words, so what in your resume explains this through action? Think in terms of experience, clubs, associations, volunteer, and non-work activities, and emphasize these points.
Cutting Edge – You need to show publications, presentations, leadership positions, and/or other proof that you too are cutting edge. If you are a student, relevant coursework, events, and seminars are a good starting point. Did you do an independent study course on a topic? Complete a senior thesis?
High Demand – If you have it, flaunt it. Emphasize awards, recognitions, and successes. As I talk about in 20 Minute Resume, here is where you need to really perfect those “work impacts.” Also, simple things like good proof reading can keep your resume out of the trash can. How else can you set yourself apart? Think outside of the box. Attend meetings that the company is attending and get face time with them. Look within your network (LinkedIn, for example) for connections. Just how marketing initiatives need 7+ impressions to be remembered, you and your resume are not much different in this climate.
Grassroots - First, your resume needs to show that you “get” what grassroots is. If your only experience is with a Fortune 100 company, do you really think this green organization will believe that you can relate to a scrappy, cost conscious, trend breaking culture? Probably not. You need to prove your desire to make a difference. This is a good topic for your objective statement or cover letter. Then, emailing it once probably won’t work. You have to be grassroots in your effort to get noticed. I’m talking about emailing, then calling, visiting, and other outside-the-box avenues to getting that exposure.
So with those fundamentals in mind, how does this change your approach when designing your resume to them? Hopefully, you’re thinking about the big picture – how you come across on paper. Also, think about the details – what sort of paper it’s actually printed on. Chances are that a bright-white card stock will get less attention than a 100% post consumer fibrous non bleached choice. Interesting huh? I’m not suggesting you use a recycled grocery bag. It still needs to be professional. But conscious choices like these can be the small differentiating factor that peaks a recruiters interest enough to invite you in for an interview.
Lastly, one size does not fit all. You need to understand the organization. Is it a startup or is it well established? Is it really mature and focused, or in a time of change and flux? Tailoring your green resume package to these observations will make you relevant to the recruiter that receives your resume. If you fit with them, you’ll get that interview invitation.
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