The resumes are flying with the slightly improved job market, and people have the luxury of making career choices for the first time since 2001. So instead of repeating the mistakes of the 1990s and simply going after the highest salary or biggest stock options, perhaps it's time to think about where we would best invest our time and talent. As engineers, we can play a role in building a better future by choosing to work for companies and ventures that are playing a positive role in the world.
Consider scrutinizing your potential employer as carefully as it scrutinizes you. Companies involved with energy conservation, renewable energy, environmentally responsible manufacturing and alternatives to nonrenewable resources are all good bets.
But even if your career search doesn't uncover a job at a corporation that's directly involved with developing green technologies, it's a good bet that you can find a company that demonstrates a good understanding of its responsibilities to its employees, customers and society.
Be sure to ask a potential employer how the company incorporates energy conservation, recycling and other sustainable practices into its core operational practices. Since most companies adopting those practices report increased profitability, the answers to those questions can also hint at what your raises might look like.
There are many other ways in which your association with companies that have strong environmental and social commitments will pay dividends. Although the most tangible benefit is job satisfaction, there is also the matter of job security. Socially screened investment funds (such as the Calvert, Neuberger Berman and Working Assets funds) have discovered that they enjoy better long-term returns and less volatility because their investment targets tend to be better-managed companies that make better strategic decisions. And since such green funds have already done much of the leg work, their portfolios make a great place to start when screening potential employers.
Another great place to check up on a potential employer is through its sustainability report. Growing numbers of publicly held companies are publishing reports on their environmental, and even social, performance. Once you carefully read a couple of companies' reports, it becomes relatively easy to read between the lines and determine whether a company is simply trying to "greenwash" itself with pretty but meaningless facts and figures or whether it has made a long-term commitment to truly working on greening both the environment and its own bottom line. A quick search of a company's Web site is usually an easy way to find a company's sustainability report as well as any other social or environmental policies. If your search fails to turn up anything that inspires you, you might want to consider finding a company with a report that does.
By making sure a company's values are in line with yours, you are making an investment in a happier, more secure career for yourself and a brighter future for the next generation. You're also helping shape the direction of our industry by voting with your feet to support the companies that behave as if there is more to life than the next quarter's profits.
You can reach Lee with comments, questions or green career opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.