Working the Presidio Graduate School Network to Find a Job You Love: 10 Tips to Finding a Job in Sustainability
by Erin McNichol (C21)
This week we reached out to four Presidio Graduate School students to hear their recent job hunting success stories. Current students Hannah Greinetz (C19), Sherrie Totoki (C21), Udi Lazimy (C21) and Gerilyn Denny (C22) shared their tips for landing jobs, including the importance of informational interviews, networking, and utilizing PGS resources to figure out what the right fit for them is and then find jobs that align with their passions.
Hannah Greinetz (C19), PACE financing
“Coming from a varied background of commodities trading and non-profit management, I knew that I wanted to use my time here to make a career pivot into the water sector. Recently, I landed a job at CleanFund Commercial PACE Capital, Inc, a job that has great long term potential for me, operates in my field of interest, and challenges me every day that I walk in – I’m loving it. Property Assessed Clean Energy or (PACE) is a means of financing energy efficiency upgrades or renewable energy installations for buildings. While that doesn’t sound exactly like the water sector, from the perspective that I’ve gained at PGS, it’s the perfect place for me to affect the changes I see necessary for our water system.”
“I remember being on a hike with a good friend and PGS alumna when she asked me what my strategy was for my job search. By the time we had looped the Headlands, I knew how I was going to find leads on jobs (indeed.com alerts, my networks, and two networking events per month), how I was going to follow them (mine LinkedIn for ANY connection to the company, get connected, and ask for an informational interview), and that my goal was ultimately to find a job, but in the meantime it was to get as many interviews at interesting companies as possible. I interviewed a lot over the next following two months, and I learned during some of those interviews that the job or the company wasn’t right for me. I also learned a lot about the sector I wanted to work in, which helped me further distill my job search, and I learned how to sit in an interview and listen to what’s being said across the table rather than feeling like I need to prove myself – the right fit is mutual.”
“The upshot for me is to stick with what you know you want, even if that’s not a whole lot. As soon as you get out there and start sifting through the thousands of jobs and the many people willing to help along the way, doors start opening (and closing!) and you start learning. Don’t fall into the mindset of applying for or accepting anything, and have the courage to turn down offers that fall outside of what you want. Dawn Mokuau, PGS’ Associate Director, Student Affairs and Career Development, was also a huge resource in helping me get my resume polished up, distilling my particular combination of skills and passions, and lining those up with jobs in my field of interest.
Udi Lazimy (C21), Global Plant Sourcing Specialist
Udi Lazimy is the Global Plant Sourcing Specialist at Hampton Creek, a quickly-growing food company based in San Francisco, where he works with farmers to drive Hampton Creek’s innovative plant-based food research and product development. Udi landed an internship with Hampton Creek in his first year at PGS, which quickly turned into a full-time position. His background is largely working with farmers, sustainability agricultural advocacy and legislation, such as the Farm Bill, which directs nutrition and agriculture in America, including serving as the National Grassroots Advocacy Director at the Organic Farming Research Foundation. “My background is in activism,” says Udi and “I feel very lucky to find jobs that would pay me.” For anyone that wants to break into this industry Udi offers this advice, “Talk to as many food producers as possible” and see if they have jobs or are willing to create positions, “you can also get in touch with us, we’d love to help out.”
Click here to listen to Udi’s podcast with Equity Opportunity Summit’s Food & Equity series here to hear the whole story and what Hampton Creek is doing to challenge the status quo and change the food system.
Sherrie Totoki (C21), Sustainability Consulting
“Quitting a secure, well-paid corporate job at a reputable company was one of the scariest decisions of my life. However, it was also one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Leaving a full-time role that was unrelated to my passion allowed me to focus on what I really wanted, it also gave me the time to obtain LEED accreditation, and spend the summer in Hawaii working for another PGS alum.”
“When I was going through the admissions process at PGS, Bethany connected me to alum, Kainoa Casco (C13), also from my home state of Hawaii. Through this initial introduction, I stayed in touch, and obtained a summer internship with a start-up called Susty Pacific. The company focuses on sustainability consulting initiatives with large clients across Hawaii. This was my first role in sustainability, and gave me the real-world experience of understanding stakeholder engagement, reporting standards, and benchmarking strategies.”
“When returning to San Francisco after the summer, I continued to seek out opportunities related to sustainability initiatives. Through, a fellow PGS teammate, Erin McNichol (C21), I obtained an introduction and eventually landed a part-time associate consulting role with Nutter Consulting. While I am new in this role, I believe the PGS peer connections and work through group projects landed me here. I work with two other outstanding Presidians, and have the opportunity to work on projects with clients that include the SF Department of Public Health, NRDC, USDN, and SunRun. I had an initial phone interview with my current boss, and was able to express my passion for the sustainability industry through my experiences here at PGS. I believe that quitting my job, and transitioning to full-time at Presidio Graduate School, showed my employers that I was committed to being successful in a sustainability related role; to pursue opportunities that better match my career aspirations.”
“I am still at the beginning of my journey in a new career, but being able to dedicate my time fully to an industry I believe has exposed me to more opportunities than if I had stayed in my safe, traditional 9-5 role.”
Gerilyn Denny (C22), Impact Investing
“At the end of 2013 I decided to take a plunge into the unknown. I quit my job as an institutional stockbroker where I was charged with selling equity research to money managers on the West Coast. I had spent the prior year researching climate change and felt that pitching fossil fuel-related stocks (one of the industries we were producing research on at the time) was directly opposed to my newly acquired beliefs. When you are a sales person, it helps immensely to believe in the quality of your product, and it’s miserable if you don’t! I decided to take some time to find a path that could still utilize some of my experience and skills within the equity markets, but that aligned me more with a purpose of making the world a more sustainable place.”
“I found Presidio Graduate School after meeting some of the students who were manning a booth at Fort Mason’s Green Festival. I decided to apply and within a few weeks found myself as a proud member of Cohort 22 at PGS going for my MBA in Sustainable Management. I still recall the feeling of ‘finding my tribe’ as I met with other students at orientation. Being surrounded by like-minded and passionate change-makers created a fertile learning ground. Being a PGS student allowed me to gain fresh perspective and knowledge in subjects like Principles of Sustainable Management, Quantitative Methods, Accounting and Effective Management Communications & Action. The subject matter was forward-thinking, and also helped me to acquire a younger mind-set, which I believe set me apart from others applying to the financial advisor role at a top-tier wealth management firm.
I actually created my own perfect job by picking the firm I wished to work for, reaching out to branch managers in the offices of the city I wished to be in and setting up meetings to do informational interviews. I told them I wanted to specialize in Socially Responsible or Impact Investing and that I wanted to enter their training program to pick up some additional licenses to the ones I already had. Imagine my surprise when I got a verbal offer during my first meeting! I believe the skills I gained at PGS were instrumental in allowing me to create this reality.”
These are but a few of the inspiring career development stories that span the entire PGS network. Many of the positions we are going after have been recently created or are being created for us. All of these students utilized their network and social media to make connections. Some even made jobs for themselves through internships and informational interviews. From impact investing to corporate sustainability directors, intrepreneur roles at large companies or starting our own companies we are an impressive bunch determined to make a difference in our world!
10 Tips to Finding a Job in Sustainability:
1. BECOME A PRESIDIAN!
- If you aren’t already look into joining one of Presidio Graduate School’s innovative MBA, MPA or Certificate research programs to transform business and public policy and create a more just, prosperous and sustainable world. Contact Director of Admissions Kari Dorth @ email@example.com or request info.
2. USE PGS RESOURCES:
- Take full advantage of PGS resources, such as the tirelessly helpful Dawn Mokuau, Associate Director of Student/Alumni Affairs and Career Development. Attend PGS events for knowledge and networking and frequent the eLearn career development portal for job and internship alerts. Leverage PGS peers, alumni, faculty, staff or other connections to get company introductions, even if you are not looking at a specific open position.
3. LEARN BY WORKING
- Co-create your PGS experience by bringing on Experiential Learning partners and projects of interest.
4. LIVE YOUR PASSION
- Learning extends beyond the classroom! Join associations of interest and attend industry-relevant Meetup groups and networking events.
5. START EARLY
- Email employers a general resume or cover letter indicating interest or asking for an “informational interview.” This can lead to a job being created for you or to one down the line.
6. AUTOMATE YOUR SEARCH
- Use sites like LinkedIn and Indeed to set job search preferences and save jobs that look good. The websites will learn what you like and start making better suggestions for you. Use keywords in your profile to make yourself searchable to recruiters.
7. FIND FITTING FORUMS
- Idealist and Ecojobs are great for green jobs (in addition to our robust Elearn job forum). They are more likely to have fellowships, volunteer opportunities, and non-traditional postings. Also be sure to sign up for industry-specific listservs.
8. DO YOUR RESEARCH
- Follow companies you’re interested in on Glassdoor to receive digest emails of updates to the companies, including salaries, reviews and interview reviews and typical interview questions.
9. STALK FAVORITE COMPANIES
- Some employers don’t advertise all of their openings on sites, so it is often best to go to company careers pages or even to reach out to hiring managers periodically after you’ve had an informational interview.
10. 3Qs – QUICK, QUANTITY, & QUALITY
- Once you’re in the process of applying, earlier applications have better chances, so don’t spend too long crafting each one. Do however, make sure they’re typo-free and to the point.