Thursday, February 5, 2009

Choose your market

I'm not talking about choosing where to buy your groceries. I'm talking about putting a little thought into where you want to end up when you get out of college. So many students come rifling out of college with degrees in hand and no idea where to land. This is partially because career services offices are not doing a good job, but also because students often fail to think about what's happening around them.

Take myself for example, once I finally decided on a degree in undergrad I thought my work was done and the rest would fall into place when I had the coveted diploma. Wrong. In order to realize where you want to be when your done with school you need to see where the economy is going. What's hot and what's not. This is a very speculative process and involves a little risk, but what in life doesn't, right? I realized this just in time to catch the hot market, or what will be when I finish Law School-environmental law. To find yours I suggest this:

(1) Use the web. Start seeing what kind of careers are out there in your specialty area, or more importantly, what type of job (arena) you want to build your life around. Blogs are great for this, here is a good one.

(2) Find the top three areas within your preferred "landing strip" that are most important. For example my interest was in the environment the leading sectors for environmental jobs are: government (EPA, etc.), non-profit organizations (Sierra Club, etc.) and private sector jobs (law firms, and "green start-ups" for example). After you identify these areas do some research on what each sector is like in comparison with what you are seeking in your career (pay, team or singular responsibilities, research skills, social responsibility, etc.) After you do that you should be able to eliminate at least one sector from your running.

(3) Network within your chosen arenas. I know this part sounds like the worst part but it's actually really easy. The opportunity to network is best captured while you are in school. Professors are goldmines for this, talk to them outside of class, you will enjoy it trust me. Talk to professors that you don't have class with. Look for ways to get out in the community and test the waters. For me, this meant going to community meetings where environmental topics were at issue these bring together a wide range of interests, if your shy its best to approach someone you thought was of interest at the end (that's what I did). Email people you really idolize; you'd be surprised who will respond and care. (Ex. I had to write a paper and emailed a scholar who's blog I am a fan of and lo and behold, he has been helping me with the whole thing and opened multiple doors for me, cool thing is we've never met!).

(4) Ask for mentors, this is huge. It is important because it will be a skill that you carry over into your professional life. Employers want people who are ready to take on challenges, but also respect the process. That means you have to realize that you have a lot to learn. Getting a mentor is a great way to do this, even if they are not at your chosen place of work or even chosen profession. It is important to remember that this step is one that you fully maintain, so it helps both show and build responsibility.

(5) Ask tough questions. It is important that you ask the questions that are important to you, and sometimes this is hard to do. It is important that you get a feel for what the profession is like so that you can really tell if it is for you or not. This means asking about people's level of happiness with thier job and reflections about the market's future. Also, ask tough questions of yourself, don't just follow the herd, imagine your life and make it happen.

These tips are just a few things to get you thinking about where you are going to end up when you change lanes to the real word.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Striking a new chord

I've decided that since this is my first attempt at blogging that limiting myself to a specific topic might take away my ability to post more often. That said, I'd like to discuss a thought...

I was thinking about something I was told that seems to be rather applicable to "climate" in America right now. It stems from something that one of my professors told me when I first started law school.

The atmosphere for new law students is one rife with uncertainty. Naturally, your first move is to find someone, somewhere to tell you what it is like. So like all other 1L's (first year law students) I was looking for any kind of advice to help me deal with my new environment. I found it everywhere blogs, book, and every opinionated law student were dumping the "must do's and don'ts" on me like bombs. Then my Torts professor gave me the best piece of advice ever--be careful who you take advice from.

Today people are getting rich on self help and career advice. This is not to say that it is not helpful to some. The reason that people eat this advice up is because we stopped making the hard choices that life asks us everyday. This is why America is overweight, undereducated, over opinionated, and caught in an economic tornado. We have stopped asking ourselves the tough questions, and instead take the easy path. We take the easy way to dinner, the easy way to our finances, the easy way through school, and without hard work our nation and lives will stay stuck.

Talk is cheap, action speaks. As I struggle through law school I have learned that advice is weightless until I supply the substance. No single piece of advice has helped me get to where I am today without the hard work I filled it in with. Life is hard, it takes a lot of work to achieve your goals but that is the road to self discovery. I can't help but wonder why our culture has stopped pushing each other to find a way. The easiest answer is never the best answer, its only the easiest.

So if you are a new grad, a student, or someone looking for new work remember who you take advice from and answer the hard questions yourself; because the hard decisions you face are yours and yours only. Realize that you are the maker of your destiny.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why Do We Love to Ignore Al Gore?

Gore addressed Congress Wednesday arguing that the Senate adopt President Obama's economic stimulus plan. The plan includes investments in energy efficiency, clean cars, a smart grid, and renewables. Gore urged Congress to adopt the bill, but will they listen? And second, if this artillery is brought forward will Americans be willing to accept the sacrifices it will take to get this country weaned off of oil. As it most certianly not be easy since we have no model to base our success upon.

Those issues aside, Al Gore has done more to enlighten this country to the perils of climate change than any other environmentalist to date. Yet, we continue to ignore his (and) others pleas for action. I can't help but wonder why we love to applaud his commendable efforts and at the same time brush off what is at the heart of his arguments.

My first answer to this question is, simply, that we as a nation have grown accustomed to seeing Al lose. Ever since his failed attempt at the Presidency back in 2000 (his fault or not) we just can't picture him as a leader. My beef with that conclusion, however, it that I hope we Americans just aren't that mean. Everybody fails sometime. The fact that he lost the battle for the nation's highest office may be exactly what he needed to renew his conviction to bring attention to what, I argue, is America's greatest challenge and win the Nobel Prize.

My second answer is that maybe those leaders, on whom we depend on to bring in the heavy policy artillery needed to begin this battle, have just grown too accustomed to hearing his pleas--thus, losing their vigor. Gore has, after all, been fixture in American politics for over 20 years. Again, I find this unpersuasive because America has been listening to the voices of many political mainstays for just as long, if not longer (especially on economic policy i.e. Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney).

My final conclusion is that its not Al Gore, it is the packaging in which he brings his message. Americans have been listening to the doom/gloom of global warming for so long that it has lost its luster. It seems that the only remaining option is to repackage the idea. What we can learn from those proponents (see above) of laissez faire economics is that, any doom and gloom associated with your ends can't be the focal point of your address. The focus has to be the benefits, not the costs. To date, we don't, as Americans, have a vision for what our "New America" would look like. We need something to look forward to.

Sorry Al, maybe, just maybe, this time we will listen, but if not maybe it's time for some new advertising.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

America's New Hope

Today, I return to writing after the world witnessed one of the most historic shifts in political office to date. I maintain a cautious optimism for the future of our nation. As the President (that feels good) reminded us the strength of our nation lies not only with those in Washington, but in the citizenry and our ability to affect change.

So while today we take in the moment, we must know that like our Commander-in-Chief the work of rebuilding our nation begins tomorrow. This is particularly important for the youth of our nation. The environmental movement is only as strong as those who will sustain its future. It is imperative that we move forward as a nation making the sacrifices it takes to live a smarter more efficient lives.

If there was ever a time for the environmental movement to make its case, it begins tomorrow. Just like getting in shape, it will take hard work, sacrifice, and resolve; but the end result will be a healthier America. Let it begin.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is the way out of recession through a new economic perspective?

In a recent article on Yale Environment 360 author Richard Conniff suggests that Congress adopt a set of criteria that would assess how "green" proposed projects actually are. Arguably the reason we are in this recession is partially because our government has not been accountable for how its spending taxpayer money to begin with. Conniff specifically points out that our current transportation formula is based on the 1980's package established under Reagan. A formulation that calls for 80/20 highway/transit allocation of spending. The way out of oil-addiction should not be be based on a spending plan that's almost three decades old.

The only issue that I have with this idea, is that it assumes that our proper economic system is capable of determining the proper valuation of what is "green" and what is not. The idea that we need a way to adapt our economic system to properly account for the environmental functions is not a new one. While I was in college I took a course on Ecological Economics. The concept challenges the way we value resources by taking into perspective the environmental costs that go in to their production. The contrast with the classical economic system we use today is that resources are valued based on the premise that we have enough for sustained growth; where ecological economics values resources based on sustainable growth via the three pillars of sustainable growth.

My argument is this, while creating some kind of "green" score would be a good approach to making sure that we spend our money in a more environmentally friendly way, why not take it to the next level. Why not abandon the classical model of economics and adopt one that looks at the real natural costs of what it takes to run our society? If we are truly trying to end our addiction on oil we need to also end our addiction to an economic system that skews the way we value environmental functions. If we are going to attempt to curb the reach of global warming we need to big changes. Scores are good but only if they can reflect the true value of what impact those programs will have on our natural capital.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cancer and Climate Change?

Cancer is a word now common to our vocabulary just like global warming. But what is their connection? Cancer is devastating disease that has increasingly impacted too many individuals and families. Global warming is a global phenomenon that will affect us all without treatment. Conceptually, they are the same, something foreign that has potentially devastating effects to the necessary functions of our life support systems.

It is often argued that global warming is a farce because we do not feel the effects. This is for two reasons: The first reason we don't always feel its effects is because it is not an attack on our systems, instead it is us attacking. Second, we are talking about long-term effects that will effectively disable or seriously disrupt some of the planet's most important atmospheric, biological, and hydrological functions; gradual changes not apparent in our everyday lives. This is not unlike cancer it eventually starts out as a minor disruption in our body that eventually if left untreated devastates our biological functions.

How we solve our climate change problem will be very similar to battle to overcome cancer. Survivors of the disease may be some of our best allies in this war because they are familiar with the sacrifices it takes. Cancer survivors understand that the immediacy with which they pursued treatment greatly affected their ability to over come the disease. It was the help and support that they received from everyone around them. I was the help of experts and science.

Unfortunately, this is not always enough. But that is not our diagnosis. The science and experts are telling us that we can beat this if we take action. The problem is that we must shift from being the comfortable aggressor to the recovering patients. So where can we look for strength?

Survivors. We have a new moral and ethical obligation on our hands one that requires a complete restructuring of the way we live. So let's let those who have overcome such a terrible disease be beacon as we attempt to navigate to a new future. As survivors know; the ability to overcome first requires the ability to change.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa's suit is red but his idea is 'green"

This holiday season brings a lot to think about. With the tough times we are all trying to cut back. My family has decided to forgo the presents and enjoy the company. I know we are not the only ones going this route. I can't help but wonder if this will become the new Christmas tradition? For me as a struggling student, this means more than just a weight off my pocketbook, it makes the holidays a more welcome time.

Don't get me wrong, as a child Christmas and my Birthday were two of the most exciting days of my life. As I grow older, however, it just seems to add more stress. The first stress of it all is shopping, I never know what to get, nor do I ever know what I want. Part of this may be because my stress level is already at it max trying to deal with law school exams. The other stress is because of what I've seen Christmas become throughout my life.

It begins with the day after we all come together to give thanks for all the blessings we have had in our lives during the past year. We celebrate and then flock to the stores all for preparation for what is supposed to be one of the most sacred times of year (both Christian and Jewish). Along the way we do almost anything (even kill) to complete our consumerist ritual. Then on Christmas day we tear them all open in a flurry of emotion. For me this was always the best and the worst part. We all like to get something as well as see the joy in the faces of those we give to (best part). The worst part was after it was all over, whats left a giant pile of trash.

The real conflict is this, how can I rationalize trying to become a more eco-conscious citizen when I participate in a holiday that generates so much waste. Its not that my family had so much trash, it is that a majority of families are all generating so much waste. A single day can make me cancel out half of a years attempts at living more sustainably. I'm not trying to be a Scrooge, it is just that a little reflection might help us all realize how ridiculous and out of proportion our consumerism has gotten.

Lest we forget that the whole notion of Santa is that he and his elves make all the presents they give. It would seem that we have taken the spirit from what even Santa wants Christmas to be about. This year I'm looking forward to the tradition of getting back to what the Holidays are all about, that is, making memories and spending time with those I love. I may not come bearing presents, but without a doubt I will bring more of the gifts that really matter: happiness, joy, laughter, and plenty of hugs for the ones I love; wouldn't you know they are all free.