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Profession and Purpose

A Resource Guide for MBA Careers in Sustainability (2nd edn)

Sustainability holds the promise of an exciting new approach to business – one in which business goals are aligned with social and environmental goals. Multinational corporations are recognizing that we live in an increasingly resource-constrained world, and that more accountability for corporate social and environmental impacts will accrue to them. More importantly, forward-thinking executives understand that sustainability can present new opportunities for competitive advantage – whether that is by reducing costs, minimizing risk, appealing to increasingly conscientious customers, or reaching new markets entirely.

With the growth of this field comes a host of interesting new career opportunities for MBAs. As companies are grappling with challenges like how to develop social return on investment (SROI) metrics or understand the potential impact of corporate carbon footprints on stock prices, there are new opportunities for the next generation of managers – managers who are not only trained in traditional MBA fundamentals but also grounded in an understanding of the multifaceted social and environmental challenges facing 21st-century global business leaders. Entirely new career paths are opening to MBAs interested in sustainability: sustainable venture capital, green marketing, corporate social responsibility management, carbon credit trading, and sustainability consulting, to name a few.

Perhaps even more than corporate executives, MBA students understand this trend. The next generation of managers can see that the future of business will require a new set of skills and responsibilities. Between 2003 and 2008, membership in Net Impact, the global organization for MBAs and business professionals interested in sustainability, increased more than fourfold. By March 2009, over 130 business schools had a Net Impact chapter. Around the world, MBA students realize that a different model will be required for businesses in the coming decades.

The career paths that fall under the broad umbrella of "sustainability" are as diverse as the MBA students themselves. One student may be interested in social entrepreneurship in West Africa, and the next will be seeking advice about clean-tech venture capital careers in Silicon Valley; a third will be interested in greening global supply chains. Corporate social responsibility, sustainable product marketing, microfinance, green real estate development, renewable energy, and other interests all likewise fall under the sustainability umbrella at times.

Because of this diversity, it is often hard for business schools' career management centers to address sustainability-related career options in a comprehensive way. Many sustainability-related companies and nonprofits are not accustomed to on-campus recruiting. Others have not historically hired MBAs at all. MBA students and alumni interested in sustainability careers are often left to navigate their own internship and job search paths. And, often, they struggle.

Profession and Purpose has been written to address this urgent need. Whether you are focused on an off-campus search or participating in the on-campus recruiting process, there are a host of sustainability-specific career resources you should know about. You'll need to be well versed in sustainability news and trends, and network at the right events, conferences, and company presentations. You also need to know about industry- and discipline-specific websites that post sustainability jobs for positions with titles like Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Socially Responsible Investing Analyst, and Renewable Energy Market Analyst.

Through hundreds of conversations with MBA students, professionals, and recruiters, as well as her own personal experience, the author has compiled the key job search resources and tips for MBAs interested in sustainability careers. The book provides ideas for researching companies, making the most of your networking, identifying job and internship openings, and preparing for interviews.

No matter what stage of your MBA career search process you're in, this book will help you better understand your career options in the many fields of sustainability, direct you to the best resources and help you to fine-tune your sustainability job search strategy. It's the sustainability career coach MBAs have been waiting for.

I wish this book was available when I was in business school many years ago! Kross gives very practical and comprehensive advice for individuals looking to find a 'purpose driven' career in the world of business. This book is a must-have for recent graduates or mid-career professionals who want to advance their sustainable or social ideals in the workplace.

Leigh Stringer, The Green Workplace

No matter your timeline, personal passion, or background before business school, Katie’s book will lead you in the right direction. Through practical career advice, thorough field overviews, and engaging practitioner profiles, Katie’s book will help MBAs move forward.  You should read Profession and Purpose on the first day of business school orientation

Liz Maw, CEO, Net Impact

You – the mission-minded MBA – can use your skills to change the world. But first, you need to find the right job: one that keeps you engaged, learning, and contributing to causes you care about ... No matter your timeline, personal passion, or background before business school, Katie’s book will lead you in the right direction. Through practical career advice, thorough field overviews, and engaging practitioner profiles, Katie’s book will help MBAs move forward. You should read Profession and Purpose on the first day of business school orientation and re-read every semester of the MBA experience.

FULL VERSION Liz Maw, CEO, Net Impact

The opportunity for MBAs to make a real difference in the world through careers in sustainability is tremendous. Profession and Purpose is an essential resource for connecting MBA students and graduates with careers that will literally reinvent the way business is done in the future.

Hunter Lovins, Co-author of 'Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution'; Founding Faculty, Presidio Graduate School

Today's job seekers, from newly minted MBAs to mid-career changers, want more than a good job. They want to work for companies that are making a difference, that value people and the planet as much as they do profits. Profession and Purpose shows the way, helping MBAs forge a path to a job and a career that can make lasting change happen.

Joel Makower, Executive Editor, GreenBiz.com, and author of 'Strategies for the Green Economy'

Preface

About the author 

Acknowledgments 

Part I: Evaluating your options

Getting started: MBA careers in sustainability

What is sustainability?

Sustainable jobs and internship options

Framing your search

Tips for an off-campus job search

Making the most of informational interviews

Gaining experience

Getting to your dream job: Start with the end in mind 

Plan B?

A note about salaries

Staying the course 

Organizing your search

Part II: Navigating specific career paths 

Corporate sustainability & CSR

Sustainability consulting

Sustainable real estate & green building

Energy & cleantech

Green marketing

Environmental conservation/nonprofits

Social entrepreneurship & impact investing

Sustainable investing

Mission-driven business

Additional career paths

Part III: Job search resources 

Sustainable companies

Internet research resources

Job posting websites

Reports

Books

Events

Geographic search resources

KATIE KROSS is a sustainability practitioner, career coach and educator who has inspired hundreds of MBA students to go on to sustainability careers with Fortune 500 companies, social and environmental non-profits, mission-driven companies, and startups.

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