Hope Connolly left her job with Trinity Consultants, a small environmental consulting firm in Princeton, a few months ago to spend time with her father, architect Hugh Connolly, who recently died.
The proactive young professional, now looking for a position in sustainability management at a large corporation, is setting up a chapter of Green Drinks, an international organization that sponsors casual networking sessions where environmental professionals can network and talk about the industry. “Some chapters have guest speakers from time to time,” she says, “but I will try to keep it low key rather than having a formal agenda.”
Connolly set the first meeting of Green Drinks for Wednesday, August 27, at 8 p.m., at Houlihan’s, 3357 Brunswick Pike, in Lawrenceville, and is promoting the meeting in print media as well as online via Facebook and Meetup, where people can search for get-togethers of interest by zip code and keyword.
Connolly emphasized that Green Drinks, which she actually meant to start before leaving her consulting position, is not just a job search venue, but a place to socialize and exchange ideas. “The environmental sector is so broad,” she says. “A lot of new ideas are coming out, and this is a great way to stay on top of new developments if you are in this field.”
Noting that all are invited, from college students to people who are senior in their field, Connolly says she expects the Green Drinks happy hours to continue monthly. “There is a huge interest in sustainability in our region in particular,” she says, noting that each town has a sustainability committee. Sustainability Lawrence, for example, a group of residents, businesses, congregations, and other organizations dedicated to creating a sustainable community in Lawrence Township, has a ton of programming and events she says.
Connolly has had some experience looking for work in the environmental sector that she shares:
Figure out what area you want to work in. “Unlike most fields, the environmental field is very broad and very new; it can span from nonprofits to government to academia,” she says, noting that the bottom line is figuring out what area of the field you’re interested in. “Shooting in the dark won’t help you.”
Learn about what the field needs and what the opportunities are. Ten years ago no company had a chief sustainability officer, but now many do. And this is only one among many new job titles and job descriptions. “A lot of typical job search avenues and advice doesn’t apply,” Connolly says. “You have to be constantly learning about what is happening because it is constantly changing and evolving.”
Keep yourself informed about new developments. You can’t depend on what you learned in college, but have to seek more informal paths to stay on top of things. “Stay on top of reports coming out from the United Nations and academic institutions,” Connolly says. “You have to stay informed yourself. Try to do it in your spare time: following blogs of movers and shakers in the field, subscribing on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.”
Connolly’s mother was a financial analyst for Bristol-Myers Squibb. A Hopewell native, Connolly first got interested in the environment at Hopewell Valley Central High School, where she joined the team for Envirothon, a national competition in environmental science run by each state’s Soil Conservation Service. Students compete via written and hands-on activities in forestry, soils, aquatics, and wildlife.
At Princeton University, she took classes like environmental engineering and ecology, wrote her senior thesis on using depleted oil wells for sequestration of carbon dioxide, and graduated in 2009 with a degree in chemical engineering.
In the past five years Connolly has worked for Accenture and smaller environmental consulting firms and earned a master’s degree in environmental engineering at Columbia University.
Connolly’s area of expertise is corporate sustainability. She helps big corporations figure out what their greenhouse gas emissions are, record them, and report them so that investors or other interested parties are aware of what each company is emitting. She explains that almost every major Fortune 500 company reports to the Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP, which is based in New York. Companies like Bloomberg, then, take the emissions data and roll it into company profiles that go out to investors.
“Even though all of the emissions reporting is voluntary at this point, a lot of investors, when they are trying to decide what companies to invest in, anticipate future regulations about either taxing emissions or putting a limit on them,” she says.