"How do I get a job in cleantech?"
"It's clear that the energy sector is ramping up. Do you have any advice for me as I look to transition into the industry?"This question and its many variants are posed quite often... People recognize the momentum that clean technologies, and in particular energy technologies, appear to be gaining, and they want to figure out how to get in.
So I wanted to take the opportunity to pass on the answers I usually give to such job-seekers, in case it's helpful. This advice is pretty basic; there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for job seekers, and luck always plays a huge factor in any job search. But below are my thoughts, limited insights, and good links for those looking for a new job in cleantech:
- Understand that it is not going to be easy to find a job in clean technologies right now. While the industry is growing quickly, interest among job seekers seems to be growing even faster. So plan your strategy accordingly: Cast your net wide, be patient, chase all leads that have potential, and hone your pitch well. You should also make sure that this is really the direction you want to go...
- Know what role you want to play. I often ask people, "are you a strong sales professional, an engineer with specifically relevant training, or a financial professional with a proven track record of driving transactions?" Right now in the industry, most of the available jobs seem to fall pretty clearly into one of these three categories. And yet often the response I get is unsure, vaguely defined, and often described as something along the lines of strategy, high-level marketing or business development. There aren't a lot of these kind of jobs out there. Aside from the initial senior management team, startups need to do three things: designing products, making products, and selling product. Investment shops need one thing: deal-makers. And larger firms are often not any less silo'd. In the future, you will probably see more jobs open up in manufacturing/ operations leadership, but again that requires specific training and experience.
- If you have the means, be willing to work on a contract basis, for little or no compensation, in order to get your foot in the door. Many people I know who have succeeded in breaking into the cleantech industry did so by consulting part-time, or doing projects on spec, and thus proving their capabilities and worth. Also consider: What does this point tell you about likely compensation even for full-time employees in the industry?
- Broaden your horizons beyond energy generation technologies. Many people want to get a job in solar, or fuel cells, or other high-profile industry segments. But many of the best jobs will actually be found in energy efficiency, in clean water technologies, in clean manufacturing, etc.
- If you can, be willing to relocate. Some may disagree, but there isn't strong clustering in clean technologies, at least as compared to other technology industries such as software, and at least not yet. Some areas are better than others (the Bay Area, the Boston area, the Pacific Northwest, to name a few), but if you want to maximize your chances, look wide and far. Some of the best opportunities are in Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, Kansas, etc.
- Network, network, network. Find a local cleantech-related professional networking organization (for example, here in the Bay Area there is the Renewable Energy Business Network - REBN), attend cleantech-related events, and make contact with people that you know who are already involved in the industry and can keep an eye out for opportunities that may fit you. Most jobs and consulting opportunities will come to you through someone else, who happened to know you were looking, and knew your general background and preferred role.
- Watch this space and other sources (some links are provided on the right) to see what companies have recently gotten funding -- they're the ones most likely to be hiring soon.
- Green Dream Jobs
- Renewable Energy Access
- There is a fairly comprehensive list of bay area clean energy firms and organizations at the end of this report (note, opens a pdf)
- There is a list of renewable energy events here.
- Renewable Energy Trust's links to renewable energy jobs.
- AWEA's wind energy employment links.
- Job Reservoir, for jobs in the water industry.