In a recent conversation with a young woman, I had an epiphany about why working in solar is good for the soul. She had just returned from volunteering in Greece to help Syrian refugees receive care and assistance upon entry into the country. While listening to her, I began to think that perhaps my job as a recruiter in alternative energy was just a self-serving, first-world problem solving endeavor. But from her perspective, the cause I was serving was just as relevant. She reminded me that, while I cannot go overseas right now to enlist my entire being into helping people caught in a catastrophic event, at least I was doing something that served the planet and mankind in a way that matters very much to many.
Then she inquired on my work in solar; how I got into it, who my clients are, and what types of roles I am called upon to fill. I admitted that solar is only 15% of my client profile. The rest is energy efficiency, wind, energy storage, hydroelectric, and I have a couple of robotics clients…just to keep me on my toes. But of all these, it is my work in the solar industry she most wanted to hear about.
What does this say to me, and what should it say to you?
To me it says a lot about perspective and meaningful association. Just by virtue of doing what I truly love (recruiting), and taking a little risk on something I believed in (renewable energy), I was able to build a career and a business to support my family, all the while being fully engaged in meaningful and soul-satisfying work. I love working with my solar clients and credit them every day with making our planet greener, brighter, and more hopeful with every newly bejeweled rooftop.
You want to know what it’s like to bring you “sol” to work with you every day? Here is a list of ways to find opportunities to increase your knowledge, education and candidacy in the solar industry:
College/University-based Solar Projects:
Many college students have listed projects in renewable energy on their resumes as a way to showcase their interest, passion and experience in working hands-on with solar, and other forms of renewable energy technology. If you are in junior or senior year, seek out these projects as a way to bolster your resume for marketing yourself into the solar workplace.
There are lots of ways to get early exposure to the basics of electrical work, the technical fundamentals of solar implementation and integration. Local vocational schools and adult evening classes are offered to give people an opportunity to learn a new trade or refresh their basic knowledge of circuitry, wiring and basic math for understanding how electricity works. Check with local your local high school and community colleges.
Engineering/Entry Level Solar Installation:
Graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering isn’t the only acceptable degree for solar. There are many solar engineers who have graduated with mechanical, civil and even structural engineering degrees, and are presently building robust careers in solar design and project management.
If sitting at a desk is the last thing you want to spend time doing, consider looking into solar installation, integration, construction and project management. There are multiple degree and certification programs to increase your candidacy for a hands-on position in solar. The CEM (Certification in Energy Management) or CCM (Certified Construction Manager) are just two certifications that can offer you the competitive edge for site-based positions. But if you’re handy and like wearing a tool belt, start out on the crew and learn solar from the ground up…literally!
Solar Sales/Entry through Mid-Level:
Every time a new bill proposing tax credits for solar is approved in a state, the entire solar community begins setting boots on the ground within that state. Also, keep your eyes and ears out for proposed tax credit extensions in places like New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. These companies need passionate and dedicated consultants to educate the residents and commercial business owners of these states. This is a face-to-face consultative role where you will meet and propose solutions for solar projects. This is a great way to get your feet wet in solar.
Project Management/Lighting Design:
This is a crab-like approach, sidling your way into the solar industry while still intentionally getting a lot of exposure to energy efficiency… the foundation to reforming our country’s energy utilization. Look at energy efficiency engineering firms that do comprehensive solutions, or you can consider firms that specialize in retrofitting and new construction of lighting projects. Google local businesses focused on this component of energy efficiency solutions.
Publications focused on Solar:
There are so many, but I like ‘North American Clean Energy’ is an industry trade magazine that focuses primarily on solar. It is chalk full of advertisements and articles written by solar industry experts. Great for gathering data and information on potential employers!
Apply for internship at a solar start up:
You may not love the idea of “volunteering”, so look out for those solar companies that do offer paid internships. This is the best way to get the experience you need to move your solar career forward.
Attend PV and solar events, building/energy efficiency events:
There are too many to list! But for starters, Feb. 25/26, Boston will host a PV tradeshow where many solar providers, OEM’s and trade organizations will be meeting, networking and discussing all things solar. Check it out! This is just one of many annual events and tradeshows planned for the Boston area in 2016/2017.
Whether you’re wrangling financial reports or racking systems, your impact on the environment is felt every day. In fact, each time someone flips a light switch in their solar-powered home or business, they’re investing in a bigger future payout for themselves and the environment. Not to mention, each year they pay less to the big utility companies is also contributing to everyone having a much sunnier disposition!
If a career in Solar or any of the renewable energy sectors intrigues you, feel free to contact me directly for insights on how to get involved:
Want more solar industry career advice? Join HeatSpring at #NationWISE 2016 for an evening of industry chats, networking and delicious food and drink.
Be sure to download our FREE Career Guide for Women in Solar for career guidance, salary negotiation tactics and tons of information about the industry…