More Advice for Landing a Job in Renewable Energy

Reader Contribution by Staff

In my last blog post on landing a job in renewable energy, I discussed the importance of obtaining training, especially hands-on training, to those interested in pursuing a career in solar electricity, wind energy, passive solar design, home energy efficiency and green building.

Remember, too, that you can learn a lot from a good book. In recent years, there’s been an outpouring of good books on the subject. I’ve spent the last decade writing on the subject to help fill the void.  If you’re interested in solar electricity, check out my newest book, Power from the Sun. If you are interested in small wind, check out Power from the Wind. If you are interested in green building or natural building, I’ve written a bunch on those subjects, too. But enough shameless self-promotion.

My second advice was to get a move on. In other words, get going, as there are many people just like you who are pursuing the same dream.  Get your training now.

But what else can you do?

Another important step toward finding employment is to get out and meet the professionals in the industry. Call for a brief appointment to talk with the owners of local renewable energy companies–installers, manufacturers, consultants, or whatever aspect you are interested in.

Remember, however, these are busy folks. Sometimes very busy. Try to make an appointment for a brief visit at their office. Don’t propose sitting down over a cup of coffee that you’ll buy–as many people do to me. (They want me to drive a half hour to meet them, chat for an hour over coffee, then drive home for a lousy cup of coffee!) Your $2 dollar cup of coffee won’t make up for the $100 to $200 we lose just getting to know with you.

So, call, ask for five minutes at their office at a time that’s convenient for them so you can introduce yourself. Bring an updated resume that lists the courses you’ve taken, especially installation courses. Bring a cup of coffee and a doughnut or a potted plant, perhaps.

Come well dressed and well groomed. Lead with a smile and a friendly hand shake. Don’t be pushy. Let the person know you are interested in a job and what your qualifications are. Point out your practical experience.

Remember, too, it’s not enough to say you’ve been interested in this field for 20 years. So have a million others. And, more important, why didn’t you get into the field 20 years ago like the guy or gal you’re talking too?

Long-standing interest always amuses me. Many of us have been in this field for a very long time, fighting crucial battles, earning next to nothing … we have the battle scars to prove it. And now all of a sudden, here you are, claiming this long-standing interest. It not only amuses me, it’s a bit irksome. I don’t know how others feel, but my guess is that it irks them a bit, too.

So, simply let your prospective employer know your profound interest in the field, what classes you’ve taken, what certificates you have obtained, and what hands-on training you’ve had.

And here’s a radical idea: If he or she says they’re not hiring right now, but maybe a few months, tell him or her you’d be interested in working as an unpaid intern for a month or two–if you can afford the time.

“I’ll work for nothing” demonstrates a profound interest. You’ll surely get noticed.  If the prospective employer agrees, you’ll learn a lot, too. If you work hard and appear to be a great employee, you may land a job at the end of your internship.

Besides meeting face-to-face with prospective employers, start attending national conferences on renewable energy like the American Solar Energy Society’s annual meeting. If you are interested in small wind, attend the small wind conference in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin in June each year.

More important, be sure to attend meetings of local renewable energy or green building groups, and be sure to attend their conferences. Shake hands, get to know the folks … you never know what might happen. You can easily locate renewable energy groups online. Check out your state chapter of the American Solar Energy Society as a starter. They’re listed on the ASES web site.  In my next blog, I’ll discuss the importance of certificates. Until then, happy job hunting.