The U.S. hiring market continues to be strong with near-record low unemployment that has been hovering around 3.8% for months and a low overall labor participation rate of 62.8%.
This trend is even more acute within renewable energy, where the hiring is hot and shows little sign of slowing down. With all of the investments in U.S. manufacturing and supply chain thanks to the IRA, we will be seeing an influx of manufacturing jobs on top of the project management, engineering, sales, finance, installation and maintenance jobs that are already in demand.
Solar installers and wind technicians have been two of the fastest-growing jobs for years, and there’s a serious shortage of electricians and electrical engineers to help design and install the renewable energy we need to transition off of fossil fuels. As an industry, we need to bring in individuals from outside and get them up to speed quickly. This also means that the basic principles of supply and demand drive up compensation and competition for experienced professionals.
Whether you are already in the industry and thinking about making a career change or looking to jump into renewable energy from another market, here are some tips from a recruiter to help you secure the job you want.
1. Be specific
Be specific about what you are looking for and where you can add the most value.
Ultimately, companies hire people to solve business problems. A great starting point is knowing where you can add the most value to an organization and what kind of organizations and teams you thrive in.
We often hear from people who say they want to work in renewable energy in any role. They just want to get into the market. While that is great to hear and being flexible and versatile are valuable traits, it makes it hard for an organization to figure out where you fit if you can’t tell them where you can help and where your experience is transferable. This can confuse hiring managers and interview teams, especially if they are talking with other candidates who can articulate exactly what they do and where they can help.
Be specific about what kinds of roles you are looking for and create stories and a narrative around how your previous experience fits and how you can add value to an organization and solve their problems.
You know the old adage – your network is your net worth. Companies know that some of the best hires come from internal referrals from existing employees. Leverage your network and contacts in the industry so they know you are open if anything comes up within their organizations.
If you are already interviewing somewhere, try to find someone you know from the team who can give you a good recommendation and advocate for you internally.
If you are trying to break into the industry and don’t have many established contacts, get on LinkedIn and start making connections with people. Find some of the organizations you are interested in and start following them. Reach out and connect with people there – especially individuals already in the roles you are interested in.
If you start communicating with their company and employees online they are likely to have a positive impression of you if you get an opportunity to interview with them.
Find people that are in the roles you are interested in. If you are bold enough, maybe even send them a note saying something like,“I see you have been at First Solar for three years. I am looking to transition into a role like yours in your company or in renewables and wanted to connect.” You may find that many people are willing to help and network.
Of course, reaching out to recruiters who specialize in renewable energy or the specific types of roles you are interested in can be a huge help as well. Great recruiters can help give you access to more information about specific roles and companies and make sure your information gets to the people making the hiring decisions.
3. Do your research
No matter what company, function, or market segment you are looking into, make sure you understand the landscape. Who are the major players? What are the biggest challenges those organizations and customers are facing? What problems do these companies solve? How can you leverage your background and experience to add value?
You don’t have to know every detail, but when you go in for an interview, you need to be prepared and show that you understand their market and challenges so that you can describe how you can help them. Create a list of companies that you would like to work for and follow them.
Find ways to get functional experience: Look at internship opportunities and training providers like the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). If you are looking to get into system design, engineering or installation, look at NABCEP certification.
Absorb knowledge so that when you are interviewing, companies can be confident that you can learn and get up to speed quickly.
4. Don’t try to change industries and functions at the same time
Changing industries can be hard. Changing functions (such as from sales to project management or engineering) can be hard. Changing both at the same time is almost impossible and is a recipe for a long search process.
It is much easier to walk into an interview in a new industry in a role you are familiar with. There are certainly nuances and differences between commercial construction and solar construction, but their core principles are similar. At the right organization and with solid training, the ramp-up time can be reasonable. But If you have never had any construction project management experience, it would take years to become proficient in solar construction.
5. Be patient
A job search takes time and can be a very emotional process. Give yourself some patience and understand that it may take months to find the right role. Not every company is the best fit for everyone and you may lose out on some jobs that you want. Keep your head up, stay positive and keep moving forward.
The interview process can be as valuable for you as it is for the company you are interviewing with. Take the opportunity to learn about the organization, its goals, challenges, and if it is a place where you can be successful. You must find a company that aligns with your values and where you will have the ability to learn and grow.
6. It’s not all about the money
I get it — we all work to make money. Money is a big motivator for most people, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you are evaluating when making a decision. We have seen multiple situations where someone was looking at multiple offers and took the highest one solely because it was the highest offer. Months later, they learned that the company was dysfunctional or desperate and running out of runway and the individual ended up leaving quickly or being laid off.
I’m not advocating that you take a role that is way below market, but you should evaluate the whole situation. Will you be learning valuable new skills you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to? Is there a real growth opportunity that you can leverage?
On top of salary, what does the rest of the package look like? Title, equity, stock, PTO and benefits are all super important things to consider and evaluate. One of the most important things to consider is whether can you be successful in the role and the company. Having the ability to execute and get tangible experience on large projects can be invaluable.