Archive for February 18, 2009

Getting Technical: Solar Opportunities to Fit your Skill Set

dsc_1274Penned by Raj

In the renewable energy space, there is room for every kind of engineer – mechanical, civil, structural, electrical, chemical, and beyond.

Last week, I talked about starting to understand the solar industry and where you might fit in. The next step is to figure out where your individual skill set is most relevant.

Luckily for you, lots of job openings are available for engineers in all types of solar companies (check out our own site for several). The American Solar Energy Society’s site will also tell you which solar companies are hiring.

Click through a couple job descriptions and look at their core requirements — ignoring for now if they require a couple years or more of industry experience.

Which positions fit your academic background and degrees? Where do the skills you’ve gathered in traditional engineering roles seem to line up with what the solar company is looking for? Start to make a list of these parallels. Where you see shortcomings in your own knowledge of the areas, do research to fill in the gaps — this will help you build your familiarity with the solar space in a very targeted, time-efficient manner. Most importantly, understand that when an employer calls a skillset “required,” they mean it–don’t ignore the position requirements.

This exercise alone will help you get a feel for where you might eventually fit in to a solar company, and give you some short and medium-term goals to aim towards in terms of improving your skillset.

Generally speaking, we’ve seen folks transfer from solar thermal into photovoltaic, and vice-versa. Larger concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) positions draw on industrial project backgrounds. If you’re familiar with the public permitting process for a large refinery, for example, you can easily transfer your skills to a renewable energy firm looking to build a large commercial project in the deserts of California (or Dubai for that matter!).

Last but not least, know your audience. Engineers, in particular, make fact-based decisions. If you don’t have the 5+ years experience required, or never worked in power electronics, then don’t apply for the position if those are core requirements. The concept of a “performance profile” reigns supreme in the world of engineering. If you haven’t done it before, an employer’s not going to risk their business on allowing you to learn on their dime.

Be practical, stay focused, and think laterally–it’s a clear path towards your next solar engineering job.

Next week: Accreditations and classes to bolster your resume.

The American Solar Energy Society also has a
guide on how to step into a solar career.

February 18, 2009 at 5:25 pm 1 comment


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