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Finding Your Career Path in Energy Management
The energy field is expanding and creating many new career opportunities. Already I have seen new fields of jobs not only in energy, but in manufacturing and high-tech facility management, which expands the scope of an FM’s duties as well as the need for qualified energy managers. Perhaps due to some of these shifts and changes within the facility management field, it is likely that some existing jobs will become obsolete and that your career may need to shift likewise.
A good starting point is acquiring education and knowledge in some of these new aspects of facility management. Because the energy field is expanding, we need more experts on the newer subjects. It’s important to differentiate your knowledge by having a degree, certificate, or some accreditation (especially if you lack experience). For example, if you want to become an HVAC technician/consultant or an energy manager, you might want to pursue some training and certifications from BOMA, AEE, and USGBC. Examples of these earned titles include Certified Energy Manager, Certified Measurement and Verification Professional, and LEED Accredited Professional (AP).
If you seek a career in the sustainability field, you should be aware of the relevant regulations, industry standards, and trends. You should learn and study terms like corporate social responsibility and scope 1 emissions, understand what they represent, and know how to report them. On these topics, the Certified Carbon Reduction Manager Program may help you learn the necessary skills that lead to high-value jobs.
If you require more basic training, there may be subsidized opportunities in your area. Some states have re-training programs that offer free classes. For example, in Los Angeles from 2009-2011, I taught a few workforce development courses on carbon and energy. They were 5-day training classes provided at no cost to the students. Although that training opportunity has expired, I have seen similar examples in other states.PageBreak
Once you’ve developed a working knowledge of the new aspects of facility management, the next step is finding a job (see Top 5 Jobs in Facility Management). A good way to stay abreast of new jobs and business opportunities is to attend conferences or trade shows within your industry. As I write this, I am attending the annual GlobalCon Energy Conference, which has a free exposition with hundreds of different vendors all displaying what they do and how they add value to the marketplace. There is also a Career Center with job postings, networking events, and other ways to identify career opportunities. They even have free training sessions on a variety of topics on the show floor. I have seen similar learning experiences at other technical shows, and if you just walk around and observe, you can get a good glimpse of different career paths and opportunities.
If you cannot attend a large conference due to travel or time constraints, you can also attend less expensive, local conferences (or even upcoming Earth Day shows) that are similar and may provide some ideas. In addition, you can engage the career discussion online via a LinkedIn group or local trade meetings. GreenDrinks.org is an example of a social network that meets about once per month in many cities world-wide.
After identifying the types of jobs you want to pursue, you may want to give them a trial run by volunteering or interning just to try it out. If it's a fit for you, some companies will hire you after the trial, because they will be able to see the passion in your work and understand the value you can provide. This is a small investment of your time that can have long-term rewards, especially if you currently lack experience in some of the new fields out there. From an employer’s perspective, by volunteering, you are showing commitment to that field, which they should recognize as a prerequisite for success.PageBreak
In conclusion, it is critical that you discover your passion before you start looking for any specific job. Note that if you find it tedious to research and learn about a specific topic, then it may not be for you. Perhaps you can accelerate your career search by asking, What would I do if I had only 10 years to live? You may even develop a mission statement and that could inspire you and even potential employers.
I have been inspired by people who have a personal commitment to energy management. One consultant I work with developed an expertise in energy purchasing and has helped large corporations save millions. Another professional became the best in his field at combined heat and power and has traveled the world educating developing countries on how to do develop their energy infrastructure.
The bottom line is that the energy management field is expanding. If you need more assurance, I welcome you to watch a broad-based webinar that I recorded just a few days ago that talks about the financial characteristics of energy management projects. There are many exciting things happening.
Next month, I will describe the types of jobs I see developing in the market as well as how to find them. Stay tuned.