By Mason Hammer
PANEL 3: LANDING THE JOB
Leaders in Energy (LE) 9th Annual Green Jobs Forum, held on September 22, 2022, Panel 3 on “Landing the Job” provided advice for those looking for employment in the clean energy and sustainability industries. The group of panelists consisted of an entrepreneur, an assistant professor, a program manager, and a project coordinator, all in positions focused on improving access to clean energy in the United States. This panel was moderated by Carmen L. Bonilla, Job Search Coach and self-published author. Throughout her career, she has provided advice to over 3,000 job seekers on resume, interview preparation, and other areas.
I will begin this article with a recap of the panel including the introductions and the advice from the panelists. At the end will be a short introduction for myself, followed by my takeaways from the panel. I will explain how the panel relates to my own experiences and what I feel I have gained from it.
INTRODUCTIONS & EXCITING PROJECTS
Joe Alfred, President, Ally Power Inc., a company focused on Hydrogen and Electric Refueling Stations and Hydrofits. The most exciting project for Joe Alfred is the new $7 billion of funding from the U.S. Department of Energymeant to establish hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) and refueling stations across the nation. During the introductions, Joe emphasized the importance of networking: “Your Net Worth directly correlates to your Network.”
Jenny Frank, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at SUNY Morrisville in the Environmental and Renewable Resources Division. Dr. Frank recently received her doctorate from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF). She has been breaking down the financial barriers that are preventing disadvantaged communities from training programs in New York. Dr. Frank mentioned the exciting 30k-square-foot Agricultural and Clean Energy Technology (ACET) Center, a $16 million investment in the SUNY Morrisville learning community.
Loraima Jaramillo-Nieves, Ph.D., Program Manager at Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Loraima supports IREC’s initiatives in Puerto Rico, such as a workforce needs analysis report, solar and storage demonstration microgrid projects, and the Puerto Rican Solar Business Accelerator. In addition, she is a member of the Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Energy PR 100 study. As a program manager at IREC, she has been helping to provide clean energy to local commerce and promote community engagement.
Devyn Keller, Clean Energy Projects Coordinator at Virginia Department of Energy, within the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Department. Recently, she has been promoting Virginia jobs in clean energy industries, encouraging elementary school student participation in STEM/clean energy related activities, and creating grants for training programs to help with connecting job seekers to clean energy positions.
Carmen expressed to her panel members her excitement to be “Working with heroes solving problems every day!”
Devyn Keller stressed the importance of organization, technical skills with document sharing and preparation, and the ability to do research and to document findings.
Dr. Loraima Jaramillo-Nieves explained the importance of communication skills and empathy. Being able to communicate effectively is a skill useful in any career and empathy is one that is less expected but can make an individual stand out.
Professor Jenny Frank advised proactivity by researching a company before meeting with them to show interest and to always have questions for the employer at the end of an interview.
Joe Alfred encouraged critical-thinking and to remember that the new hire will always have a new perspective from which to see the company. Have confidence that you are just as valuable to the company as the company is to you. Alongside critical-thinking skills, he recommended having data-analytic skills.
TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS AND JOB-SEEKERS
Former grad student, Jenny Frank, provided the perspective of the student. She explained that she submitted more than 75 different applications over the course of a year. Eventually, a friend left their position and suggested that she apply. To the audience, she suggested pursuing post-doctoral research to strengthen your field experience if you are struggling to find a position.
Joe Alfred emphasized knowing what you want. Having a core base of interests to pull from, having a team of people who trust you and believe in your idea, and utilizing past relations/experiences all help to motivate the aspiring entrepreneur in their journey.
Dr. Loraima Jaramillo-Nieves advocated for being multi-disciplined and to stay motivated during the journey.
Devyn Keller mentioned that connections and transferable skills from seemingly unrelated positions is what helped her land her current role in Virginia. She suggested finding what you have that relates to a company’s values and what they are looking for.
A helpful resource brought up by Dr. Jaramillo-Nieves is the IREC Career Maps website. This website can be used to help find opportunities/positions in the field that may be of interest to the clean energy jobseeker.
Some career-switching advice from Devyn Keller for women with newborns included being involved with local organizations, whether it is in-person or virtual.
The panel concluded with good luck wishes, a tip to think outside the box, to be open-minded, to pursue every avenue, and to believe in yourself.
I am a third year undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. I am involved on campus in a student organization known as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) where I volunteer to help plan social and professional development events for the students in my major. As part of the professional development committee, I have learned so much about the job-search process, the things to look out for when applying, and how to secure a position in a field of interest.
In my opinion, the panel was very thorough in establishing important characteristics, strategies, and motivations to have during the job-search. Hearing about the important characteristics the panelists agreed on helped me to believe in my own potential. The motivational strategies and tips for applying are some of the things I do think about daily during my job-search. I related heavily to what Jenny Frank was describing when she mentioned her 75+ applications over the course of a year with tailored cover letters for each. The online application process is grueling and demanding, but in the end is worth it. You will learn a lot about what you are capable of and what you know you are interested in.
Something I need to improve on is my ability to network and create lasting professional relationships. All the highly respected panelists had some anecdote or quote about the importance of networking. This cements its importance in my mind and will be a main goal moving forward. I am very thankful for the time these professionals spent with Leaders in Energy during the event and hope to use their advice in the coming weeks while I apply to internship and engineering co-op opportunities!
Mason Hammer is a third year undergraduate Chemical Engineering major at The Ohio State University. His career goals include an industry working towards sustainability, a company that has advancement potential and relocation possibilities, and a position that requires his chemical engineering background and passion for process optimization. He was impressed by the Leader in Energy network and joined the organization recently as a volunteer and contributed this article.