Skills you need to succeed in green energy and sustainability jobs

Skills you need to succeed in green energy and sustainability jobs






As the demand for renewable energy continues to increase, the industry is looking to recruit high-caliber candidates to drive green energy business forward.  For example, according to the “2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report” published by the U.S. Department of Energy,the solar workforce increased by 25% in 2016, while wind employment increased by 32%. “Now Hiring: The Growth of America’s Clean Energy & Sustainability Jobs”, by the Environmental Defense Fund provides examples of jobs spanning energy efficiency and renewable energy, waste reduction, natural resources conservation and environmental education.

Individuals looking to enter these professions in the clean energy and sustainability sectors need to demonstrate competency in communication, an active interest in green energy, and a natural aptitude for understanding changing technologies related to energy and environmental systemps. For those hoping to pursue leadership roles, an energy leader should be able to manage geographically diverse teams, coordinate complex technical projects and possess the ability to identify and run with new ideas.

More professionals than ever before are joining these related industries to make a real difference in the future of energy and sustainability. There are hundreds of jobs that you can choose from in this industrywith healthy career prospects.

In addition, you may find a job within a commercial enterprise that is not selling a green product per se like in the hotel industry, etc. but that has a mission that embraces energy efficiency and sustainability, with a focus on corporate sustainability.

Examples of Green Energy & Sustainability Jobs

Some of the vacancies that you may find include:

Solar Project Manager– Solar energy is growing and as a project manager you would be involved in coordinating the development and construction of large scale solar PV projects throughout the public and private sector. This would be a complex and challenging role that would involve end to end project management.

Managing Director – A more senior level, this could involve overseeing an international organisation specialising in marine, nuclear, energy and renewables. These types of roles are found with companies such as ERG. An operational management post which would involve the development and delivery of financial and commercial objectives, maintaining performance, driving excellence and ensuring full compliance with industry standards. A role such as this would involve working on OTIF projects, collaborating with clients, leading growth initiatives and developing talent.

Ocean Advocate – If you are interested in marine life, then a job such as this might be just the right leadership opportunity. It would involve working on campaigns for fishing, shark and illegal fishing and seafood fraud. Your typical duties would be to develop and implement initiatives to reduce overfishing and protect marine habitats while prohibiting the sale of products such as shark fins, enforcing traceability and ensuring that the organisation achieves its organisational objectives. Other ocean advocacy roles could include working to reduce the amount of plastic and pollution in oceans.

Sustainability Professional– There are growing numbers of jobs in making existing buildings more energy efficient, resilient and sustainable. Many businesses have implemented key sustainability strategies as part of their organisational objectives. As a result there is an increasing demand for consultants, energy managers and experts who are accountable for achieving these goals and making homes and businesses more energy efficient.

Engineer– A green energy engineer is someone who solves problems and advances technologies. The scope as an engineer in this sector is vast with engineering roles being found in mechanical, electrical, civil, and environmental, focusing primarily on research and development. Engineering also plays a crucial role in the creation of new technologies which is an essential component in the green energy sector. As an engineer you could be involved in the design of solar cells and wind turbines or the development of hydroelectric dams. There are countless specialities as an engineer, allowing you to pursue your own area of interest.

The scope for green energy also allows you to work with a variety of organisations including NGOs, government, sustainability businesses, energy facilities or those within technology and development.

Skills for Green Energy and Sustainability

Now that you have a good understanding of the different types of careers, let’s look at some of the skills that are in demand for employees in this industry. Although there are many skills that are important for this type of work, the five below are those that will give you the edge over other candidates.

#1 Technical Knowledge

Although this may seem obvious, work in the energy sector requires a range of technical skills not only to excel as an employee but if you wish, to eventually lead teams and projects. Renewable energy employees need an excellent grasp of scientific principles and concepts to make good decisions based on fact and solid data rather than opinion or perception. For a professional looking to move into this sector, a good understanding of the industry which will include the current issues, trends and characteristics typically encountered in this type of work is important. An energy leader should take this a step further and develop a detailed understanding of global energy markets, economics and the wider business context. Financial skills and cost analysis are also valuable, as is familiarity with regulatory policy, research methods and analysis.

There are also a number of certification courses that professionals can take advantage of to further gain additional credentials. For example. the Association of Energy Engineers has over 20 certifications, including their well-known and highly respected, Certified Energy Manager certification.  Increasingly, colleges, universities and community colleges are offering credentialing. One example is provided by Norman Christopher, who is the Director of Sustainability at Grand River State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan and who spoke at the 2018 Leaders in Energy Green Career Momentum series.  This university offers a number of certificates in Green Chemistry, Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning, Sustainable Food Systems, and Geographic Information Systems Science and Technology.

#2 An Inquiring Mind

As the green energy sector is one that is constantly evolving, a natural curiosity for how things work will be hugely beneficial. The ability to explore concepts that at first may seem unachievable is also something that would interest a green energy employer.  For senior members of the team, a leader should actively encourage staff to explore, discover and try out new systems and processes to see what works, and most importantly what doesn’t. The green energy sector is full of possibilities so an inquiring mind and the ability to lead by example is absolutely essential.

Examples of inquiring minds are abundant in these fields and include Elon Musk, the founder of the Tesla automobile company. Others include E.O. Wilson and Jane Goodall whose curiosity about the animal world led them to their successful careers in evolutionary biology and founding organizations with a mission on sustainability, such as Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots.

#3 Ingenuity

To progress the renewable energy industry, leaders must be able to collaborate with others to improve results rather than competing. As the industry faces ongoing challenges for investment and commitment in this sector, leaders must be able to devise unique and innovative ways to reduce costs while meeting customer requirements. As green energy is a relatively new sector, you will have to make a variety of decisions which do not have a definitive answer. Therefore you need to demonstrate creativity to apply non-standard solutions or approach a problem in a unique way.

For example, there are a number of green power companies that employ ingenuity through the use of innovative processes to provide consumers with clean power sources.  You can learn more about some of these companies listed here which are certified as clean energy suppliers.

#4 Communication

Communication is a hugely important skill in green energy. Being able to articulate ideas both in writing and verbally is so important, even more so if you are aiming for a leadership role. Within this sector, strong communication skills are required to make real change, establish networks and build relationships with colleagues and clients.  Engineers, project managers, consultants and experts need to have a natural aptitude for communicating well not only to convey objectives but to keep projects on track and ensure that new ideas are clearly communicated to the right people. Furthermore, energy leaders must demonstrate the ability to master various types of communication from speaking to a member of staff on a one to one basis through to holding talks and meetings with entire teams and departments.

If you are interested in writing and would like to publish on green energy and sustainability topics, please consider reaching out to Leaders in Energy.  In addition Our Leaders in Energy community is also happy to consider speakers who would like to speak as subject matters experts on related topics.  Feel free to reach out regarding your interests at

#5 Motivation

Employees need to maintain motivation–there will be occasions when things don’t go to plan, projects don’t work out as expected or problems occur with a new system or process, even more so within a new industry such as green energy. It is in these situations that employees can quickly lose motivation. As an employee you need to be motivated and committed to your work while leaders need to be able to provide the required inspiration to encourage employees to go the extra mile for the business and particularly to devise unique and innovative solutions. Employee self-esteem can be developed through rewards, recognition or giving employees new responsibilities to boost their motivation. As a leader you will need to establish which motivators work best for your business to encourage productivity and promote creativity. Typical ways that you could motivate is to give employees more freedom as to the decisions they make, requesting their input when you are exploring a new concept or considering a new way of working or offering things such as mentoring and rewards.

Often within green energy, your success will very much depend on your personal drive and determination as well as the skills or technical knowledge that you possess. Demonstrating a natural curiosity for how things work and a willingness to persevere when ideas don’t work out on the first attempt is important. This is an industry that is advancing at an incredible rate and there are more and more opportunities arising in a variety of disciplines from economics and engineering to law, marketing, policy and finance.   You can learn more about these careers in sustainable development in the excellent book by Marilyn Waite Leaders in Energy member.  Her book is titled “Sustainability at Work: Careers that Make a Difference.” 

Leaders in Energy has also provided a number of green career workshops to help those who are seeking careers in this field either starting out, transitioning into the space, and/or working to identifying their next career move in the industry.

Leaders in Energy will be hosting the 5th Annual Leaders in Energy Green Jobs Forum (5:00 – 9:00 pm) and Green Career and Networking Workshops (8:30 am – 5:00 pm) on Thursday, August 16th.

Registration and further information here:


Ed Mellett is an entrepreneur, careers professional and founder of He is known for co-founding and launching the leading student and graduate careers website Now in its 11thyear, wikijob attracts over 400,000 unique users per month and is a must-visit resource for students considering their careers post-university. Ed’s other interests include AI, neuroscience and psychology.

Janine Finnell serves as the Executive Director for Leaders in Energy. She founded the organization initially as the Leaders in Energy Research, Communications, Policy & Analysis (LERCPA) group on LinkedIn. Ms. Finnell has extensive experience in providing strategic planning, programmatic, and management consulting support via research, policy, technology, analysis, and communications and outreach expertise to organizations.

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