How do I pivot my career from financial services to green energy?
This week’s problem
I am an experienced head of marketing in financial services, and could continue in this sector successfully, but I wish to move into green energy. However, I have little experience in this industry. My position and skill set would be useful, but how does one pivot from one industry to a completely new one when I have no contacts? Anonymous, 30s
You wish to move into the field of green energy so you can be involved in addressing one of the biggest challenges the world is facing, and in joining a growing sector. Renewables’ share of electricity generation in the UK was 36 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, a proportion that will have to increase to achieve the net zero 2050 target.
It is worth considering the green energy supply chain to identify if there are any places in particular that interest you. Broadly, the chain includes equipment manufacturers and suppliers, energy generators, storage systems, local and national distribution networks, and consumer equipment. It is not all about energy sources; you could make a difference reducing the need for energy. For example, in the UK, domestic electricity consumption peaked in 2005 and by 2020 had declined about 20 per cent, driven partly by more efficient domestic appliances.
“Demand for renewable energy is unlocking opportunities to bring more people into the industry,” says Carolina Mesa Ivern, vice-president of solar and onshore wind at BP. “And as new technologies develop, including hydrogen energy and carbon capture, usage and storage, the sector needs people who can make these operating models more efficient.”
In your case, Mesa Ivern advises you focus on what you can bring, rather than on the expertise you might not have just yet, and be ready and willing to learn the skills that will help develop your career path.
Take time now to audit your transferable skills; for example, ease of working in a highly competitive industry, ability to achieve tangible results in a complex organisation, broad marketing skills across a wide range of media, and successful team player. You can then use a summary of these to initiate your job search.
You are right to note that you would benefit from contacts as you consider your move: are there friends and family, college alumni, and business people you have met at conferences perhaps, that could seed your networking? From there, you might also consider using social networks, lectures, articles and even cold-calling interesting organisations to initiate some information interviews.
Do not neglect your current institution: could you make a sideways step into structured finance supporting green energy initiatives?
Nina Möger Bengtsson, former energy political adviser to the European parliament, observed that “the political commitments to Net Zero 50 go way beyond what we know how to do today; however, energy generation is the biggest part of the solution and it’s already profitable. Institutional investors within the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, with their long-time horizons, are moving into green energy, so with marketing and finance experience you could be well placed.”
Most finance companies have a “green agenda” and an ESG/CSR department . . . Before jumping ship, look internally to make connections and gain experience. BalancedTiger
If the move is to be head of marketing/investor relations at a green energy company the move may be easier than you imagine. You should start by learning about the companies you aspire to work for. As you learn more, you will figure out how to market them/talk to investors. ks
Jonathan Black is director of the Careers Service at the University of Oxford. Every fortnight he answers your questions on personal and career development and working life. Do you have a question for him? Email: email@example.com