Following my graduation from the undergraduate mechanical engineering program at Carnegie Mellon, I was essentially told that the world was my oyster – carpe diem, go do things with your life now! And I hadn’t the faintest idea of what my dream job was going to look like. The millennial generation of job seekers primarily seeks purpose. Whether that materializes in the form of working in the non-profit space or a soulless job with a cushy benefits package depends on the individual. In our graduating class, some friends went to go work for airplane and car manufacturers; others completely pivoted and got into finance.
I’ve always been somebody who has gravitated towards using my mechanical engineering degree to apply my skills in a field that was sustainability-adjacent, whatever that meant. While I was in school, I interned at a policy-focused energy services company, then an MEP consulting firm, unsure if either was completely the right fit for me. For a while I wanted to get into solar but didn’t know what the path in was, as I was utterly disinterested in the design and manufacturing side of that industry.
I then started coming across energy efficiency and energy engineering positions. I had some initial exposure to lighting, HVAC, and eQuest through my previous internships, but was by no means well-versed in what the day-to-day for this kind of job would look like. I kept digging since it appeared that this field would align well with my interests, and here we are today!
“It’s the sense of purpose – that you’re combating climate change in your own small way – that is an underlying theme to why I do what I do”
On a daily basis, I might be providing a number of energy services, like conducting or shadowing an energy audit, putting together energy savings calculations for energy efficiency measures, or building an energy model in programs like eQuest or OpenStudio, which are computer applications that simulate how much energy would be saved if a building owner implements changes to operating hours, controls, or equipment. Sometimes meetings or report-writing might also be in the cards, but it depends on the project, depends on the day. Some days are more exciting than others, but it’s the sense of purpose – that you’re combating climate change in your own small way – that is an underlying theme to why I do what I do.
“If you’re looking for something a little different, you could try researching MEP firms, solar companies, or energy software companies.”
I would say that coming into this field as an entry-level candidate, there’s not an expectation that you already know how everything works and can build an energy model from scratch. You’ll learn on the job, but it’ll help your prospects if you’ve done your homework. Here’s a list of resources or things to look into if you’re looking to get into energy efficiency:
News – Stay up to date on what’s happening in (and adjacent to) the biz
- https://www.greentechmedia.com – I also highly recommend their podcast, The Energy Gang.
It’s never a bad idea to get your EIT (Engineer-In-Training) certificate while the information is still fresh in your head…
- Your state board will also give you all the details on what is and isn’t required on your path to becoming a PE (professional engineer). California is a good example.
Job Boards – if you’re still in school, go to the next job fair!
There’s only one clean energy-specific job site I know of that’s routinely updated – DayawayCareers.com. If you’re trying the big search engines, I’d go for “energy efficiency” or “energy engineer” as initial search queries.
And best of luck to you on your job hunt!