Welcome to Dear Shannon, our new career advice column for sustainability professionals and wanna-be professionals. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know your thoughts on the column in the comments section below.
I've spent the last 20 years in the automotive industry as a management consultant working closely with car companies. I am now looking to reinvent myself taking advantage of a profitable yet sustainable business opportunity related to my sector and noticed the growth of the electric vehicle (EV). But I am not sure how to break into this growing field. Can you offer any advice?
-- Kevin, Los Angeles
The EV sector is gaining momentum and you seem well placed to break into it. Charging stations are popping up at supermarkets, hydrogen cars are competing with electric ones, battery leasing is becoming an alternative business model, and the big brands like GM, Nissan and Mitsubishi are all launching versions of the EV.
However, while there are opportunities in this growing field, career changes at senior level usually happen slowly. If you're prepared to take the time to lay the foundations, though, there's no reason you can't build the career you want. Here are some practical, strategic steps you can take to prepare yourself for a successful, environmentally conscious career in a dynamic sector.
1: Do your homework
When a client comes to me to talk about making a career switch, my first question is always this: What do you know about the sector? Swiftly followed by: Where do you want to sit within it? And: Have you done enough deep diving into the field to speak intelligently about it?
With this in mind, your number one job right now is clear. Learn the sector by researching, reading and engaging with the people who are already in it. As complementary as it may seem to the automotive industry, the EV sector is very different; you have to unpack it, dissect it and learn it from the inside out. This includes reading about what each and every company in this space is doing -- the entire supply chain. So pour yourself a coffee and get used to staying up until 2am reading, for at least two months.
You'll also need to understand where it's going, and where it has the potential to go. Technology-focused niches like this one change quickly, so it's important to stay ahead of the curve and keep on top of what's happening in the media, legislative and scientific worlds. Make the most of social media by finding and following the thought leaders in the field, subscribing to the most relevant blogs and starting your own, which can help you build conversations with future colleagues in the EV field.
As part of your research, map out the market and do a SWOT analysis, where you look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (hence, SWOT),to identify the besttwo or three companies to target for your new role, Some questions to ask:
- Who are the key players – company names and leaders?
- Who is getting venture capital funding? Government subsidies?
- Which companies are leading in which geographical markets?
- What legislation is affecting the sector in which markets?
- Which business models are working and which are not? In a new and growing sector, a lot will be trial and error.
Next page: Who are you, anyway?