How do I break into the EV field?

How do I break into the EV field?

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 [email protected]. Let us know your thoughts on the column in the comments section below.

Dear Shannon,

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

Hi Kevin,

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? 

2: Identify your unique selling points and personal beliefs

Now that you know a bit more about the sector, the market and the players in it, you can start to think about where you fit. Ask yourself: "How can I set myself apart from the competition?" Target a few specific companies and use them to get clear on these three points:

A: Which of your capabilities, skills and unique “enablers” will allow you to add value to the organization?

  • What knowledge do you bring to the industry? Do you want to sit on the engineering side of the sector, the strategy side, the financing side? What do you know about technology, leasing and financial structures, the infrastructure needed?
  • What about your diverse background? How will your skills set you apart in this competitive market? You need to develop a personal branding story that highlights your strengths and the wide global network of contacts you have.

B: What are your objectives and what do you want to achieve for the EV industry?

Consider this in terms of:

  • Extent of the transformation/impact you want to make
  • Financial benefits you want to derive from the job
  • What level of influence you want to exert
  • What is your timescale for achieving these?

C: What do you stand for? What are your beliefs and values?

These will underlie all that you do as you break into this new field.They complement your skills in “A” above and round out your 'personal brand' story in "B."

Be ready to talk about why you want to be in EV. Why now?

  • How do your personal values push you to move into a less stable sector at this stage in your career?
  • Based on everything you know about the sector, what are you passionate about? The technologies, the business model, the potential?

Next page:  Maximize the benefit

3: Squeeze blood from your LinkedIn turnip

As a senior consultant in the industry, your biggest asset will be your global network of contacts working and leading at all points of the supply chain. You have done the research to know who is leading this sector, so now reach out and get in front of them.

Go to the top of the food chain-- CEO/CFO, where possible-- and present your story, your project, your proposition. You may have to create your own job in this growing but tight market, so make sure you know what tangible idea you are selling before you go to them. What are you offering? Have your business plan and pitch ready.

Get on a board. Use your LinkedIn and global networks to find which companies may need you at this level. It may be easier to position yourself among your senior contacts if you have the gravitas of sitting on and steering the board of directors of a startup or growth-stage EV company. Companies in a growth sector will be looking for funding, so offer up your “black book”, as most board positions will require this. Then make the most of your board seat as your platform for breaking into this sector.

Best of luck and keep me posted.

Illustration of career change provided by Sam 72 via Shutterstock.