Due to the competitive nature of the energy world, energy professionals need a long-term, comprehensive, and effective professional development plan. Professional success requires having depth and breadth within and across disciplines because the energy world is both increasingly interconnected and interdependent. It is not sufficient to have an advanced degree to flourish. This blog outlines a path that energy professionals can use to continue to improve their knowledge level to progress in their careers.
What Should Energy Professionals do to Advance Their Careers?
First, they should recognize how competitive the overall energy industry is and that it will only continue to become more and more competitive. Increasingly, professionals obtain one or more advance degrees. Moreover, the proliferation of on-line courses, certification programs, and main-stream educational achievements is only adding to the pressure on energy professionals to keep up or get left behind.
Second, energy professionals need a long-term professional development plan. It must both improve skills and certify achievement. It is not enough to only improve one’s credentials. Credential enhancement is necessary to attract current and prospective employers’ attention. Without the skills and knowledge to back them up, however, the impact will not be sustaining because at the end of the day, it is actionable knowledge and skills that are translated into success.
So, what are these skills and knowledge that energy professionals need to have at the tip of their fingers? Energy professionals need to be able to analyze problems rigorously. First and foremost, this requires having a strong disciplinary background in engineering, economics, or law. Not all professionals have such a strong disciplinary background, and those energy professionals must acknowledge this limitation to take steps to correct it. Without a core discipline and the associated ability to analyze problems within that discipline, energy professionals will not be able to expand their scope of influence.
For those professionals that need to buttress their core area of expertise, there are many opportunities. In short, pursue a dedicated set of rigorous courses and certification programs within a single discipline that scrupulously test and measure your capabilities. A discipline or analytical approach has right answers, wrong answers, and unresolved problems. Someone who is proficient in that discipline can look at a novel problem and ask and answer the right set of questions within that discipline. This is not to say that these questions and answers are the whole story, but they are a solid foundation to take the next step.
Once mastery of one discipline has been obtained, the next step is to integrate other disciplines and knowledge areas. This effort does not have to be as time consuming and extensive if it can leverage the mastery of another discipline. But it also requires a plan of study.
The architype example is electricity markets. To understand these markets, energy professionals must understand power system engineering, optimization, microeconomics, regulatory policy, and business strategy. A good starting point is an industry primer published by the Department of Energy (https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/12/f28/united-states-electricity-industry-primer.pdf). Obviously, one cannot be an engineer, economist, lawyer, and business person. It is possible, however, to learn enough about the necessary elements of each of these disciplines as applied to electricity markets. In a future blog, I will describe how to achieve mastery of such a challenging and intricate subject.