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June 8, 2018
Do you possess excellent customer service skills and are passionate about helping customers increase the energy efficiency of their homes? If your answer is yes, you may want to consider a career as a Certified Energy Advisor (CEA). To find out what an Energy Advisor does, check out this blog article.
But what combination of qualities makes a good Energy Advisor (Energy Auditor, Energy Evaluator, HERS Rater, or BPI Analyst)? First of all, you must be able to demonstrate knowledge and expertise in:
Residential construction practices for low-rise housing
Energy efficiency renovation practices
Residential building materials
Residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
Building science, including the principles of the “house as a system”
Basic arithmetic and geometry, computer skills
Good client relations
Energy Advisors (EAs) need to be experts in home energy efficiency and construction technology, with a firmly grounded
knowledge of building science and the house as a system. In the training to become an EA, you’ll learn another set of skills:
Blower door air tightness testing
Site-based insulation, mechanical, window and door verification
As we’ve been talking to folks asking about our Energy Advisor Foundation Training Bundle (EAFT Bundle), we’ve been able to check off full range of ‘typical’ industry backgrounds. We’ve been talking with:
We’ve had calls from Red Seal carpenters and folks who have worked in commercial construction. Their knees/back/shoulders are shot but they all have lots of years before retirement, and want to continue working in the field, doing something. They come with so much knowledge already in hand, it’s just a matter a dive into building science and learning the ropes of the EnerGuide for Houses Rating system, and they have the technical skills to be an EA.
Technical skills are only one side of the Energy Advisor world, especially if you are working in the existing housing program. Then, you are coming into people’s houses as an expert and you must have a range of soft skills that are hard to teach, and often overlooked in technical training programs.
What are soft skills?
Hard skills are gained through education, training programs, certifications, and on-the-job training. These are typically quantifiable skills, like those listed above, that can be easily defined and evaluated.
Soft skills are interpersonal (people) skills. These are much harder to define and evaluate. A good set of soft skills are crucial to the job of an Energy Advisor. This is a job where you interact with people. Soft skills include communication skills, listening skills, and empathy. Think of it as on-the-job customer service.
You’re in direct contact with the service organization’s clients. You have a job to do, and part of that job is interviewing the homeowner - the SO’s clients. It takes a number of soft skills to be able to listen to a customer and provide that customer with helpful and polite service.
When you are in another person’s house, you cannot assume anything about their lifestyle or their culture. You must keep your opinions to yourself and offer polite and kind words to the customer. You are a guest in their house. It can be tough.
People skills are based on compassion, understanding and kindness.
If you are at ease with offering kindness to others, you will do very well as an EA.
Some people are very lonely and your visit could be the highlight of their day, week, or month. It’s been my experience, and the experience of most of my EA colleagues, that there are many people out there who need some company. I’ve been offered everything from a cup of tea to a full blown meal, to home baked goods to take home with me.
People have different abilities, and the state of their housekeeping is often a painful point.
When I am in a house and the client is concerned about the mess (real or percieved), I laugh it off and say “I have kids.” I have also said something along the lines of: I’m here to help you figure out how to be more comfortable in your house, not rate your housekeeping.
Another big item: cultural differences that show up in how a house is used. Cultural differences need to be expected and respected. Be the perfect guest. It can be tough.
When you’re working in the new house program, the client is the builder. It’s up to the EA to create a good working relationship with the builder. Your communication skills need to be on point here, as well, in a different way. You need to be able to give advice and recommendations to someone who may or may not have a working knowledge of building science, but they will more than likely have a solid handle on their bottom line. It can be tough.
Helping your builder clients find the right path to their energy target goal can be a challenge. Your ultimate goal as EA is to be a valuable resource for your client, one that is considered a team member.
Another soft skill that’s seriously under-rated is curiosity. I’ve chatted with dozens of EAs over the years, and the ones who love their job ferociously, and who are very good at it, are those who have a rabid curiosity. Why does that mold grow only there? Why is that cobwebby area moving? How do I find out where that gap in the framing is connected? What’s that stuff? What’s this stuff? One question leads to another. And finding the answer is so satisifying. I love that part.
Figuring out the puzzle of the house.
Helping someone make it right.
Being a kind person.
When that’s your job, what’s not to love?