This is a common theme I've noticed from when I first started recruiting in the power utilities industry which I still see come up, if not even more frequently now. Luckily, compared to almost three years ago where I would have just scratched my head, I'd like to think I've developed a much more in depth understanding now on the differences, the benefits to both, but more importantly some of key takeaways to keep in mind if you're an engineer looking to weigh out your options and decide which one is a better fit for you.
**Keep in mind, I don't have a BSEE and am not an engineer myself (although I would like to say I am now comfortably able to identify voltage levels of transmission lines for the most part when I drive by one on the highway thanks to some of the teachings from clients I've met with). These are the conclusions I've drawn based off my own research and mostly from really speaking to lots of different engineers, leadership professionals, execs., etc. who come from both sides.**
While there are a lot of truths, I do believe there are a lot of misconceptions that people have about both. I've heard one side of the drastic spectrum which is that moving to consulting will eliminate all of your work-life balance/stability and then I've heard the other side which is moving to a utility will keep you stagnant forever. These can often be messages that I think can deter some folks away from wanting to pursue opportunities on one or the other, when in reality there's a lot more to factor in than just that - especially when it's so easy to lump companies into either category forgetting each one is different in their own way based off company culture, services offered, organizational structure, etc.
There are a lot more that can be listed, but generally speaking these are some common trends I see in the industry from people who have either decided to transition from the utility side to consulting as well as those who have transitioned from consulting to a utility.
Another big question I get from people are around drastic differences in compensation they've heard. To address that: there really is no conclusion that can be based. It really boils down to the company. Yes, I do see consulting firms that offer more attractive compensation packages than utilities, but on the flip side, I also do see some utilities who offer higher compensation packages than consulting firms. These can come from factors anywhere from geographic location/COL, existing salary bands, structure of the current company, overall compensation vs. base, etc.
In short though, despite some of the different factors that influence one's decision to make a transition from one or the other - or have a preference to one or the other - the biggest takeaway I would say is while both utilities and engineering consulting firms operate differently, both types of employers have the ability to offer a great career transition/opportunity.
If you've been on the utility side your whole career and are interested in transitioning to a consulting firm, or have been on the consulting side your whole career and are ready to transition to a utility - allow yourself to be the decision maker of that. At the end of the day you are the one who's in the driver seat of your own career and know what the best move for you is. Find out what makes both great, weigh out your options, compare and contrast opportunities, identify which ones most ignite your motivations for deciding it's time to explore a career change in the first place, and then make a decision based on your own experience and findings.
Luckily - for anyone who is interested in making a transition to either - our power delivery team here at LVI Associates has many opportunities available with both types of clients across the United States - utilities, electrical cooperatives, consulting firms (large, mid-size, and small).
That said if anyone in my substation, system protection, distribution, transmission line/planning engineering network would like to learn more about the trends I'm seeing in the current industry based on this topic or resonate with the above and would like to set up a chat to evaluate your current situation, let's chat!
LVI Associates focuses on partnering organizations in the energy & infrastructure space with engineering professionals as well as putting engineers in touch with fantastic career opportunities. Outside of just the power delivery & renewable industry, LVI Associates has consultants specializing in other sectors of energy & infrastructure.
About the author
Hanna Ito is an Associate Vice President at LVI Associates. She partners with utilities, engineering firms, and renewable energy firms to attract and retain senior level power engineering talent on their behalf nationwide. She specializes in the placement of substation and protection & control engineers. Get in touch with Hanna to learn more about the career opportunities that LVI Associates is currently working on.
Read Hanna's other blog, "Why You Should Always be Open to New Career Opportunities"
About LVI Associates
Infrastructure plays a critical role in creating a future that works for everyone. As a specialist recruitment agency, LVI Associates places professionals who make a profound difference to our everyday lives. We provide permanent, contract and multi-hire recruitment solutions across building services, construction, forensics, oil & gas, power, renewable energy, transportation, and water & environmental.
LVI Associates is part of the Phaidon International group.