Finding an entry-level oil field job has been hard
During the recent crash, finding an entry-level oil field job has been more difficult than during usual times. This has certainly been the case for new industry entrants but has also affected people at all stages of their career. Many people with decades of experience have struggled to find suitable positions for their education, experience and skill set. We won’t go into the price details of the 2014-2018 oil crash here, as most will be aware.
It’s worth mentioning that the exploration and activity crash has been more pronounced than the oil price crash. It’s, of course, new drilling activity that filters through to job opportunities, regardless of the price of oil. Price and activity relationships can be complex.
What we saw during the recent crash, is that some job positions became very scarce, since they were least needed. For example, with exploration spend at the lowest levels for decades, an exploration geologist will be in less demand than a production geologist.
Stepping down the ladder…
A problem that affected a larger number of people, was the increase in the relocation of current staff, and the stepping down of job roles.
Rather than finishing a contract in a particular area while hiring in another, companies felt more obliged to relocate their current staff. This made it harder than usual to get your ‘foot in the door’ of a new company.
As the global workforce dropped by the hundreds of thousands, many workers were faced with a tough choice… Doing a lower level job that they did earlier in their career, or take a chance on whether they could find a similar position at all.
These factors made it extremely hard to find an entry level oil field job. In fact, entering the industry at any level became hard. Petroleum Engineers, Petrophysicists and similar degree bearing candidates found it hard to get back into the field at their recent level.
With ex-superintendents taking supervisor roles, senior drilling engineers taking drilling engineer assistant roles and so on, what happened at the bottom of the ladder? Income as a roustabout or floorhand might still be attractive to someone who had previously stepped up to driller, rather than facing unemployment.
Oil & gas job prospects are improving around the world
Now that profits are starting to flow, and drilling activity is starting to increase, now is a good time to publish a few guidelines on entering the oil field. On most rigs, the number of well paid, highly respected workers that ‘worked their way up from the bottom’ is not so different from those with graduate and postgraduate degrees.
If you’re the type of person that has the energy, character and mettle to be an oil field linchpin, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to prove it. If you can just get on the rig in the first place…
Here are a few tips to help you in your entry-level oil & gas job search
Remember that you’re not up against statistics or guidelines… You’re up against the other candidates for each position. The employment decisions are made by people, and as long as there’s no exclusion in the job advert that would deem you unqualified, you have a chance. Don’t bother applying for roles that ask for specific experience, certificates or education as you’ll be wasting everyone’s time. Even before applying, imagine how you’ll position yourself as the best person for the job.
There are a few jobs that don’t require any experience and are true entry-level jobs. For offshore work, a roustabout is truly an entry level. For land drilling, floorhand is a good entry level job choice. Bear in mind that while no experience is required, someone that does have experience might be a preferred choice by an employer. This is especially the case for offshore work that is more dangerous and has a higher drop-out rate for new entrants.
If you have work experience in a different industry that would be an asset in oil and gas, play on it. For example, there are many ex-military personnel that move to the oil and gas industry after they leave. There are lots of parallels, (e.g. excitement, adventure, camaraderie) and many skills cross over. If you were a mechanic, welder or medic, there might be a position waiting for you in the oil industry that’s above entry level.
If you’re prepared to relocate, finding an entry-level oil field job is a near certainty. Even during the recent crash, some areas still thrived. (For example, some of the US land-based shale and tight play areas that seemed to steam through most of it). Broaden your horizons globally and you’ll certainly find an entry-level job. You might need to think a couple of years down the line, as your initial assignment might not make total sense (especially to your family and friends).
Whatever your position, keep networking, volunteering and going the extra mile. It’s these people who end up working their way up the ladder. You can start with these skills even before you’ve got your first job in the oil industry. We have social media, local clubs and associations and industry meet-ups, exhibitions and events. Behave respectfully and don’t bug anyone for a job, and one day someone might offer you a better one than the one you have right now.
Another way of getting noticed by the people that count is to start working with them in a non-oilfield role. For example, you could work as a security guard or in the canteen, then wait for an opportunity to pitch people. It might be better to befriend them first before you ask a favor. It’s these tactile/soft skills that will keep you moving up the ladder later on.
Get any certification that is realistic to obtain. Don’t spend thousands on HUET training when you’re unemployed, but see what courses and certifications you can get. These will help your CV, and knowledge of the industry in general. Someone who made the effort to better themselves off their own back is likely to stand out among other non-qualified people.
Visit rigs and contact local recruiters in the areas where you see news reports of jobs being available. The majority of positions are advertised and applied for electronically. A bright-eyed go-getter approaching in person has a better chance of being noticed. Don’t travel too far, and visit every possibility, but a personal visit might be the key to unlock the door. Typing ‘entry level oil field jobs near me’ into the internet search bar won’t be helpful if you live in an area that’s far away from the action!
Search for, and set up job alerts only for roles that accept non-experienced people.
Here are a few to get you started:
- Site Laborer
- Well Service
- Welders assistant
- Mechanics helper
There are probably at least 20-30 of these ‘keywords’ that might lead you to your next oil field job.
Consider going back to school to get an industry-relevant educational qualification.
As with most industries, an entry-level position with an industry-relevant educational certificate makes a huge difference to the level you enter at. Most people who start a low-level job, with a plan to work their way up the ladder, soon discover that this can be very difficult.
Have you considered going back into education or training? Some courses can be done online, or in conjunction with a job. If you want to receive information about this, then fill in the form below:
How did we do? Can you think of any other advice to give to people looking to start their career in the oil field, or on the rigs? Extra suggestions in the comments section will be much appreciated!
Serial Energy Entrepreneur. Webmaster at drillers.com. Founder of Out of the Box Innovations Ltd. Co-Founder of Natural Resource Professionals Ltd. Traveller and Outdoorsman, Husband, Father. Technology/Internet Geek.