Finding a job in the oilfield… It’s on you!

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Dave Messler
Dave Messler
Dave Messler is an oilfield veteran with 38-years of experience in the industry. He is currently a Senior Trainer at ACME Fluids Training, a small organization that focuses on teaching the development of reservoir drill-in fluids (RDF’s) to the industry.

Some LinkedIn observations

There are a lot of really smart people out there looking for a job, who don’t have the foggiest idea how to find one; particularly in a down market. The genesis for this article came from reading a dispirited posting on LinkedIn by a guy who has been browsing it for eight months without any success. I am going to discuss some tried and true concepts in this article and explode at least one myth.

First, a disclaimer. I am not a recruiting professional, nor have I ever been one. I am an oily just like you. As an aside, how much good have recruiters been doing you recently? I thought so, given the number of frustrated postings I see on LinkedIn these days. So, you can spare the five to ten minutes it will take to read this article. You will end up smarter, and more focused in your job search. I will give you an ‘oilfield guarantee’ on that.

Let’s start by exploding a myth…

… That recruiters have some pipeline into hiring companies that is unavailable to you, and you need them to find job.

Not true.

Recruiters are largely sales people who spend their days canvassing companies in their area of specialization for openings. I used to get emails and calls from them all the time when I worked in a corporate setting.

Most times they were three question calls:

  1. Are you looking?
  2. Do you have any openings?
  3. Do you know of anyone who is looking?

That last question is the one we will focus on here. A sad fact of the employment rat race is that if you have a job, you are more likely to be offered another one than someone who is currently unemployed.

Companies have an unspoken preference for hiring people who are currently working in their discipline.

There are several reasons for this preference:

  1. There is a stigma to being unemployed. It’s like a form of social leprosy…, it makes people who have jobs uncomfortable. It’s unfair, particularly given the state of our industry. It’s unkind. It’s stupid, but there it is. Ugly facts are still facts.
  2. Some job skill sets deteriorate rapidly… So the thinking goes. Someone who is working is more current in their field than someone who has been not practicing for a while. The corollary is that they will come up to speed quicker in the gaining organization. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s another ugly fact.
  3. Hiring someone from a competing organization enhances the gainer, and weakens the loser. I have had those discussions with colleagues internally when evaluating candidates. More often than not, I went with the candidate from the competitor.

So, that’s what you’re facing among the myriad of other obstacles on your way to your next job.

Ready for some good news?

You can change this paradigm. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll have to do this to get another job. Unless you win the lottery, or get placed by a recruiter. Two scenarios I roughly equate, while granting the statistical odds against winning a lottery are much greater.

Question-how do you move the needle in your favor?

Answer, by taking control of your job search.

Now, I’ll tell you how.


When we have a job we take it for granted. Along with the loss of income, the next biggest impact in losing a job is the loss of structure our work environment provided.

Let’s take a look at this. How do you spend your day? When you had a job you worked eight, ten, twelve, sixteen hours a day. Some of you worked around the clock until you ran out of work. Often it was expected by your colleagues and your employer. The structure of your job gave you the freedom to… Just do your job. When you lost that structure, the task of organizing your day productively fell to you.

So, job number one is giving yourself some structure. Have a place in your domicile where you work… At finding a job, and spend a set amount of time there. When you are in that place, you are working. Be honest with yourself, you know when you are working and when you aren’t. If you are in the place where you work, do only work there. Structure!


Learn or improve your skill level with English (this can count as work). English is the language of business. If you happen to speak, read, and write it as a second language… Get better at it. There is nothing else you can do that will add more value to your career profile, and enable you to represent yourself at top of form in an interview, than improving this skill. Another ugly fact.

When two candidates get short-listed for the same job, the one who communicates best in English will get the job, every time! Be that guy, or gal. English!

Resume, or CV.

Learn how to write one of these. Chances are, judging from the ones I get almost daily, your current one isn’t doing you any favors. There is a way to write these that will improve your chances of making to into the short-list stack of people who will be contacted for an interview. I will discuss this in a future article. Resume, get it right!


Maintain contact with former colleagues. Through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook this is easy to do these days. Even though I am not looking for a job, I keep in touch with my friends and associates through these sites. I keep it light, a quick note on any topic works.

Worth mentioning is the fact that your next job may come from someone you worked with/for, and these types of contacts are ones you particularly want to foster and maintain. What doesn’t do much of any good is to ‘like’ an apparent job posting and ask the poster to, “Check my profile.” Behavior like that puts you in a hopper with eight thousand other folks doing the same thing. Is that where you want to be? Didn’t think so. Additionally, these postings are often just ‘click-bait’, designed to raise the Google profile of the poster, without any real substance behind them. Contact!


Attend a training class. Full disclosure, I run a small training company, so I have an axe to grind so-to-speak. It’s still good advice. Improve, maintain a skill level, or learn something new. Training is an accomplishment that pays dividends. It was probably a regular feature in your corporate career.

Your company spent thousands of dollars annually on training you. Now you may have to make that investment in yourself. Think about it. I know it’s expensive and money may be scarce. But, nothing punches up a resume or CV like demonstrating a new competence, or maintaining a proficiency in an existing one. It also puts you out in the market place to make connections in your field. Training!

Trade shows!

If you are an engineer, or related technical oilfield professional, get out of the house and attend SPE, AADE, API events and shows. If you live in the contiguous United States you aren’t more than a day’s drive from an upcoming show typically these days. Attending one will put you right in the thick of the very people you are trying to rejoin- professionals employed in the oilfield. Travel and registration will set you back a bit, but I cannot think of a more productive place for you to be than at one of these technical symposiums.

I attended one in Houston recently to hear a paper presentation by a colleague. It had been about a decade since I’d done something like this because my former employer would not approve attendance if you were not presenting a paper. I had gotten out of the habit of writing them for various reasons.

In between technical presentations, I visited the booths of various exhibitors to see old friends who still had jobs. Almost without exception, they had risen to the level of Global Product/Technical Manager, or Vice President in their organizations. It will probably come as no surprise that these folks are nearly impossible to reach by phone or email, unless they already know you. It should also come as no surprise that these folks are exactly the ones you need to reach to get your next job offer. And, here they are just waiting for you to come by and chat a bit, hand them a card and a resume, and try to secure an appointment for an interview. There’s nowhere for them to hide for the next couple of minutes, this is your time to shine! Trade shows and Technical forums!

I hope nothing I have written here comes across as being insensitive to the plight of job seekers. Nothing could be further from my objective than that. This is the toughest job market I’ve ever seen in my life time, and people aren’t just missing a couple of hitches waiting for a call-back. Years are going by for some without gainful employment in their field of specialization. Careers are being destroyed.

Think of this article as ‘tough-love’, and you’ll have it right. My mission was to pass along job hunting skills that I have learned during my thirty-eight year corporate career in the oilfield. I felt like I had to say something.

Good luck to all of you seeking employment. Just remember, hard work and process beats serendipity almost every time!



    • Thanks for reading and commenting Greg. Please feel free to share this article among your connections as appropriate. Hope your own job search is going well. Let me know if I can be of assistance!

  1. Great article and I totally agree. I found myself unemployed from the oilfield for 14 months. I kept busy by taking a courier job but I still spent hours every day scouring the web for jobs, networking on Linkedin and chatting with my ex colleagues. I finally landed a directional drilling job last November and thankfully I’m still in it. Has that stopped me from searching for other work – a big “NO”. I’m still networking, still contacting my old friends and still hooked to Linkedin. It’s still a fragile market and you cannot afford to rest on your laurels.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Phil. And, a big congratulations on regaining employed status in the oilfield- a testament to your determination. Best of luck and feel free to share the article.

  2. Some great advice Dave. We all love to help out our network with introductions and contacts when we can, but it’s amazing how many people overseas expect others to do the work and others to find jobs ‘for them’. We should not just reach out to our networks when we need something, but be willing to share valuable info with one another through both the good times and the bad times. Collaboration and generosity are now as important as ever. Keep learning and evolving. Will share. Best, Eric

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Eric. Human skills seem to be among the hardest to cultivate in technical professionals, many of whom never imagined their careers would crumble beneath them. If I helped even one person bridge the gap between waiting for a call and taking control of their destiny, my cup runeth over. Cheers, DM


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