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Getting Out of the Oil and Gas Industry? Think You Are Too Specialized To Diversify? Think Again.

James Baker, GHD
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I wanted to share with you some of my recent experiences post oil and gas (O+G) redundancy.  I was in a very specialized position and have believed for some time that I had "over specialized" to move into another industry.

The decision was made for me when my position was made redundant.  Through the process of applying for civil engineering positions I found out the following about my own experience which applies to most people from oil and gas.

Below is a list of some of the transferrable skills that O+G provides:

Project management: O+G projects are typically complex, with multiple contractors required to work together to achieve outcomes.

Working under pressure: In O+G every minute counts.  If you are from O+G operations you will be familiar with the pressure to prevent the dreaded "NPT."  O+G teaches you to keep your composure under pressure.

Working in difficult environments: Almost anybody that has worked on location has worked in a difficult environment, whether it be a deepwater semisubmersible or a land rig in the middle of the jungle/desert/bush/etc... Being able to demonstrate that you have survived working in these environments can put you ahead of other candidates that have not had this exposure, as these are often the reasons that people leave field-based positions.

Managing large value contracts: Most O+G projects are high value.  If you can keep your composure when the stakes are high in O+G this will translate to other industries.

Technically challenging projects: If you think that your technical capability that you have developed over your career does not mean anything in your career transition, you are wrong.  Over this time you have developed strategies to learn, reason, organize, and implement knowledge and information.  This will put you ahead of many other candidates that do not have this exposure.

O+G expects HSE excellence: Most likely the health, safety, and environment (HSE) expectation in O+G was higher than the industry that you are moving into.  Most O+G professionals receive a high level of HSE training and have worked in a culture where taking shortcuts in safety is not an option.  This should be highly valued by your potential employer (if it is not then maybe you should reconsider the job). 

Most O+G professionals get exposure to a broad range of working environments: The typical O+G progression is starting right from the bottom, then to a field based position, then on to office based support, contract management, operations management, etc. An employee who has gone through this career development project is much better equipped to deal with a diverse range of colleagues, contractors, and clients and work environments.

These are my observations in my ongoing quest to transition from O+G to civil engineering.  I have got feedback to support this from senior people currently in civil engineering, which was my inspiration to write this article.  Some of my points may not apply to your particular situation, but hopefully there will be something in here that gives you encouragement.

Dig through your career to find all of the skills that you can transition into your chosen industry—really dig.  Speak to people from the industry you want to get into and find out what is important to them and where they feel that their industry is weak.  Maybe you are uniquely skilled to fill that void.  Don't feel that you have to take the first job that comes up. You are almost certainly more valuable to a potential employer than you think.


James Baker, SPE, is currently a civil engineer, dams, mining, and geotechnical at GHD in Tasmania, Australia. The article was originally posted in his LinkedIn page.