Help—I’ve Been Let Go from My Oil and Gas Job! What Do I Do Now?

No matter how you describe it, being let go from your oil and gas job can be devastating. You experience many feelings at once: shock, embarrassment, and a loss of self-confidence. You may be wondering what you could have done to prevent it. Pulling yourself back into the job-search saddle–and staying there–is the hard work. But how, and where, do you begin?

Don’t take it personally

The hard work comes both in the form of pounding the pavement and finding and maintaining a positive attitude. “What I tell candidates is that the battle is as much an emotional one as is the physical search,” says Kathy Mattingly, president of i.t.s. Staffing LLC, a recruitment firm located in Louisville, Kentucky that handles entry-level to executive searches in the information technology field. “Downsizing is something that is taken personally and is rarely personal. That’s hard to separate, especially if you’re a loyal person that loved your job.”

Michael Cozzens, managing partner at Virginia Beach, Va.-based Wayne Associates, a search firm that specializes in technical staffing concurs. “The biggest thing that I’ve seen throw people for a loop is that they take it personally when they get downsized. They need to realize that it was a reduction in force, and that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. Until they come to grips with their situation, they’re not really starting in the right spot for their job search.”

This is especially true when you start to interview for new positions. Career counselors and recruiters say that sometimes the bitterness, defensiveness, and shaken self-esteem can come through in interviews through your attitude, spoken language, and body language. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, and if possible, take a short time off to clear your head.

Make a Plan

After almost a grieving period, Mattingly and others suggest that the most important next step is to create your own battle plan. Literally, write up a plan with specific dates and goals. “Obviously get your resume and cover letters in order,” she states. “I think that the job search is very much a multiple-pronged process. I tell people that they need to use all of them, such as looking at the classified ads, tapping their own network–many times the best jobs aren’t even advertised–and find a headhunter or recruiter in your industry that you’re comfortable with.”

You can locate appropriate recruiters by watching the classifieds or looking in the “yellow pages” under “staffing.” Most major cities have recruiters in every major industrial segment. Websites such as recruitersonline.com has searchable lists of recruiters by industry and location.

The most important outlet, say recruiters, is to tap the web. There are two ways to do it. You can simply post your resume to any number of job boards and hope that a company HR person or headhunter finds you. But what they say is more effective is to actively search the web for current openings.

Cozzens says that job seekers will of course have to do some of their own legwork to find the most appropriate recruiter for their area of expertise, if they choose that route. Look for who’s working with formulation chemists or with bench chemists, he suggests, as examples.

So you’ve located some possible positions to apply for. What’s next? Jessica Lambert, a staffing consultant at Kforce Scientific, a specialty-staffing firm in Detroit, Mich., warns that many job hunters will skimp on their resume polishing, thinking they’ll get the chance to expound on their virtues in the interview. “A lot of people aren’t even getting that chance right now,” she says. The resume is really what’s opening doors right now, but keep it succinct. On the other hand, make it long enough so that your skill set is fully outlined.

Beyond resume preparation, says Lambert, another prime suggestion is to keep a good record of your job search. “A lot of people will submit a resume for a position and not even remember that they did so,” says Lambert. “To me, I find that insulting.” Keep a list of the jobs you’ve applied for, the companies and the search firms you’re using, and a brief description of what they do. So when they call, you have your “cheat sheet” ready by the phone.

What to Expect

What can jobseekers reasonably expect from a recruiter during a period of downsizing? “I would tell a person to be prepared to take a lot of time on the job search because right now the market is extremely tight and everyone is having the same problem,” says Lambert. The typical job search is lasting four to six weeks right now, she notes. So be mentally prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.

Says Cozzens, a lot of times when a person gets downsized, all they really want is their old job back. “Just like you and me, they don’t want to move.” But the possibility of stepping right back into a similar position isn’t equal from city to city. For example, cites Cozzens, if you’re living in Wilmington, Del. there are lots of options for chemists, but in say, Indianapolis, there are fewer. In this situation–if there aren’t any jobs in your field in your hometown–the most gifted and well-connected recruiter can’t be of much help. As a result, many people on the job hunt waste their time with unrealistic expectations. So he suggests that in your plan to honestly consider your personal issues-like relocating–and other priorities.

Many recruiters will help with resume and cover letter preparation, and some, like Mattingly, do go the extra mile in helping with emotional counseling and coaching. She also has jobseekers fill out a wish list with such items as salary expectations and geographic needs, along with questions about how important a casual dress environment is.

“Some people just peddle what you already have,” she notes. “If the recruiter doesn’t understand your needs and wishes, they aren’t worth it.” Recruiters also give tips on interviewing, background specifics on the companies, as well as negotiating an offer and closing the deal.

Lambert also says that jobseekers need to keep in mind when calling recruiters that the business is high volume, especially in a downsizing cycle. “A lot of recruiters are very busy and because the recruiter doesn’t spend 20 minutes to half an hour on the phone with you is not a reflection of your skills,” she states. “I deal with a volume of 100 to 200 resumes a week, with 10 job openings available at any given time. If you’re not brought in for an interview right away, it may not mean your skills aren’t good; it may mean there isn’t a match right then.”

New Directions

Eric Celidonio, staffing consultant with Scientific Resources, Inc. located in Needham, Mass., says that keeping yourself marketable in more than one area is important to allow for flexibility in finding a new job. “People become too dependent on one aspect of their position,” he says. “Oftentimes upon losing your job, if you work for a big company, you may never find something that’s comparable to where you are, in terms of salary and responsibility.”

Try to get experience in a couple of areas, he suggests. For example, for PhDs, some specialize in process development, a catchall term for optimizing a biotech or pharmaceutical process. Often in a large firm, employees will be tasked with a special aspect of process development, for example media optimization or contaminant prevention. “My suggestion is to go out of your way to work with colleagues in other areas without stepping on their toes to develop knowledge beyond what you’re tasked with,” says Celidonio. “You have to take into consideration keeping yourself marketable.”

Cozzens agrees. Jobseekers need to develop alternative plans. For example, if you like working with people, he suggests considering openings in tech service or technical sales. “A lot of times this kind of move doesn’t occur to people,” he says.