Drill Rig by Hans copyright 2014

Drill Rig by Hans copyright 2014

Good advice from Laura Seeber — if you’re thinking of working in the gas and oil industry, or if you just want to know the joys and rigor of life for a gas and oil worker! – Christiane

Between the years of 1999 and 2009 I worked for various environmental consulting companies that worked closely with many oil and gas giants including BP America, Shell, Marathon and other smaller gas and oil exploration companies.

I worked with everyone from the top level geologists and scientists, to drillers, refinery supervisors and the emergency response teams that clean up the spills that occur.  Even after starting my own environmental consulting firm in 2009, I still worked along side many of the same types of people who are working in the industry today.

I won’t lie to you.  Working in the gas and oil industry is backbreaking, exhausting work, especially if you spend the majority of the time out in the field like I did.  There are days that will seem to never end, and then there will be nights that never seem long enough.

However, if you are willing to work hard, pull your own weight, and think independently, chances are you’ll be introduced to many things that you never thought you’d see.  I have literally been in every state in the union at this point, save for Alaska and Hawaii.  I have been witness to a man being saved through his co-workers performing CPR.  I have seen brilliant sunsets and sunrises that I cannot even begin to describe.  I have even- if you can believe it- helped herd cows back onto their grazing land when they came too close to a stranded oil tanker trailer on the side of a road.

I have talked with and worked with so many different people, each with their own quirks.  One gentleman, named Len, insisted that the only drink for him was “stand up straight, too hot for the devil, dark as heck” coffee even on the hottest of days working a bulk terminal plant in Illinois.  And he was one of the tame ones.

Trust me, you have never heard a story- a real story- until you sit down with a bunch of drillers and their helpers for a few drinks after a long day in the field.

Of course, most days working in the gas and oil industry are pretty tame.  You do the same thing in and out, meet the same people, go through the same routine over and over again.  It is really just like any other job in so many ways. There will be days when you lie awake in your bed in the morning coaxing yourself to get up and moving before the dawn.  Some nights you will sleep like the dead from exhaustion.

So if you’re still interested in working in the oil and gas industry, here are a few things that they look for, generally speaking.  Remember, each company is different, so it’s best to talk to the hiring manager and get a feel for their specific needs.

  • Adaptability:  The oil and gas industry is filled with situations where what is learned in school or the meeting room has to be adjusted, retro-fitted, or twisted in order to fit the situation at hand while still keeping the safety of you and others, and the environment in mind.  Being able to demonstratively think on your feet and adapt is a huge asset in this business.
  •  Clear Thinking:  If there was one thing I learned while working in the industry, it was that having a clear head was essential in any and all situations, because any and all situations could turn extremely deadly at a moment’s notice when you’re talking about gasoline, natural gas or oil.  Being able to stay calm, follow directions, and use common sense is not only necessary, it can literally save someone’s life.
  • Having a strong support system:  Another asset, that most people don’t consider, is the need for a strong support system on the home front.  Whether they are family, close friends or the guys you play darts with down at the local watering hole, having a way to de-stress from work is an asset to the job. Working in the oil and gas industry can be extremely stressful at times and having a healthy way to unwind can be a great help when you need to bring your “A” game the next day.
  • Independent:  While following directions and playing your role is important for safety reasons, it’s also imperative that you be able to think independently, and speak your mind respectfully and at the right time. After all, even people in charge can make mistakes. If you see something dangerous or even damaging to the environment and your company, speak up!
  • Strong Communication Skills:  Being able to communicate an idea succinctly and in detail can help to make you a valuable asset to your co-workers and the industry in general.

I hope you noticed that I didn’t mention anything to do with schooling, knowledges, or specific skills.  This is not to say that they aren’t important- they are.  However, without the traits listed above, all the skills, education and training in the world won’t get you very far.  In most cases, an educational background in the physical sciences, mathematics,  or mechanical systems will help.  Also, there is a significant manual dexterity aspect to the job, so if you are good with your hands and physical labor that will count in your favor as well.