Hone search, interview skills for expected upstream demand

After a slow start, first quarter employers of engineering talent predict a stronger demand during the third and fourth quarters of 2003.

Firms assist in process

M. Pat Patton
Hunt, Patton & Brazeal Inc.

After a slow start, first quarter employers of engineering talent predict a stronger demand during the third and fourth quarters of 2003. Events in the world have had a stranglehold on capital spending, and the continued merger of majors has kept contractors on their toes to maintain workloads. All of this comes in the face of record oil and gas prices and a paradoxically poor economy. It will not be a dam breaking loose, but a gradual improvement will be noticed. Are you ready?

Here are a few things you can do to take advantage of new opportunities. Got your network handy? You should be preparing a new resume, which shows your most enduring accomplishments and responsibilities, but before you hit the street with it, do a few things: track the new work! Who got the latest field development project? Who got the latest FPSO work, topsides, pipelines? Who bought whom and what?

If you don't have research skills, it is time to get some. Perhaps you don't present well. But are you trainable? You need those skills, too. And by the way, do you know how to make confidential presentations of yourself? It is probably a worthwhile skill even if you're currently employed.

This magazine is one the better sources of information on offshore topics; however, you will still need to know how to reach decision-makers you don't know. After you have worked your network, it's time to talk to people you have never met and who don't know you at all. There is a way to do that confidentially and professionally, even while you are still employed.

There are many choices for training for the aforementioned skills, but before you make a hefty investment, be sure you know exactly what you are paying for. Many firms offer training. Many offer assessment. Few offer placements. Get references on the firm before you spend any money. If the firm does what it claims to do, it will be easy to tell. Do not pay for training if you haven't assessed your need or aren't sure. If you are paying for placement, is it guaranteed? If you are unemployed, do you have enough time to locate work? Firms provide different services:

  • Career management – These firms are rare and follow you forever if they accept you
  • Outplacement – These are everywhere. They generally supply various degrees of quality training, do complete resume service preparation for interviewing, and mail-out services. Some are "retail" and take an upfront fee from you, while some are "corporate" and take a fee from your former or current employer. None of them are placement firms in the true sense. Most do not guarantee services, and many do not provide assessment or testing. Some are licensed
  • Career psychologist – Licensed and unlicensed career counselors are everywhere. They do all of the work the others do, but with a focus on assessment and presentation skills. The cost is generally lower and length of training shorter. You get a focus on interpersonal skills and learn about yourself. It can be revealing, refreshing, or scary
  • Placement firms – Contingency firms are everywhere. Most of the time they are a "voice on the phone." You should talk to them carefully and meet them before you send them anything. Do they specialize in your field? Do they have references? How are they paid? How long have they been in business? How do they present you? Do they provide training?
  • Executive search firms – These firms do not like to be solicited. They come after you. It is okay to send them a resume, but do not expect to hear from them unless they have an active search. They will take a call, however. Show them some respect and tell them what you are looking for. If they ask to meet you, go. Send a resume if they request one. They get paid well by employers and often do confidential searches
  • Temporary staffing firms – When the economy "turns on," this sector gets busy. You can locate a permanent job by taking a temporary one. The danger is that you may become a professional temporary. For those who can handle the gaps between assignments, this might be a reasonable option. Many employers use the temporary staffing firms approach to handle peak loads and insecurity on projects. Inter-national assignments are often handled through temporary firms. Some are structured as professional employment organizations, some as outsource companies, and most provide excellent benefits and do not charge a fee.

Confused? Don't be. Call and visit the group of your choice. Get ahead of the next wave in the offshore employment scene.

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