After a pleasant vacation of two weeks last summer, I returned to work only to find that my ‘catch-up’ meeting was to let me know that my vacation had been extended somewhat. I was given a package of various papers, allowed to clear a few small things from my office, given a hug by the HR girl as I left the building, and that was that. Driving home a strange sense of contentment and relief settled over me.
Yes! I was free!
Don’t get me wrong, I’d always enjoyed doing what I did. If you ignored the periods of poverty, family upheavals, cash-flow problems, more family upheavals, and the other periods of poverty, I can honestly say that I’d had a great time for most of the 40 years I’d spent in my little corner of the oil industry. But …
Yes!! I was free!!
The first couple of months were pretty much a true vacation. I consolidated my pension funds, 401k contributions, severance pay and money from a mortgage refinance that I’d luckily completed before being kicked, well … okay, hugged out of the door, and re-deposited them into a variety of funds that I could actually access if I needed the money in a hurry. My financial advisor gave me seven years to survive if I maintained the 24/7 vacation lifestyle. I reckoned that even I could get a job within seven years with no problem, so I considered myself in good shape. Better than a lot of people who had been cast out of their jobs with younger families, lots of debt, and not much to fall back on.
But, no sense hanging about for seven years and then having to fight for a ‘greeter’ job at Walmart. In the third month of the vacation, I created a ‘DBA’ type company for myself . But what was I going to be? What would be my title? The word ‘liaison’ was mentioned to me in conversation which seemed to fit well with the word ‘consultant’. And since I had grown up in the surface logging business, that is why my LinkedIn profile now states that I am a ‘Liaison Consultant – Surface Evaluation Strategy’. Back then it seemed to fit better than anything else.
One of the benefits that I was given by my pre-vacation employer was access to a company who helped tailor my resume and LinkedIn page. I used them and abused them quite a lot. My problem, or their problem, or our problem, was that I had remained in the same company for so long. My one paper qualification was a geology degree. All of the other positions I held were based on the knowledge and internal training I had picked up along the way. This proved problematic when trying to write about my relevant experience while at the same time trying to ignore any of that experience that was more than 10 years old (as they suggested I had to). It proved even more difficult trying to say that my geology degree qualified me for the positions I had held and might hold again if applied for.
“So, Mister Cave, you would like this marketing job would you?”
“Yes, yes I would please.”
“And your degree is in … ?”
It just doesn’t quite work. But the resume folk were very good and eventually we agreed on a format (providing I also said the right things) that might stand up to the harsh type of questioning indicated above.
I’ve been slowly altering it ever since.
It is currently February of 2017 and I am seven months into that extended vacation but I now consider myself to be very gainfully unemployed. Thanks to the years I’ve worked in the oilfield I do know a lot of people. I also know that if I was asked for information and didn’t know the answer, nine times out of ten I would know who to ask. These last seven months has opened up another large group of contacts thanks to LinkedIn (I was never much of a fan, but I now appreciate what it can do for a gainfully unemployed person like myself). So, anyway, uh… I’m beginning to digress… that happens when you work at home and can nibble cheese, sip wine, and slowly work through your record collection at any time of day.
Alright… back on track.
I started writing this article to summarize my point of view in ‘looking for a job.’ To start with, I was fully into preparing a great resume (as mentioned above) and sending it off to all the right companies. Unfortunately, at the end of 2016, all the right companies were still reducing their workforce like crazy and others were just not hiring. Eventually, I gave up sending out my resume as a full-time thing. I only do it now if asked politely.
Moving away from resume sending, I read about so-called ‘pain letters’ (you can Google the term). My interpretation of the ‘pain letter’ was to contact operators, tell them they had a problem (no geologic knowledge of their laterals and therefore poor returns), and offer to fix their problem by ‘liaising’ with other companies (mud-logging and geoscience) who would be willing to fix those problems. This approach did not pay off for me at the time, but I still think it is a good approach to follow. Obviously, LinkedIn provided much of the background information, followed up with internet searches of operators and their operational strategies.
While doing resumes and pain letters I also used LinkedIn to post stuff, like other people’s stuff, and write comments. All of this helped build my network and helped me get to know more people. So far, in my gainful unemployment, this interaction has reaped the most rewards. No, I have not got myself a steady paying job, but I can now honestly say that I am a liaison-consulting-marketing-and-sales-representative for a handful of very interesting companies (all without a smidgen of conflict of interest between them), who will happily provide me with a commission when a contract is signed and sealed.
The bottom line is that I can happily stop complaining about non-replies to resume applications or ‘pain letters’. I don’t need to hunt for jobs that only marginally interest me or marginally fit the skills I’ve picked up over 40 years. I can even unsubscribe to the vast amount of spawned job-search emails that fill my inbox every morning. All I need to complain or worry about is that I, myself, have not worked hard enough to gain the commissions that will keep me from having to live under a bridge sometime in the semi-distant future.
I guess, to finish in a blaze of propaganda, if anyone is in need of the services of a great mud logging and geosteering company, or a world renowned geochemical company, or a manufacturer of sample catching devices, or a mud flow and kick detection equipment and software company, or… finally (for now)… a manufacturer of state of the art GC-IRMS (gas chromatograph isotope ratio mass spectrometry) equipment, PLEASE contact me!
And remember, connections do matter, especially if you are interested in a life of gainful unemployment.
P.S. I’m still willing to be gainfully employed too!
Featured image is from the cover of the Supertramp album ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ – Design by Fabio Nicoli – A&M Records 1975 – This post was originally published here.