CONTACTING EMPLOYERS EFFECTIVELY
Before you start on your job search you should objectively make a list of your strengths as a geologist. These qualities will most likely be the result of the geological activities you have most enjoyed the last few years.
Your list might include field work, subsurface mapping, laboratory analyses, library research, computer programming, or verbal presentations. The list need not be exhaustive, but should point you toward the type of help you might offer an employer.
Several years ago a study was conducted by a large oil company to learn how their geologists used their time. They found that 90 percent of a geologist's time was spent collecting, annotating and displaying data, and 10 percent interpreting the data. Knowing this, when you talk with a prospective employer you might emphasize your familiarity with geological data sources, or your experience in setting up a computer data base on a school project. If he can see that by hiring you he can reduce by as much as 90 percent of his current work of data collecting and annotating, he may hire you to do those tasks for him.
If a substantial part of an employer's business is representing drilling proposals to investors, he may be spending much of his time on the road making presentations. If you have good communication skills - in speaking and writing - you may be valuable in helping prepare prospect brochures and talking with investors. The employer thus high-grades his own time to making the initial contact with an investor, determining the investor's interest, and setting up a schedule of visits for you to make.
Almost every geologist has a special project in mind that he intends to work on "one of these days." The project may be of limited duration: the construction of a single map, for example. Or it may be an ongoing one, such as posting maps with current well information and integrating the data. You can ask a prospective employer if there are such projects that you could work on. Sometimes "temporary" jobs turn into full-time employment if the assigned work is done well.
There are numerous guides available for helping you prepare your resumé. Available from the AAPG are the course notes of Workshop in Interview Skills by Mary Sue Hayward, presented at the Dallas Annual Convention, April, 1983. It is an excellent guide for preparing for an interview, and contains a section about the preparation of a resumé.
The general rule about resumés is that they should be typed, but it's okay to distribute copies to prospective employers. Two pages is usually sufficient to cover all pertinent facts.
It should include a statement of your career objectives, universities you've attended, and degrees you've received. List those jobs you've had which relate to your career objectives. Show publications, if any, and significant careerrelated short courses or special schools that you've attended. If you have particular skills, or proficiency in a foreign language, list them.
Attach a copy of your college transcript. Any employer will want to see it, and you'll save him the trouble of asking.
I suggest you attach a 2- by 3-inch black and white photograph. It will be of help to an employer to remember an interview later.
A list of references should be provided, or be available on request. It's usually not desirable or necessary to include letters of recommendation. If the prospective employer is interested in you, he'll follow up by talking with your references directly or by using his own sources.
A possible exception to the "no letter" policy might be that a previous employer, for whom you've done good work, is forced to terminate your employment because of his business failure or some other factor. A strong letter of commendation on your behalf might save a prospective employer the trouble of contacting your previous one to learn why you were let go. If you left of your own choice, and if your employer will provide a letter of recommendation, you probably should include it also.
My experience is that most employers will "deep-six" unsolicited resumés that they receive from geological applicants. You shouldn't expect replies from those to whom you send resumés. However you should have a resumé available to give to any prospective employer should he ask for it.
An interview with a prospective employer is an important meeting. In a short period of time, usually less than an hour, the employer will be trying to learn as much about you as possible, and assessing how well you might fit into his company.
You need to be as well-prepared for the interview as possible. The course notes of Workshop in Interview Skills was mentioned in the preceding section as a good reference. Interview workshops and seminars are frequently conducted by the AAPG, by other professional organizations, and often by schools and departments.
A few topics are sufficiently important to be covered here:
1. Appearance. For campus interviews, school clothes are generally appropriate. Your department chairman should inform you if there are guidelines regarding interview dress codes.
For interviews in a company's office, you should dress as you expect the interviewers to be dressed. If the company is in a major city, coat and tie should be worn. In small towns you can dress more casually. However, if there is any doubt, it is better to overdress than underdress.
2. Be informed about the company. Before an interview, you should learn as much about the company as possible: its primary activities, where it operates, its latest significant discoveries. For publicly-owned companies, you can write the company before the interview to obtain a copy of its annual report to stockholders. The report will include a letter from the chairman of the board or the company president describing its latest activities, its concerns, and how the company fared the preceding year.
Another source of data about a public company is the Standard and Poor's Standard Stock Reports. These provide a statistical profile of the company, particularly as it relates to the company's stock, but much additional information is stated also. The reports are available for reference at any brokerage firm or any large public library.
Information about privately owned companies may be more difficult to obtain. However, almost any independent geologist located in the same city as the company may be able to tell you something about it or help you obtain additional information. Consult the list of members of the Division of Professional Affairs (DPA) of the AAPG for names of independent geologists.
3. Ask questions. You should be as interested in learning about the company as the interviewers are about learning about you. Ask questions about how the company goes about looking for oil, what exploration tools are most useful to them, and for small companies, how their drilling is financed.
4. Don't be overly concerned about benefits, location of employment, or advancement schedules. Once a geologist is hired, a company will usually be fair and equitable about rewarding his efforts. Promotions and salary adjustments are reasonably provided. Do be interested in the company's training program and how much emphasis is placed on helping you gain proficiency and experience.
5. Be prepared to discuss your primary interests and strengths in geology, and your long-term career goals and ambitions. Rehearse the answers to any questions you think might be asked.
6. Be positive. Companies like their employees to be enthusiastic about their life and work. They want to feel you are ready and willing to give their job your very best effort.
7. Companies like their geologists to be team players. Before the interview, review the positive experiences you've had working with other geologists at field camp or on class projects. Be prepared to discuss your involvement in working with others in school projects, on athletic teams, and in community and church affairs.
It would be difficult to over-emphasize that your best opportunity to get hired is at your own college, while you are still in school.
At that time, everything is in your favor. The recruiter who visits your school probably does so on a tour that will take him to several schools before he returns home. His company has determined that it can hire a specified number of geologists for the year, and the recruiter may be able to make job offers on the spot.
You are on home ground. The interview setting is familiar. The recruiters will have reviewed your records, talked with your professors and will know much about you before the interview. No other employment opportunity offers you the same advantages.
For that reason, your school and department should do everything possible to attract employers to the campus. One of your school's policies should be to prepare a brochure for companies, as soon as possible in the school year, which contains resumés of the prospective graduates. Data should include schools attended, career objectives, titles and descriptions of theses, and other salient points. These can be updated at little cost again before the school year ends.
At least once a year, letters and brochures should be sent by the university to all known and prospective employers of geologists, particularly those in your state. There should be follow-up calls or letters to the companies' employment representatives. Department alums should be contacted and asked to help recruit. If a departmental industry liaison committee does not already exist, one should be established. Whatever can be done to strengthen relationships with individual companies should be done.
You cannot be responsible for all these items independently, of course, but the projects can be worked on through your campus geology clubs and organizations, as well as through your faculty counselors and advisors. Your local AAPG Student Chapter can assist your faculty with such items. If an AAPG chapter doesn't yet exist on your campus, help organize one!
You should interview with all recruiters who visit the campus. Going through several interviews will help you develop poise and confidence, and each interview should provide information which will be useful to you in subsequent ones. Even if a company doesn't offer you a position, you may want to contact the interviewers later on.
Further, you will be helping your school and department make a strong showing with the companies represented. No recruiter likes to visit a campus and find a half-filled schedule. Be sure that your school or department does all that it can to adequately announce and promote on-campus recruiters, and that the recruiters have a full schedule of appointments when they arrive.
The most likely person to help you land a job may be an obvious one. Search your memory to recall anyone you know who might be able to hire you, or could put you in contact with someone in his company who can. If you know such a person, make an appointment and go by for a visit.
What you are looking for is an advocate - someone who will become actively involved in helping you find employment. Many working geologists, particularly those in small companies, have contacts who can find room in their budgets to squeeze in some geological help on a full- or part-time basis if they really want to do so. The companies these professionals represent may not be actively recruiting geologists - possibly would not even discuss employment with you if you walked in their door - but nevertheless could use you if they were contacted by someone they wished to accommodate.
Your advocate may be a family member or friend, one of your professors who has good industry contacts, a recent graduate of your geoscience department who has already found employment, a fraternity or sorority contact, an older alumnus of your college, a geologist you've met at a society meeting or convention, or someone with whom you've previously discussed your career. Such a contact can open doors for you that would be difficult to access otherwise.
When you have identified one or more possible advocate candidates, contact them by phone and make an appointment to visit in person. You need to spend a little time together and if they are too busy or preoccupied with other matters when you visit little will be accomplished.
Present your resumé with a copy of your college transcript attached. If you have completed a thesis, take a copy of it with you. It is probably your single best aid besides your resumé to represent yourself to a prospective employer. It can initiate dialog and may spark some thoughts in your advocate's mind about other people who might be interested in your work.
Briefly tell him about your situation and interests, and that you need help in identifying individuals or companies that you can contact about employment. Tell him that you would consider hourly or part-time work, if you will, and ask him to provide the names of two individuals or companies that you might visit about finding work.
If he can suggest companies, ask for names of individuals to contact. If you know your advocate well, you might ask if he will contact them to help set up a visit with you. If you aren't comfortable in asking him to make calls, ask if you may use his name when you contact the individuals. If he is unable or unwilling to provide any names for you, he's probably not going to be particularly effective as an advocate. Move on and look for someone else to help. If he can provide names, contact the individuals as you did your advocate. Solicit two more names from each of them. By expanding your network of contacts in a local area you'll be learning "who's who"in the business, and may discover an advocate who's even more interested in you and more effective than your first contact.
In any case, report back to your advocate after you've made your visits to the persons he suggested. Let him know of your progress.
If you hit a blank wall and get no new names from your contacts, ask him for the names of two more individuals. As you periodically report back after your visits you may find that he will provide more, rather than fewer names each time you call. Your problem will become his interest, and together you can be more effective than you alone.
I'm not suggesting that you badger your advocate or make a pest of yourself. If you sense that he does not have the time or the interest in you, don't press. Pick up your net and begin again elsewhere. But if you find that your advocate is really helpful, you may have found a lifelong friend, and someone you will recall with appreciation each time in the future you contemplate these now worrisome days.
Directories can be effective tools in drawing up lists of companies and individuals to contact. Used properly, they can be gold mines of information and help. There are several types: commercial, professional and social.
Commercial directories list companies by operations (e.g., Oil and Gas Producers, Gatherers and Transporters, and Service Companies). Most directories cover only a local area, although some list companies worldwide. Most are available for purchase, or can be used at public or university libraries.
Many directories list names and titles of key employees. Thus, if you wish to contact the exploration managers of all oil producers in a city, such a list can be easily compiled. Additionally, some directories show the amount of oil or gas a company produces monthly or annually; some idea of the size and extent of a company's operations can be ascertained.
Here are examples of some of the more common commercial directories:
Armstrong Oil Directories, published by Oil Men's Association of America, 1606 Jackson Street, Amarillo, Texas, 79102. Current editions cover various areas. (806) 374-1818.
Midwest Oil Register, Drawer 7248, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 74105. (918) 742-9925.
Oil Directories, Inc., 2671 General Drive, Fort Worth, Texas, 76118. (817) 429-5172. Current editions cover various areas.
Oil Directory of Texas and Production Survey, published by R. W. Byram & Company, P.O. Drawer 1867, Austin, Texas, 78767. (512) 478-255 1. Current edition.
The Oil and Gas Directory, 2200 Welch Avenue, P.O. Box 13508, Houston, Texas, 77219. (713) 529-8789. Current edition.
The Whole World Oil Directory, published by Tradex Publications, 4728 W. Alabama, Houston, Texas. (713) 6230690. Current edition.
USA Oil Industry Directory, published by Oil and Gas Journal, PPC Books, a Division of the Petroleum Publishing Co., P.O. Box 1260, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 74101. (918) 836-0409. Current edition.
Professional directories are those which list the members of professional associations, such as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Some of these are available for purchase from the respective societies' headquarters, or in public libraries. Any member of a society is likely to have a copy which you could use.
Professional directories usually list their members alphabetically, but may cross reference them by business addresses, professional specialities, and geographic areas of practice and experience.
The directories of local geological and geophysical societies may be most useful to you, especially if you have narrowed your search to one city. Almost all geological societies publish directories which commonly include photographs of the members, company titles, addresses, telephone numbers and universities attended. This last feature can be of special help to you. With it, you can compile a list of graduates of your school and determine their job titles within a company. You will probably find that graduates of your school will be especially receptive to helping you find work, either within their own companies or with one of their associates.
Examples of professional directories are listed below:
Annual Report and Membership Directory, published by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, P.O. Box 979, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 7410 1. Current edition.
Membership Directory, published by the American Institute of Professional Geologists, 7828 Vance Drive, Suite 103, Arvada, Colorado, 80003. Current edition.
Membership Directory, published by the Geological Society of America, Inc., P.O. Box 9140, Boulder, Colorado, 80301. Current edition.
Directory, published by the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. Suite 100, One Energy Square, Dallas, Texas, 75206. Current edition.
Social directories can be useful to you too. Included in this category are lists of members of fraternal and sorority organizations (they may have alumni clubs in local areas), petroleum and energy clubs, and country clubs. Usually, directories of such organizations are provided only to members, but occasionally they are available at the clubs' headquarters or in local geological libraries.
These directories contain the same type of information as do professional directories: members' names and addresses, titles or occupations, and schools attended. They may include owners and key employees of companies, and others who you may wish to contact but who are not listed in the professional directories.
The most active oil companies are those most likely to need your services. Use of drilling and activity reports can greatly aid in helping you decide who to see and how to make your contacts.
All the wells drilled in this country are reported in various periodicals: newspapers, magazines, and proprietary reports. The reports are sent to subscribers. These subscribers include operating and service companies, independent operators, and petroleum data libraries. Names and addresses of the operators, and drilling completion information of each well is provided.
The reports, used as a cross reference, can quickly yield the names of companies you could contact for employment. For example, if your thesis covered a Mississippian formation in Hardeman County, Texas, a quick scanning of the drilling reports could provide the names of operators who had drilled wells to the Mississippian in Hardeman County within the past year, and those who have announced their intention of drilling future wells. The list is a valuable method of narrowing your search to a few companies who are interested in your thesis topic and are active in the area.
As has been previously mentioned, even if the companies you contact don't offer employment, they are good sources of information about other operators in the area who might be contacted for work.
Nationwide coverage of drilling activity is provided by Petroleum Information Corporation, 4100 East Dry Creek Road, Littleton, Colorado, 80122. Through their district offices they collect and disseminate well information and provide various other services to the industry. Current copies of their reports can be found in offices of many oil companies.
Wherever you work, these or similar reports are available for the area. You should be able to locate a subscriber who will allow you a few hours' use of the reports, or a library where they are available.
If you are to the point in your job search that you are contacting companies or individuals you have targeted as potential employers, you may find that it is difficult to get in to visit anyone with the authority to hire you.
Of course, if you have made your contact through your advocate, you will probably be able to schedule an appointment. If not, you should still try to arrange a meeting beforehand rather than just showing up at an office unexpectedly.
If you arrive at an office without an appointment, you may find the person you'd like to visit busy or out of town. Even if that person consents to see you, he may regard you as an interruption of his day's business and resent the time he spends with you.
The best way to make an appointment is to identify, through use of directories, advocates, or other referrals, the person in a company who would be most likely to be interested in your work, and who might be able to offer you a job. In a moderately large company, that person may have the title of exploration manager, district or division exploration manager, or chief geologist. In a small company it may be the operations manager or the president.
Contact the person by phone. Introduce yourself and briefly tell him where you went to school, when you graduated, and what you are calling about. If you completed a thesis, tell him its title and that you would appreciate the opportunity to discuss it with him. Ask if you might stop by for a short visit. If your thesis topic covers an area of company activity, or relates to one of his interests, he'll probably be willing to spend a little time with you.
When you arrive for your appointment, give him a resumé and show him your thesis. If your thesis has pointed out ideas which may have exploration possibilities, discuss them with him. Ask if there is any way you might continue to work the same area for his company. You may be able to get a retainer for at least a few months to follow up the ideas you've suggested.
If you have some experience in exploration and have originated some exploration concepts, discuss them in general terms with him. Almost any company is willing to consider or evaluate drilling proposals. A prospect brochure may be your passport to visit the exploration manager. It tells him much about you. If the prospect is poorly conceived and presented, his evaluation of you will be negative. However, if you present a valid exploration idea, complete with maps, cross-sections, and a brief explanation of your idea, the manager can assess your work and your possible value to his company.
Even if you have not written a thesis, you should take a portfolio of your best geologic work to an interview. A senior year report, maps produced at your geology field camp, or other such projects can provide a starting point for a conversation with an employer.
Make an assumption that every company and individual could use one more geologist: you. The reality is that every company and individual who employs geologists now probably could use your help in some way, and the remaining questions are what can you do for them and what you will be paid.
Though not as effective as setting up interviews in a city in advance, going door to door in any active oil town will provide an opportunity to meet many people in a relatively short period of time. Use your time to visit as many offices as possible. You'll find that many potential employers have no secretarial help, and you may be able to talk with someone who can help you immediately.
Where to start? If you are already in a city contacting a prospect lead, you might want to spend additional time in the same area. In many towns, oil-related companies and individuals tend to cluster in the same area, often in the same building. Check the directory board in a building for names of companies and independent geologists.
If you don't have a starting point for your search, consider first those states where geological employment is high now. The latest survey of AAPG members reveals that 66 percent live in five states, as follows: Texas, 32%; Colorado, 11%; Oklahoma, 8%; Louisiana, 8%; California, 7%.
Twenty-one percent live in the remainder of the U.S., and 13 percent live in other countries.
With no other factors to influence your decision, pick a city or town in one of the states of high geologic employment where you think you'd like to live. Go there planning to stay at least a week or two, or until you have run through your list of leads. You'll find it more efficient to work one city well rather than several surficially.
With the supply of geologists entering the job market now exceeding the demand, the situation is this:
1. Most companies are not actively recruiting new graduates.
2. Majors are hiring new graduates in very modest numbers, often just to replace retiring personnel. Their hiring criteria are rigid.
3. Starting salaries being offered by majors are high, having declined only marginally from those offered several years ago during boom times.
4. Only the top students are being offered jobs. The few students with the best records often receive multiple offers, but students with mediocre to low grades receive none.
Thus the employment situation is polar. A minority of graduates will find jobs with high salaries; the majority may have no offers at all. The best hope for most young geologists is to find some way to "get their foot in the door" of small companies or independent operators.
The "geological apprentice" program is an attempt to integrate the large numbers of new graduates into the industry at salary levels below those offered by the large companies. It is a post-graduate, on-the-job training program, at the lowest wages acceptable. The concept is similar to that which prevailed during the Middle Ages, when young men served apprenticeships to artisans and craftsmen for several years to learn their craft.
Ideally, an inexperienced geologist finds work with an experienced one, who provides direction, suggestions, and critical review of work accomplished. Projects may include collecting and organizing data, making maps and cross sections, analyzing producing fields, working out the geologic history of an area, and proposing ideas for exploration and development wells.
Office space, access to geological data, and a minimum wage of $5 to $10 per hour is provided. When the young geologist has attained some proficiency in prospecting, perhaps within a year or so, and is actually contributing to the employer's success, his employment situation is reviewed. Salary levels can then be adjusted to reflect the geologist's acquired effectiveness. If wages can not be increased, the employer should aid the young geologist in finding work elsewhere where the salary levels are higher.
Several local geological societies have formalized the concept of geological apprenticeships into a program. They solicit individuals and companies who are willing to consider hiring young geologists at minimal wages, and help young jobseekers to get interviews with them. Even though local geological societies may not have such a program well established, many employers are receptive to the concept and are willing to discuss employment with you on such a basis.
As a job seeker, you should determine what is the minimum acceptable wage requirement before you talk with
prospective employer. Be prepared to propose a geological apprenticeship if you believe a job opportunity may exist but sense that the employer is unable or unwilling to pay a full starting rate.
ADVERTISEMENTS AND EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES
Young graduates often ask if they should place employment-wanted ads in magazines and newspapers, or contact employment agencies for help.
In my opinion, it will do little good for an inexperienced graduate to advertise for employment in industry publications. Employers do not usually look in publications for such help and I personally know of few ads placed by new graduates that have been successful. However, if you have a professional speciality or some experience in exploration, you may get some response.
You should regularly review the help wanted ads in newspapers and industry publications. Employers who live in remote areas or offer jobs with few possibilities for advancement often have difficulty finding and keeping help, and are more likely to run ads or use employment agencies.
Most employment agencies will offer little help to you. They are more interested in working with experienced explorationists, specialists, or management people whose placement can earn large fees. They do not want to spend time working with anyone who may be difficult to place and/or earn them a small fee.
Many local geological societies have established employment committees as an aid both to their members who need geological help, and to unemployed geologists who are looking for work. Commonly the committee chairman keeps resumés on file of the "help wanted" and "positions wanted" people, and members and graduates can make arrangements to review the files.
Some societies publish in their society newsletter new employment listings. If you plan to look for work in an area that has a geological society, you should contact the society directly to learn if they can provide help. If you submit a resumé to a society, you should indicate on the form if you are available for part-time employment or as a "geological apprentice."
Preface | Attitudes | Employment Conditions In Industry
Preparing for a Career in Petroleum Geology | Who are the Employers
Contacting Employers Effectively | Alternative Strategies | References