Picture yourself five years ago when selling a barrel of oil would net you a steak dinner in a nice restaurant (if you brought your own wine).

Fast forward and these days it seems trading oil is only resulting in macaroni and cheap beer.

Times have certainly changed. It can be frustrating, working on the ground in the oilfield, in the drilling sector or in the bush, because there’s not a lot we can control.

Which makes sense.

Large companies throughout North America are being forced to control costs like never before so they can maintain some semblance of normal production. In many cases, even that’s impossible. Production has ground to a halt so these companies can afford to keep the lights on.

But it’s never the company that suffers. It’s the individual. The rig-hand. The secretary. The welder. The mechanic. The operator.

Companies can control their costs because they control you. Sort of. You know who really controls you? The face in the mirror. That’s why the time is perfect to make significant improvements to your skill set.

Augment Practical Experience with Theoretical Knowledge

Working on the ground in oil and gas is the best way to learn the ins and outs of the industry. The most successful careers are born from soaking up knowledge. Long hours and significant overtime reward men and women with much more than just a paycheck.

When those company-controlled advantages dry up, however, it’s up to you to push your own career to the next level.

  • Update your certifications
  • Take relevant safety courses
  • Attended technician’s courses rich in technical skills
  • Learn more about manufacturing, processing and automation in the industry

There’s always something to learn. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself by discovering a new path you’d like to take. Hey, oil is way down, so now is a good time to switch careers if you’re going to do it.

Rub Elbows with Influencers

This might be more relevant to young drillers, forestry workers and mechanics, but the benefits of learning from new people while the economy inches along are free for anyone who wants to emerge from the downturn stronger than ever.

Apply yourself. Absorb new information and use it to make yourself smarter, more skilled and an overall more valuable component of the oil and gas industry.

Ask questions. Find out why your foreman prefers the hydraulic grapple. Learn more about your company’s unique safety protocols. Study specific machine parts and how they could be improved.

You can also network with people who work in other departments within your company or even customers and clients.

Be careful, though. The last thing you want is to offend your current employer by communicating with the company’s customers.

The key, as always when we have time on our hands, is to learn. Apply yourself. Absorb new information and use it to make yourself smarter, more skilled and an overall more valuable component of the oil and gas industry.

Stay Patient. Sort Of.

My dad has been welding in the energy sector for nearly 45 years. Finding work is easy for him because his experience is so vast and his name is strong in his local community. And yes, he’s a typical oilman, fending off retirement for just one more year.

OK, just one more year after that. Alright, one more after that.

But sooner rather than later, the baby boomers are finally going to pick up their golf clubs and leave the shop behind for good. These are men and women who grew up working with their hands in the garage in rural settings all over the country — the future of the oil industry is going to operate differently.

There’s a void that’s going to need filling. Costs will need to be controlled. Smart solutions will be the name of the game.

Young, intelligent, tech-savvy people with something new to offer the industry are about to become more valuable than ever. As companies start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, designing sophisticated products guided by the eventual end user will be the chosen approach.

So, stick with the program (or find a new one). The more you invest in your own future, the more that future will invest in you.