Like every job out there working offshore has its pros and cons, working offshore is not just a job but a lifestyle choice. Depending on your personal situation then it isn't the career choice for everyone, but I wouldn't change my job for the world.
Life at sea
Do you suffer from sea sickness? No? Okey well thats a good start. Vessel based work places you in some stormy conditions with choppy waves and large swells so you need to be able to hold your nerve at sea. Working on a vessel can be claustrophobic, I have heard people refer to it as a 'floating prison' - dont worry it is not anywhere near as bad as that. The vessel soon feels like home once you have unpacked and moved into your cabin, met some of the vessel crew and most importantly located the mess room and gym.
The most important thing to remember though when working at sea is that the environment is full of hazards. You have to be safety aware and conscious of your surroundings at all times, even when you arn't on back deck. Fatalities are rare but they do happen, you have to look out for your colleages and work as a team to ensure everyone gets home safely at the end of a swing.
Life at sea can feel isolated, you are often a long way from home in a different time zone for relatively long periods of time. You must be prepared to make sacrifices, including missing birthdays, anniversary, christmas, new years etc. the list goes on. If you are uber social then working offshore will not do your social life any favours. I especially sympathises for the guys and girls offshore who have children, missing key milestones in their lives must be heart wrenching. One of my colleagues missed the birth of his baby boy last swing, an irreplaceable memory. Fortunately I am relatively commitment free at this point in my life so this element of working offshore is not particularly hard yet.
The majority of the roles offshore are physical so keeping yourself healthy and fit is advised. If you are into your health and fitness then this can sometimes be a challenge to sustain depending on what vessel you are working on. I have been on vessels that cook the most fabulous food and have great gym facilities and I have also been onboard others that fry every item of food including vegetables and have no fitness facilities at all. On occasions like this you have to improvise, yoga or pilates on the bow or lifting a few extra tools or barrels on shift to keep in shape.
No such thing as 9-5
I have tried the whole 9-5 working routine and it just wasn't for me, only two days off a week was not ideal. There arnt many jobs out there that allow you to work only half the year offering you large chunks of time off to spend however you see fit.
The working day offshore is a long one - 12 hour days, 7 days a week for 4-8 weeks straight. These long days with no days off in between can be both mentally and physically challenging, however if you are a fan of routine and working to a schedule then this will most certainly suit you. No sooner are you off shift than your awake again on your way to the next tool box talk. I find that the days merge into weeks and the weeks soon merge into a month.
To ensure I have a great work life balance I like to take a minimum of 1-2 months leave at home between swings to invest my time properly into my family and friends and to most importantly have fun. The long periods of time off work allow you to really live, to travel and explore. Not having to set an alarm for a couple of months straight sounds like something so small but it is so great!
To travel is to live
I am a huge fan of travelling and the fact that my job takes me to some of the most incredible places in the world, fully paid for is such a bonus. If you arn't a fan of flying then unfortunately this might not be the career for you as this is your only method of commute. Working on vessels as opposed to an offshore rig means that I rarely work in the same place twice. Fortunately I dont often work in the cold stormy North Sea, I get to work in some more exotic and warmer corners of the earth.
We are also allowed to take local leave after a swing if we would like too. We usually get a night at a hotel prior to boarding the vessel which offers a day or so of local exploring time but it is great to stay behind a few days to really take in the local area before jetting home. If you are a fan of travelling then the offshore lifestyle most certainly facilitates this desire.
My job has taken me to some very under developed and dangerous parts of the world so by all means the travel isn't always glamorous. The companies I have worked for fortunately always supply a local agent which is waiting for you as soon as you step off the plane. Your safety is paramount not only onboard but during transit.
Show me the money
Being British, talking about money is a bit of a taboo. I recently read an article in the Independent which stated that us Brits are seven times more likely to tell a stranger how many sexual partners they've had than have a chat about their income.
It is no myth that the offshore salary is a generous one, especially for contractors. The majority of roles offshore require you to have a certain skill set or a university degree and as a result your expertise are rewarded with a generous pay packet. Your salary is also dependent on the area of the world you work in and the company you working for. I work as a contractor so I have the freedom and power to negotiate my day rate depending on the client that wants to utilise my skill set.
On one hand you are away from your family and friends making a huge amount of sacrifices but the money you are earning allows you to lead a fantastic life, if your sensible then a worry free one when it comes to money. When you are offshore you are not only increasing your bank balance through your day rate but also by the fact that you are not spending any money. The food is free, accommodation is free and even during transit you can expense any necessities.
For those of you reading that are considering a career offshore then I hope this post has been insightful and offered you a broader perspective. For those of you reading that are offshore professionals then I would love to hear your opinions on the topic, please feel free to share your personal pros and cons. To fully appreciate the offshore life then I would say give it a go, it is challenging but equally rewarding and you will create some great memories in the process.