The life of a contractor in the middle of a downturn

The harsh realities of 'oilfield money' are still very prominent in many professionals’ lives. I have read relentless amounts of articles on the current crude oil price downturn, the vast majority of which focus on profit loss, production cuts, salary slashing and redundancies. Very few of these articles address or discuss life as an oil and gas professional stuck in the middle of this downturn and the realism of the situation so many personnel and their families are experiencing currently. The number of company closures thus redundancies within the sector is still continuing to rise, so how exactly do these people keep afloat?

I like thousands of other professionals have been experiencing this downturn first hand. It has been a difficult time but you have to try and remain as positive and proactive as possible. There is a lesson to be learnt in every situation no matter how difficult it may seem at the time, this current downturn have taught not only me but others a fair few valuable ones. 

1. Budgeting and Savings

I will most certainly be changing my attitude towards savings and budgeting in the future. A large proportion of the guys I have worked with are the sole breadwinners for their families, the only source of income,  so consequently being sensible with your earnings is vital. A fellow contractor once said to me 'you should save enough of your income to be able to afford a year out of work'. At the time I didn't pay much attention but that message has now really hit home. There are lots of websites, forums and free government monetary advice services available to discuss future spending plans and options.

2. Lifestyle Adjustments

Nothing in life lasts forever and this applies to your job security, an asset that seems pretty non-existent within the oil and gas industry currently. Be prepared to adjust when necessary and don't ever live outside your means. This industry downturn has forced me to take a position onshore within a different sector, this has been a huge adjustment to the system. I like many other offshore workers love working offshore and the lifestyle that comes with it but you can’t be an industry snob, any source of income is better than no source of income. So many of the skills used offshore are transferable and can be adapted to multiple roles within a variety of sectors.

3. Be Proactive

I am a very positive person and a true believer in positive energy, what you put out you get back. Although the current market situation has a very negative feel, this is potentially a great time for you to utilise and use your time productively. If the funds are available then using this time to further your education through additional training and courses is an option. This only strengthens your CV and your position within the industry when opportunities arise again, which they will. 

Keep actively searching but be prepared to broaden your horizons. It is not only a difficult time for experienced professionals seeking employment it's arguably more difficult for those with the desire to start a career offshore. The graduate intake for even the largest organisations was slashed in 2015. BP recruited just 50 graduates in 2015 a huge decline from the 280 employed in 2012. Don’t give up, you might not be successful upon application the first time but you never know where your CV might end up, it may fall into the hands of someone that knows of other better suited roles.

4. Don't be naive

This isn't the first O&G industry downturn and it certainly won't be the last. I have only been in the industry for a couple of years now but this downturn has taught me so much. The oil and gas industry is very volatile and we cannot afford to be naive as similar situations will happen again in the future. I have had some great conversations with guys who experienced the last industry downturn in 2008 caused by the recession. 'Swings and roundabouts' is the general conscientious the more experienced offshore workers have on the current situation. 

5. This won't last forever

You have to remember that this downturn is only temporary. No one can predict the future, no one has a definite date or forecast for the future price of crude oil. Fingers crossed that the $30 a barrel plunge is a low of the past. So whether you have been made redundant, lost out on contract work, had your salary halved, thousands of others are in the same boat.  Remain as positive as possible, we have to continue to ride out the storm. 

 All images courtesy of Menno Mulder, Offshore Photographer