No Prior Offshore Experience - The Catch 22
Usually the first question any offshore recruiter will ask
you is "Do you have
previous offshore experience?"
This will probably be he most vital bit of information you can
provide. Even if you are at the top of your game in your particular trade, with
years of industry experience, (such as a pipe welder, industrial /
commercial electrician, crane operator, diesel mechanic, warehousemen,
recruiters will more than likely be reluctant to hire you directly into that
position. Here's why:
- Working offshore is vastly different than working
a similar land based job
- You have to be familiar with offshore emergency
procedures and what to do if the need arises
- Even if you are at the top of your game in your
particular vocation (pipe welder / mechanic / crane operator /
warehouseman, etc.) you will be lost when you first get on a rig. While
such terms as forward and aft or port and starboard are easy to figure
out (port has four letters in it just like left), other terms, such as
the moonpool, the
V door, the monkey board, the shale shaker, the #3 caisson, the mud
pits, etc. will take a bit of getting used to.
- In some cases it might take you (if you have to
go by boat) 12-14 hours in rough seas just to get to the rig, at which
time you could be expected to work a 12 hour shift. Even the most
physically fit of people get sea sick. It's a tough gig trying to pull a
12 hour shift after having been on a 14 hour boat ride. There have
numerous occasions when a new hire was told he had to work 12 hours
after being sea sick from a 14 hour boat ride and he said "TO HELL
WITH THIS CRAP, I QUIT." Recruiters need to know you are going to hang in
there when things get tough. And believe me they get tough.
In times past, having previous offshore experience was
not near the requirement it is today, but times have changed. Currently, most offshore recruiters
require that an applicant have a minimum of six months experience offshore
before they will hire you. Some recruiters want as much as 2 years experience.
There are exceptions, which I will talk about later.
It takes anywhere from two to six months for a new
hand to get even basically familiar with basic offshore procedures. Usually
after you're worn out your first pair of boots, you're pretty much a hand if
you've got any merit about you at all. AND, once you've gotten your
first six months experience you will satisfy the question of "do you have
any previous offshore experience?"
- NOTE: If you are looking at a job with a
particular company you feel you can do, and, after having contacted the
recruiter they say something like "We are really seeking someone with at
least two year's experience" don't become discouraged. Check in
with that recruiter every week or two. If the job is still there,
let him (or her)
know you are immediately available and, if given a chance to prove
yourself, you will make a good hand.
- Don't let the BS about 2 years experience being a
requirement dismay you. 2 years experience might be what they say they
want, but what they really want is someone who can fill that empty slot
on the rig. With all the baby boomers retiring by the thousands, there is currently a
mass exodus going on of experienced offshore hands. This has created a
severe personnel shortage they are having a hard
time filling. Personally, I believe recruiters are DESPERATE for personnel. Oh, they will tell you they are
not, because that is the way the corporate mentality works. If it were
true (that they are not desperate for people) there would not be
thousands of job advertisements all over the web.
Here's the catch
22 squirrel cage: How does one get the experience if no one will hire you
because you have no experience?
The most important thing you need
to understand is the
situation the industry is in. Because of the mass exodus of the "baby boomer
generation" (see chapter 2), thousands of seasoned oil field hands are
leaving the oil rig job industry in record numbers. This has created an
enormous shortage of personnel, all the way from entry level to top
Once you do get some basic offshore experience, you
will have the key which will open
many doors for you. Regardless of the position they hold today, everyone in the industry had to start somewhere. But it's getting that initial bit of experience which presents
the biggest problem. Again, let me stress a big part of this site is
to show you how to get hired (with no prior experience) and get that all
six months under your belt.
You will not find many job advertisements that
specifically say "Entry Level". The reason for that is because most of the
people who work offshore have friends and/or relatives they are trying to
get on. Personnel departments have no end of entry level applicants.
HOWEVER, by no means do I want to imply you should NOT
apply for an entry level position. In fact, the exact opposite is true. If
you have no prior offshore, oilfield or maritime experience and no
transferable skills (such as welder, electrician, medic, mechanic, crane
operator, warehouseman, cook, etc.) you will want to post your application
that you are applying for an "Offshore Entry Level Position".
Other entry level positions are roustabout, cleaner /
painter, scaffolder, rigger, utility hand, deckhand, ordinary seaman and
oiler. When you are searching ads and see one of these listed, change your
resumé from "Offshore Entry Level Position" and post
whatever position you are applying for. For example, if you see an opening
for Roustabout, that is what you will put in your
objective. The same goes for Rigger, Utility Hand,
Training Positions: Many of the companies have
training positions available. These positions are for personnel who have a
specific set of skills that are required for a particular job but just don't
have any prior offshore experience. Examples would be rig welder trainee,
crane operator trainee, motorman trainee, rig electrician / mechanic
trainee, storekeeper trainee, ballast controlman trainee, etc. Normally what
happens in these situations is that you will be placed with an experienced
hand for a couple of hitches to learn the ins and outs of offshore drilling
along with your particular trade.
Then, when management decides you know your stuff, they will turn you
lose in a position of your own.
This is a great way to get on and is how I started my
offshore career as a crane operator. I had worked offshore before as a rig
welder. But the company recruiter I was talking to said he didn't need any
welders at the time but wanted to know if I could run a crane if someone
trained me. To which I replied "Most Certainty" I trained two weeks with
another crane operator and was then turned lose with my own crew. This was
when semi submersibles were first coming out and I was fortunate enough to
get on one coming right out of the shipyard, so I got to participate in the
break in and commissioning procedures as well as normal drilling operations.
NOTE: If the recruiter says
they do not have trainee
positions, ask them if they
would consider starting a
trainee program for people with
What I Recommend: If you
have any type of transferrable experience that
could be used on the rig (welder, crane or forklift
operator, electrician, mechanic, warehouseman, medic,
etc.) I suggest you make up two resumés - one for "Any
Entry Level" and one for "_______________ Trainee", with
your particular skills and background listed in the
blank. This works! Use it if it applies!
I stress through out this book the utmost importance
in establishing personal relationships with offshore recruiters and other
hiring personnel. This is absolutely essential and will get you hired faster
than anything else. There are people behind these job advertisements,
e-mails and phones and they are constantly looking for people
who are honest, dependable and who want to work. When you establish personal contact with a recruiter, he or she is no longer dealing with electronic files and
word documents, but a real person - you.
Work For Free: No, that's not a typo, that's
exactly what I said. The catch is no one is going to take you up on it
because for you to be an employee working on a rig and not getting paid
would be a violation of labor laws. HOWEVER, the point of offering this is
to show the employer you are really interested in working and not just
"getting a check" like so many are these days. What you can tell them is you
will be willing to work for a week or two, without pay, so you can have the
opportunity to demonstrate your willingness and abilities in doing the job.
Believe me, no one else is going to offer this, so this is a great
way to make a lasting impression on recruiters. The key to making it work is
to be willing to take them up on it just in case they call your bluff.
Another thing you might
consider is to take some vocational courses, like welding, diesel mechanics, EMT or para medic,
crane and forklift operations, electrician, etc. Many of these courses can
be found through your
local college, vocational schools or adult education classes at a reasonable cost.
Anything you can learn about hydraulics, pneumatics,
control valves, generators, pumps, winches, etc., will
Industry Training Classes: Because of the
current boom going on, many industry training schools have sprung
up over the last couple of years, all over the world. These are excellent
schools and offer from the very basic courses like BOSIET (basic offshore safety induction & emergency training),
SafeGulf / Rig Pass, basic roustabout / roughneck, etc.
to advanced drilling and rig operating courses.
While these courses are not a
requirement in getting hired, taking and completing them
and getting an industry certification will go a long way
in persuading potential employers you are the guy (or
gal) for the job. However, taking them is not a
guarantee you will be hired. Do keep this in mind.
When you do get hired, you can ask to be reimbursed for
any money you had to put out in taking the course.
- DO NOT mention
anything about a reimbursement before you are hired
- Wait until you've been on the
job a couple of hitches and then talk to your
or rig supervisor about the possibility of getting
- This is not an unreasonable
request, the worst they can say is "no".
Back in the day, taking courses
before getting hired was unheard of. When a company
hired you, they sent you to get the training they wanted
you to have, at their expense. But that was "back in the
day". Things have changed considerably since then.
Remember, there are tens of
thousands of unemployed people wanting to get one of
these high paying offshore oil rig jobs who, in better
times, would never have considered working offshore.
Anything and everything you can possibly do to make
yourself more "sellable" you want to do. Taking industry
courses is a major way in getting ahead of the
competition, because most of your job hunting
competition is not going to do it.
In "Cpt Ron's Contacts" of some
700 plus companies that are currently engaged in the
offshore oil and gas industry. Many are HOW HIRING for
present and future needs, for both US and overseas
positions. There are 13 major categories,
broken down as follows:
| 1. Catering Companies
2. Corrosion Control
3. Computer Services
4. Offshore Drilling Contractors
5. Mud Loggers
6. Well Services Companies
7. Diving Companies
8. Offshore Engineering / Construction
9. Oil Companies
10. Offshore Oil & Gas Employment Agencies
11. Special Service Companies
12. Air & Maritime Transportation Companies
13. Onshore Drilling Contractors
You will want to go through each
one of these web sites, individually. You will want to
go through them and not be in a hurry. If you get in a
rush you will miss out on some wonderful opportunities.
Go to their web site. View all their pages. Learn as
much as you can about each company before you apply.
Some of the web sites have videos
about their operations. Watch them, maybe even a couple
of times. some are animated, some are real time videos.
Here is a
link to one such site, Flour, an offshore
engineering, construction and maintenance company,
employing some 41,000 personnel worldwide. As you can
see there are several videos about their operations. The
more you watch, the more you learn. The more you learn
about the operations of a particular company, the better
you will be able to communicate what you know about that
company to the recruiter.
If there are video's on the site
from the CEO or other top management types, watch them.
If they have links about their mission statement,
corporate strategy, executive management, safety
policies, you will want to pay particular attention to
these. Here is the reason - these type of pages are
great resources for particular key words that are
specific to that company and it's mission. When these
are strategically placed in your resumé you will have a
much better chance of getting a recruiter's attention
and interview than if you did not take the time to do
Many of the sites have begun
writing quarterly and even monthly news letters. If
possible, get a copy of them and read it from front to
back. Maybe even a couple of times. The more you can
learn about each company and their specific industry
mission, the better your chances are of getting hired.
Believe Me when I say very,
very few (if any) of the tens of thousands of other
offshore oil rig job seekers who are trying to get hired
offshore will be doing this. In fact, I doubt that the
majority of people who are reading this book will even
do it. Why? Because it's "too hard", or it "takes up too
If you want to get hired offshore,
and you have no prior offshore experience, you have to
be willing to do what others are not willing to do. In
other words, be willing to accept any position, no
matter how menial it might seem. If you have no prior
experience, your first goal is to get hired and get six
months under your belt. After that has been achieved,
you can pretty much go in whatever direction you want to
For example, if your goal is to be
a roughneck (floorhand / leasehand), crane operator, rig
welder, etc., and the only position you can get is
washing dishes in the galley, take it! At least you will
be on the rig. You get to talk with the other rig hands
and ask questions, you get to watch the drill floor
operations, you get to watch the crane operator as they
load / offload crew and supply boats, participate in
emergency abandon ship drills, etc. You get to
familiarize yourself with overall rig operations, you
get to see a lot of things you would not see if you did
not have a job as a galley hand.
Every once in a while, one of the
crew members (and sometimes several) will either quit or
get fired during the middle of the hitch. This leaves
immediate openings that have to be filled. If a
floorhand leaves, a roustabout will be moved up to take
his place, which leaves an opening in the roustabout
crew. If you are working in the galley and see this
happen, you can go right to the toolpusher and let him
know you want to apply for the open roustabout position.
If he thinks you can do it, he will send you in to get a
physical. Pass that, and presto, you are a member of the
crew. It happens. However, if you are not on the rig
because you felt it beneath you to take a job as a
galley hand, it won't happen for you ... ever.
So let me emphasize this point
again; if you have no prior offshore experience and want
to work in the offshore oil rig job industry, it would
be in your best interests to consider initially taking
whatever you can get. Too many times I've heard someone
say "I'm not going to do THAT!" or "That's not enough
Here's how things work: Offshore
is about work. Depending on what it is, it could be hot, nasty and
dangerous; like going into a tank with the temperature at 110 to clean
out stinking mud, oil, drilling chemicals, etc. This is not going to be a
holiday cruise on the Carnival Princess. It is HARD WORK.
If you are not
willing to "give your best" in doing the most menial of tasks, it is
doubtful you will "give your best" in higher
positions. Entry level positions such as galley
hand, cleaner / painter, deckhand, etc. are a test
to see if you have what it takes and to train you
for advancement. It costs a lot of money
to train new hands, make sure you are a good investment!
If you are a green hand entry
level with no prior experience, begin with the catering
companies and then the marine transportation companies,
as these are the easiest to get on with when you have 0
offshore experience. Entry level positions with catering
companies would be galley or utility hand; with marine
transportation companies - deckhand or ordinary seaman.
With all other companies you would put "Offshore Entry
Level Position" on your resumé.
Mud Logger Trainee Positions:
As I have stated throughout this book and web site,
there is a boom going on right now in the oil and gas
industry which has created a severe shortage of
personnel. One of the key people on any drill site is
the mud logger. Because of the personnel shortage
crisis, many trainee positions have been created for
this slot. Duties of the mud logger include:
- The making of a comprehensive
documentation of a borehole by inspecting the rock
or sediment dislodged by the circulating mud through
- Drilling activity is
monitored in real time through the use of a mobile
- Mud loggers provide
information on the drilling and pumping parameters,
seismic activity and pressure trends
- Mud loggers use technological
devices to gather data, analyze it and send it to
the the rig management team
- Proficiency in computer use /
computer software programs is desirable
Just to show you what is
available, here is a link to a
mud logger trainee position, working in Australia
with a beginning salary of $50,000 per year.
Another thing to consider is working a land
based oil rig job. With the current oil boom going on as it is, there is
plenty of work available crewing land rigs. If you can't get a job offshore
right away, there is plenty of work on land rigs. If you can get six months
experience on a land rig as a roustabout or roughneck, motorman, operator,
etc., it will go a long way in getting you hired for an offshore oil rig
job. This is true because:
- You will be exposed and
trained in basic drilling
procedures - rig up / rig down, spud ins, running casing, drilling, bit
changes, tripping pipe, mud pits & pressure, the V door, shaker screens,
what type of chemicals to mix for various drilling operations, emergency blowout
- Here is a
short video that will give you and idea as to
the availability of onshore drilling jobs. This is
just in the state of North Dakota. In the US alone,
onshore drilling is going on in