Construction jobs are booming right now in South Louisiana, as the Baton Rouge and Acadiana areas are working to recover from the flooding. Many of those jobs could be a great fit for oil and gas workers looking for new opportunities.
How do you get a construction job, though, if you’ve been working offshore or in an energy job? To learn more, we spoke with Crystal Miller, who started and managed the national residential construction practice for the largest single-site search firm in the United States for nearly five years. She also spent two years in executive search and recruitment in the oil and gas industry.
Here are her tips to help you make the switch.
If your oil and gas career doesn’t involve specific construction tasks, you may not know much about the industry. Start your research by looking at some construction job ads. See what the recruiters or hiring managers list as important skills, then consider what skills you already have or what you’re lacking.
Look at industry-specific organizations, as well. “The National Association of Home Builders can be a good resource to learn more about the vendors and general contractors operating in your area, and it wouldn’t hurt to seek their advice about how you can make the shift from oil and gas to construction,” Miller says. Specifically, if you find a vendor or contractor you like, ask for an informational interview to learn more about what they’re looking for and how your skills might translate.
Now that you have an idea of what skills are wanted in a construction setting, you’ll need to figure out which parts of your oil and gas experience will translate.
Miller recommends an online skills translator. One she likes is My Skills My Future, in which you can enter information about prior jobs and it will show positions in other industries that would be similar. It’s not always a perfect match, but it should get you close. And the good news is that oil and gas isn’t as far off from construction as you may think. If you’re unsure how to describe your current job in HR terms, Miller suggests looking up job ads for your current position and seeing how it’s described. Use those terms in your skills translator.
“Project managers have a high degree of versatility in both residential, commercial and energy construction since the skills are almost completely transferable,” she says. And if you had a trade job in the oil and gas industry, even better. “The good news about being part of a craft trade such as welding, plumbing, piping and carpentry is that it’s fairly transferable to many areas in construction, including residential and commercial construction,” Miller says.
Once you’ve learned what’s required in a construction job and seen how your skills will transfer, you need to convey that to a hiring manager. This will require a little more work since your job experience won’t match up perfectly to what they’re expecting. You’ll need to clearly spell it out for them.
In your cover letter and interview, Miller recommends highlighting the similarities between the oil and gas position and the construction job. It’s important to make a business case for why you should be hired, she says.
“Avoid writing things like ‘I’m a good guy’ or ‘I need this job,’ Miller says. While emotionally compelling, it’s more effective to highlight how you’ve taken on new projects or roles and performed well, using concrete examples and numbers wherever possible. “Remember,” she says, “businesses want four major things: How did you save the company time, save the company money, make the company money, or add to the company reputation and culture?”
If you highlight these items in your cover letter and any calls or interviews you have with the company, you should be well on your way to getting a job in construction.
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