When it comes to job hunting in the midst of a pandemic, the COVID-19 generation has seen it all. From interviews on Zoom, to the horror of maskless face-to-face interviews, and to the constant disappointment of rejection letters; there is no surprise that the current crisis will have a profound impact on all industries. However, the oil and gas sector can learn from this crisis. It can actually be acatalytic moment to accelerate permanent shifts, flatten hierarchies, reduce bureaucracy, and push decision-making to the limit. In short, paving the way for a new era of future opportunities.

Embarking on an Oil and Gas Career Post COVID-19

According to an article published by Mckinsey& Company titled Oil and Gas after COVID-19: The Day of Reckoning or a New Age of Opportunity, although the oil and gas industry may no longer seem the best choice for employees nowadays, new talents and engineers are required more than ever. Many young people are starting to think that the sector is placed on the wrong side of the transition. But in reality, the misalignment is between career-progression timeframes and the expectations of the new generation of talents.

In an online survey entitled “Embarking on an Oil and Gas Career Post COVID-19” conducted by Egypt Oil & Gas (EOG) in July to help in understanding the current expectations and aspirations of petroleum students, 42% indicated they were indifferent when it comes to coping with a new normal. However, out of 54 individuals, 83.3% thought that joining the oil and gas sector this year ranges from hard to extremely hard. Moreover, from the fresh graduate respondents who are still unemployed, 67% reported that they are facing recruitment barriers.

Mohamed Elshawaf, Production Field Engineer at Khalda Petroleum Company and Non-Technical Deputy Manager at Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Egypt YP told Egypt Oil & Gas, “Joining the oil industry in this tough period is very difficult and full of challenges. One per 40 engineers is given the opportunity and do not have the luxury of selecting which field to join. You must create your opportunity yourself.”

A Generation of Strong Ambitions

The survey findings have further shown that 56% of petroleum engineering students and fresh graduates strive to be leaders in the future, taking on managerial positions as their long-term career objectives.

When it comes to how the COVID-19 generation will change the petroleum sector in the future, 40.7% of the respondents choose to be more efficient; optimizing production while cutting costs. Furthermore, the respondents have proposed an array of suggestions to overcome the challenges of the sector, most of which endorse personal development and skill improvement. “Exploiting these hard times in taking courses, improving your skills and pursuit some online self-owned business,” one respondent recommended.

However, 63% said their high grades is what makes them a stronger candidate, while 50% chose to join the petroleum sector because they are passionate about it.

Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges

While many summer internships, field trips and training sessions were called off, they were replaced by a series of webinars and online trainings.

When the world was swept by COVID-19, SPE responded auspiciously. The SPE community has remarked that health and safety are guiding their decision-making process. To adapt to the new conditions, SPE began exploring online options for many programs. SPE also bolsters networking, as being part of the SPE community facilitates getting in touch with other while working from home.

According to Elshawaf, “SPE is a world of opportunities in all aspects, whether you are an SPE volunteer or you interact with SPE events. In SPE, we provide a direct connection between students or fresh graduates and industry leaders and decision makers. We also in SPE Egypt, especially, make different programs like Education Week and the Leadership Development Program for students and fresh graduates to reduce the gap between what they have studied and the knowledge in work field on both sides of technical and soft skills needed. We also organize a monthly technical event with a part of networking time between attendees for the same purpose. I am proud of being one of the SPE volunteers.”

Meanwhile, on July 7, AUC’s SPE received the Student Chapter Excellence Award for “accomplishing an admirable level of success.” Members of the SPE board noted the challenges of receiving this award during COVID-19, but with the help they garnered on-campus and online during the year, they did it. It is important to note that he Student Chapter Excellence Award is the second-highest award student chapters can receive.

Change Agents

The EOG survey signaled a 33.33% of those with more than two years of experience saying that after the COVID-19, they cannot wait to jump from one milestone to another. On the other hand, 56% of fresh graduates that are still unemployed expressed that after being quarantined for so long, they just wish to join any oil company as soon as possible. This implies that there is a gap between the ambitions of one generation and another that has been most likely created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elshawaf summarized the tools that helped him prepare for the new normal and secure a career in the petroleum in these unprecedented times. “Network is the most effective and powerful tool in our industry for everything whether for hiring or technical support,” he said, adding that “volunteering in SPE and engaging with its different activities while being a student or graduate makes you enter the world of opportunities.” He further elaborated that one must be resilient and flexible for any opportunity and prepare for all options with both variety of technical and non-technical skills. In addition to being an expert in technical knowledge and aware of the new technologies, you must build on “your innovation and creating new solutions and ideas from scientific research for our industry,” he said.

Shauna Noonan, 2020 SPE President, wrote on Twitter: “In my 30 years as an SPE member I have been through ups and downs both professionally and personally, with the one constant being the support of my SPE “family.” As we help one another through these turbulent months, let’s showcase to the world the compassionate side of oil and gas.”

If you are still embarking on your oil and gas career, but feel the road ahead is already bumpy, you are not alone. Many graduates are experiencing disruptions to their plans. Just be patient with the slower-than-normal hiring and on boarding at this time. And finally, be proud of yourself for facing challenges that not many will ever experience.