A New Engineer Starts In Big Oil

By Ted Dieck | Candidate Advisory - Pick | Feb 26, 2013

A new grad reports in on Big Pay Days and his new career with Big Oil. Is it worth it?

Last November, I posted a Recruiter’s View article called “What’s An Engineer Worth?”

As I said at the time, “There’s a lot of confusion in the market. I’m seeing wild bid/ask spreads of 50% for all levels of engineers.”

Literally, companies locked into one budget have been making offers up to 50% over their stated limits. Sometimes, they walk away with no new hires at all.

Less Experience, More Money

I tracked the problem all the way back to new grads. Fresh out of school, and with minimal experience, they sometimes see offers nearly twice what many Hiring Authorities think they are worth.

In fact, the first line of escalation seems to come from Big Oil. There’s a shortage of Engineers, and the industry is loaded with work.

Big Oil won’t hesitate to out-bid other employers, looking to pick off the top 10% – 20% of engineering talent.

I followed one young engineer’s job search to see what would happen. He had reported the typical array of offers, finally settling on an opportunity at a refinery.

Big Oil signed him for six figures, straight out of school.

Working For Big Oil

At the time, I warned him of rumors that his new employer would look to get their money’s worth out of him. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s engineering, and then there’s engineering.

With so much at stake, some of the Big Oil companies had a reputation of grabbing the first person available and putting them to work wherever they could make money. Career development has to wait.

After about a month on the job, our new engineer was kind enough to give me a call and share how things were going.

Rough Start, Good Potential

My take-away from the conversation concluded that Big Oil is rich and aggressive, but not stupid.

Our friend was shocked at what he was asked to do. The job description was beyond loose, so it was well within his employer’s rights to send him some 80 feet off the ground to do work that nobody else wanted to do.

His fear of heights didn’t change his employer’s demands very much.

Also, it seems, long work hours were a bit of a surprise to him.

And, finally, the employer’s expectation of his technical ability was slightly optimistic, considering his actual education.

So, what happened?

Just what you’d expect. He freaked. Privately. He adjusted. They adjusted. He’s coming around. And he’s making more money than experienced engineers who would know exactly what to do.

Bottom Line

Candidates attracted to the Big Oil’s big money can expect to find plenty of opportunity. But remember, in the big leagues, nobody will baby you through the process.