Transferrable Skills That Are Game Changers

Transferrable Skills That Are Game Changers

According to recent findings by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates in the oil and gas industry have begun hitting unprecedented levels since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 6.2 percent in March of 2019, data now shows a staggering 19.2 percent unemployment rate in November 2020, which skyrocketed from 13.8 percent in October 2020. Recent downsizing by major oil and gas companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron have energy professionals abandoning the industry in droves in the hopes that new sectors can promise better stability and career growth.

What marks this downturn as historic is not only the rate of unemployment, but the quality of talent being released. With such wide-sweeping layoffs, 20-plus year oil and gas veterans, who assumed they would retire at their respective companies, now find themselves out of work and having to build their “professional brand” and career documents from scratch. Moreover, the skills they have cultivated in oil and gas seem chained to that industry, with few transferrable options to make them viable candidates in a tough job market.

Given the crowded 2021 employment landscape, finding ways to highlight transferrable skills has become more important than ever. Although roles in oil and gas are broad, there are three main transferrable skills many oil and gas professionals have across the board – project management, budgeting and team leadership. Many recruiters now suggest that candidates include a skills section in the top quarter portion of a resume. This section functions in two ways: 1) it provides targeted content necessary to rank higher in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS); and 2) it allows recruiters to quickly scan a candidate’s qualifications to ensure alignment with job descriptions.

Here are those top three skills and the reasoning for listing them on a career change resume:

  1. Project Management: Encompassing a wide range of competencies, such as logistics, business development, staff supervision, process and procedure building, reporting, and cross-departmental communication, project management is a top transferrable skill for many oil and gas pros. According to Zip Recruiter, the 10 most requested skills by employers for project managers include vendor management, budget management, mitigation, proposal writing, PMP certification, estimating, project planning, construction management, Microsoft Project and compliance.
  2. Budgeting: Budgeting, finance, cost controls and revenue growth are fairly universal qualities sought by employers in many industries. Pay attention to the wording used in job descriptions when pursuing positions outside oil and gas since certain terms like “cost controls” might need to be rephrased. To fully capture recruiters’ attention, make sure to illustrate your budgeting skills using examples. For instance, a reservoir engineer who specializes in acquisitions and divestitures (A&D) will most likely have an impressive track record of deploying capital and closing deals on key assets. Make sure to highlight data, including percentages and numbers, to show why you stand out as a candidate.
  3. Team Leadership: Another highly desired skill regardless of industry is team leadership, especially multidisciplinary and cross-functional team leadership. This skill sets a job seeker apart and positions them for managerial roles. When it comes to leading teams, even skills like language proficiencies can be a huge asset (e.g., Spanish language fluency for Texas, New Mexico or California-based positions). Combine both soft and hard skills in this category to convey what makes you the ideal leader. Most employers use phrases like hard working, adaptable, analytical, motivational, safety-minded, data-driven and empathetic for this category. Again, data is king. Make sure to list who, what, when and where you led teams so that hiring managers can have a full picture of your background.

When making a career change, professional documents like a resume and cover letter should highlight a job seeker’s top qualities. Ensuring that the qualities listed align with the job description is key to guaranteeing success, particularly when shifting industries. Whether you’re a geologist, reservoir engineer, drilling engineer or a wellsite supervisor, these three skills tend to be staples of your job requirements and can make you stand out to employers outside of the oil and gas industry. Give these a try on your resume and let me know how it goes!

Author profile

An editorial specialist and resume expert, Amanda Rico, PhD, helps senior and executive-level professionals optimize their career profiles, pivot to alternative career paths, land jobs and level up! Currently a columnist for the Houston Business Journal, she writes on the intersection between career trends, job search strategies, and the energy and petroleum industries. Dr. Rico, who holds a PhD in English from Texas A&M University, will be writing OILWOMAN’S Competitive Edge column, providing accessible, actionable advice to E&P pros. Connect with her on LinkedIn at

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