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Last Updated: April 21, 2016
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Career Development

I remember three years ago, same time as now. It was April, and I was looking for an internship placement. I applied with many companies, and kept receiving rejections until finally I received a call from Schlumberger that I would be doing my internship with them in drilling and measurement segment. 

Although companies were doing well at that time as there was no market downturn like the one we are in right now, getting an internship was still a difficult task to do. But when I see how extremely hard it is for students to secure their internship right now, I feel that we were somehow privileged. 

With oil and gas companies cutting their costs down, reducing their workforce and scaling back their recruitment activities, students are met with a tough time securing an internship placement. To succeed in obtaining an internship placement in such a market downturn requires much effort, and different strategies. To help students with this task, here are three advices that I believe could help them secure their internship this year. 


1. Act outside the box


It is often said "think outside the box", well, it is April now, and definitely there is no time to think, it is time to act. Acting inside the box would be to follow the traditional way of applying for an internship. That starts with preparing your resume and cover-letter. Getting companies' contacts details ready and then start to apply online or send your resume and cover-letter to the HR. Then you wait for the magic to happen. 


While acting inside the box often works well in a better state of the oil market, it is highly unlikely that it works well in the current downturn. Oil companies are trying to reduce costs by laying off some of their employees and scaling back their hiring activities. That means your online application will often be rejected or you end up getting no response from companies. And this is the reason why I want you to act outside the box and here is how you do it. 


Follow the above steps of applying for an internship and once you are done, you don't really have to wait for the magic to happen. Instead, I want you to prepare yourself to visit those companies. This may sound bizarre at first, but it is exactly what I want you to do. There is no need to start thinking if companies will agree to see you or not, or if they ask you to submit online rather than going to the company's office, because there is a strong reason why you should go. 


With many applications sent over to oil and gas companies everyday not only for internship, but also for job, and the fact that companies have reduced their recruitment activities, it is highly likely that your applications will not be looked at. But think about it, what if you pay them a visit, show up in their office, and hopefully you manage to meet their HR, things could go differently. Isn't it? 


While it is true that the majority of oil companies have online application and you are requested to apply there, don't forget that many companies allow drop-in resume during conferences and exhibitions which is the same as what you are going to do. You are going to visit the company and drop your resume. The only difference here is that sometimes you need to have an appointment to visit the company. 


For companies that are hard to visit unless you have an appointment, there are two ways to get it. First of all, find someone you know working in that company. Ask them if they can help you to visit the company. Most of the time this person will be your senior or someone you met during a conference or any oil industry related activities. Just let them know why you want to visit the company and why they have to help you. Convincing them depends on your ability and skills to convince people. So give it a try. 


The second way to secure an appointment is to call the company and ask for an appointment with the HR and tell them that you are a student looking for an internship and that you have an offer for the company which you will discuss with their HR or anyone who will meet you... I've just told you to say that you have an offer for the company, so what a student has to offer a company?


2. Offer the company to do a non-paid internship 


If you are serious about getting your internship with oil and gas companies in such a market downturn, you should start thinking about a non-paid internship. Many oil and gas companies used to offer paid internship to students where they get a monthly payment while doing their training, however, since oil companies now are more focused on cutting costs down, they reduced or totally closed paid internships positions. 


That being said, as a student you are left with no option but to adapt to the current circumstances. Adapting here means to change your strategy from looking for a paid internship to offering companies to do a non-paid internship. This is the offer that I have mentioned earlier which can get you an appointment with the company. Therefore, when you call the company to make an appointment, let them know that you are a student and that you have an offer regarding internship which you want to discuss with their HR. 


So why you have to offer the companies to do a non-paid internship. First of all, it addresses the difficult time companies are going through and that you are aware about it. Besides that, it makes you stand out among other normal applicants and consequently increases your chances of securing a placement. It also shows your eagerness to give up money for knowledge and experience. These all are qualities that companies value, and by doing so you may not only get an internship placement but you may also secure your future job. 


3. Search for internship outside the oil industry


The last advice that I want to share with you on how to secure your internship for this year is to look for internship opportunities outside the oil industry. Oil companies have reduced their openings for internships, and therefore many students will be left with no chance of securing their internship placement within the oil industry. In this case, my advice for you is to look for internship opportunities outside the oil industry. 


In my perspective, internship is more about gaining your first experience on how the actual workplace looks like, how employees interact with each. It is about building your interpersonal skills more than building your technical skills as the time is limited. Therefore, in a time where getting an internship placement is hard in your own industry, it is advised that you look for an internship in a different industries, preferably ones that are close to yours. 


Don't waste your time waiting for a response from oil and gas companies where you have applied for internship. Look around you, find opportunities in other industries, ask your friends or family to help get a placement for your internship in positions that can give you the same workplace experience, and help you build your interpersonal skills. 


Those were the three advices that I wanted to share with you which could help you secure your internship placement in the oil industry or in other industries especially as the time left to start your internship is very short. One last reminder though is; don't forget to prepare an excellent resume and cover-letter as the above tips are only meant to make your resume and cover-letter reach to the HR's hand. And lastly, I wish you all the best in your internship hunting journey. 


By Alahdal A. Hussein

university students internship oil market downturn experience soft skills technical skills self-development
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