Laid-off oil and gas workers confront steep competition and 'branding' woes

CALGARY -- Tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs in Alberta's oil-and-gas sector are confronting a rapidly changing job market.

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Not only has competition become fierce for the few jobs available, but the way people find and get those jobs is also changing, says Alan Kearns, founder of career firm Careerjoy.

"Now it's about marketing yourself more than it is about just sending out resumes," said Kearns.

Job seekers need to think of themselves as independent business people trading on their skills, just like an actor or an athlete, he said.

"The difference between getting an interview and not -- a lot of it is going to be branding," Kearns added.

He said it's a new reality for many people in the energy sector.

"A lot of people, particularly in the oil and gas sector, have never had to worry about marketing themselves," says Kearns. "They basically graduated from university or college and they had 12 job offers."

Jackie Rafter, president of career-counselling firm Higher Landing, says people need to take the time to figure out where their skills might fit well rather than just applying for any opportunity they find.

"Thousands of people are now playing the job lottery, and that's just submitting endless resumes and online applications hoping someone's going to call them back. That's just an endless game of frustration," said Rafter.

Social media is important in finding the right opportunities, she says, since it's essentially replaced the traditional job board. And an updated, keyworded Linkedin profile can make the difference in getting an interview.

But to actually get in the door, Rafter says people need to answer the question of what they offer and what problems they are going to solve for the company.

"Don't look until you do the work, because this is where a lot of the frustration comes in and people just get depressed," said Rafter.

Matthew O'Donnell, director for the Calgary office of recruitment firm Michael Page, says he sees too many job-seekers applying for positions that aren't suitable for them.

"A lot of people are just applying for jobs rather than thinking about whether they can specifically do those roles," says O'Donnell. "Candidates really have to make sure they tick every box if they want to be considered for a lot of roles at the moment."

While hiring is clearly down, companies are still looking for people who can boost efficiencies or streamline operations, people who can deliver services faster, and strong sales people, he adds.

Jim Fearon, vice-president of central Canada for Hays recruitment, said it's especially important these days to make extra connections through phone calls, personal connections, email and Linkedin because of the flood of applications for positions.

He said one client received 2,000 applications for a single office administration job, meaning many resumes likely weren't given a proper look.

"They should be trying to make a personal connection with the people they're applying for jobs with," said Fearon.

Rafter also emphasized that while social networks and online interactions are helpful, ultimately they're there to help build the personal network that will get you a job.

"You don't get a job online, you get a job through some sort of network connection," said Rafter.



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