A reader asks: “How can you make an oil & gas internship turn into an oil & gas job?”

Even in oil & gas, where the market is good for job seekers, internships are crucial for getting your foot in the door.  While they present a great opportunity for interns to build their skill set, they provide an equally good chance for companies to perform an “extended interview” and evaluate things like work ethic, dependability, and “fit” with the company culture.  Today, a budding oil & gas professional from Rice University wants to know how they can ace this interview and secure their place in the industry!

Remember, if you also want to participate in “Building Hydrocarbon Bonds”, please get in touch with me either through my website, LinkedIn, or through email.  If the answer to your question ends up turning into something substantial, I’ll post it (keeping your details anonymous) so that others can benefit as well.

I really enjoy your blog on FuelFix. I highly value your perspective in the oil and gas industry as a young professional, in particular because you are a Rice alumnus and you have experience in the industry. I would really appreciate your help in regards to my question.

I am a junior at Rice University studying chemical engineering.  I received an offer from [a large operating company] as a production engineering intern for the summer of 2014.  I am extremely excited about the role and really want to do my best.  I would be thrilled to receive a full time offer!

If you had some insight to give undergraduates on how to give a great impression, learn quickly, build relationships, and set yourself up for a successful internship (full-time offer), what would it be?

I thank you for your time!

Thank YOU for taking the time to read my articles and send me a message!

Congratulations on your offer!  You have been offered a great role with a great company.  I have actually had interns work with me, so based on the things I like to see before I make a recommendation for a full time offer, here are some tips I can give you.

Perhaps you have read this already, but I put together a column a few months back about the things a young professional should do when they just start out.  These are some good general pointers to keep in mind.

First off, your attitude is great:  we’re still six months away from you starting, but you’re already doing research, asking around on how to do a great job, and clearly you’re pumped about this.  Keep in that positive state of mind!

Before you start your internship, PREPARATION is key.  In a university setting, where you’re focused on learning theory, it is very easy to lose sight of the “Big Picture”, i.e. “what am I actually going to apply this theory to?”.  That was me in college:  I loved the idea of mechanical engineering, but had no clue about what was going on in the oil & gas industry.  If you can arrive on site with a knowledge of some basic concepts in the industry, where your piece fits into the whole, as well as some of the big trends happening in oil & gas, you will have a HUGE advantage over those who arrive with a focus on only their small area of responsibility.

For you and anyone in a similar situation that wants to learn more about the industry as a whole, I recommend reading just one article a day from any of the following sources (as well as checking out this column every week…).  In a very short amount of time it will make a huge difference for you!

  • “The Way Ahead” magazine. I lead the editorial team, but my affiliation aside it’s an extremely easy read, with each magazine centered on a different topic. There are ten years of back issues to go through here.
  • For current events, I would check fuelfix.com daily. I read a lot of industry publications, and that is by far the most accessible, complete source for what’s going on now in energy.
  • Another great one is rigzone.com. They have other great resources besides news, including primers on certain oilfield technologies.  A few years back I even accepted a job offer that came directly from using the site’s careers section!  It’s definitely a site worth exploring.
  • Schlumberger has an excellent, very large glossary of thousands of oilfield terms (google “Schlumberger glossary” and you’ll find it). I wouldn’t read it per se, but refer back to it if someone uses a term you’re not familiar with.

When you get to the office, I would focus on three areas:  DELIVERING, LEARNING, CONNECTING.

First, DELIVERING.  I am sure that this operating company assigns interns some sort of summer long project, or at least a continuous set of deliverables to make sure that interns are contributing as well as learning.  This advice won’t surprise you, but when you turn these in, they have to exceed expectations.

But…remember that doesn’t mean PERFECT.

This is very important.  Remember that out of school, there is no grade; either the work is done well or it isn’t.  Furthermore, in school you are free to make your own decisions as to how long you spend on something.  In the working world, your time is money, and you may have many people in many different teams needing something from you.  I highly respect people who can make the “cost/benefit” analysis and work efficiently!

Make sure you do work that exceeds your supervisor’s expectations, but don’t kill yourself trying to reach what you consider “perfect”, which could take away time from you doing other things.  Do your best, satisfy your peers, and move on so that you can tackle something else.

One great piece of advice I read a while back was that successful people do the things others don’t want to.  Maybe there is a database that is horrendously out of date, or perhaps there is a “best practices” manual that is disorganized.  This type of work may be tedious, but it’s relatively straightforward, and really allows you to impact your team directly.  It also makes you the “go to” person when people have questions on that item:  this is excellent for gaining visibility with other colleagues.

So, if you see this type of opportunity (and it doesn’t interfere with your main deliverables) jump on it!  It’s a very easy way to show initiative and be noticed.

Now LEARNING.  Of course, no one expects you to be an expert, so it is highly likely that you will come up against roadblocks.  You need to be willing to reach out for help.  Now, this DOESN’T mean that as soon as you get stuck, you ask a question:  think the issue through, come up with some possible answers, and THEN ask your question.  This shows that you have thought about the problem, and you may even figure the answer out for yourself!

Most operators are great about letting their colleagues attend SPE events.  I highly recommend that you find a couple you find interesting, and see if you can attend them.  The idea is not only to learn but also meet people in the industry, which leads me to the next point…

CONNECTING.  The bottom line is that people want to work with “nice” people.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you’re a jerk, no one will want you on their team.  Every day, keep a positive attitude.  Joke around with your colleagues, ask them about their families or the things they like to do on the weekends.  You don’t have to become their best friends, but personally I like working in a relaxed atmosphere.

Definitely make sure to keep in touch with the other interns you meet.  Since you’re all starting out, you can support each other through the summer, and they will make important connections in the future!

Ultimately, being a great intern is no different than being a great colleague, and I’m sure that your company has the same expectations for you as the full timers; the only difference between you and them is that you get to go back to college at the end of the summer (lucky you!).  Just be a good person, pay attention, contribute when you can, and you’ll be fine.

Good luck!