As Oil Layoffs Hit 200,000, A Headhunter Looks At The Bright Side


Forbes | October 22, 2015

The Forbes article, "As Oil Layoffs Hit 200,000, A Headhunter Looks At The Bright Side," quotes Russell Reynolds Associates' Stephen Morse, who sheds light on a few silver linings amidst the big oil layoffs. The following is an excerpt of the article.

“Companies are reacting aggressively to shorten the duration of the downturn,” says Steve Morse, a consultant with headhunting giant Russell Reynolds Associates. “These cuts are as dramatic as we’ve seen in this industry ever.”

So what are laid off workers to think? Is there any hope of finding a new job in this environment?

There are some bright spots, says Steve Morse of Russell Reynolds Associates. The “downstream” or refining sector has been booming, benefitting from access to cheap oil. “It’s the opposite of the upstream,” says Morse. “We are helping clients in the downstream attract functional talent” that in recent years had been attracted to the more glamorous upstream companies.

And there’s also still plenty of opportunities for talented younger executives. “The companies we work with recall the 1980s” when oil prices collapsed and “the majors stopped hiring at the university level for eight years,” says Morse. And they are not going to repeat that hiring moratorium because they saw the long term damage it did to their workforce. Two decades later they woke to the realization that their best executives were all approaching retirement age, with too few mid-career execs being groomed to replace them.

“What’s keeping us so busy now is succession planning,” says Morse. “Companies are careful to ensure that they have been training and promoting younger people.”

Morse suggests that laid off workers who are looking for new positions should expect to spend significant time building a new resume, especially if it’s been a few years since they last did so. “A resume should be two pages. It should denote with clarity not just what they accomplished but how they accomplished it,” says Morse. Applicants should be sure to describe specific project experience. Companies currently struggling with reallocating and restructuring assets would be very interested in hearing if an applicant has experience in moving 100 drilling rigs in two months, for example. Other areas in demand right now include cost management, risk management, supply chain, and especially capital reallocation and restructuring.

Older workers often have a tougher time finding new jobs in times like this. But there’s at least one area in which older petroleum engineers might have a leg-up on their younger peers — in old conventional oil fields. The shale drilling boom has been “unconventional” relative to the way oilfields were drilled 50 years ago. But now with oil prices so low companies are looking back into their all but forgotten inventory of conventional fields — where drilling and production costs can be lower than in the shales. “Conventional skills are again in demand,” says Morse.

Even if the big public companies might still be in layoff mode, Morse says there has been an influx of private equity, raising funds and building leadership teams. All told, says Morse, he and his 47 headhunters in the Houston office “have been as busy in the last 10 months as anytime in the past two years.”

There’s a last bit of hope for those laid off this year (especially in Houston). About 15 years ago Enron collapsed and thousands were laid off. Many of them have gone on to great things, just like those laid off in this collapse. “Ex-Enron staffers have had great careers at other companies,” says Morse.  "There's a terrific oil and gas talent base and they will find opportunities."

To read the full article, click here.

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As Oil Layoffs Hit 200,000, A Headhunter Looks At The Bright Side