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Is It What You Know or Whom You Know?

A LinkedIn contact and ex-colleague recently mentioned that when it comes to work, it’s now not what you know but whom you know. He stated quite vociferously that these days it’s all about experience and qualifications. Well, this was a bit zany considering that when I worked as a Technical Writer for Qatar Gas he, together with I think it was four or five American colleagues from Kuwait, were taken on simply because they had worked together. These guys were hired as Technical Authors but none had authoring experience. I ended up editing all their work. What did rile me was that these guys were making double the day rate I was earning – ridiculous. But this is expat life. Live with it or go home . . .

Getting back to the LinkedIn contact. To be honest I found his assessment just a little biased. I worked in the oil industry for 36 years, thirteen of those years as an expat in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and North America, and I must admit it was more WHOM I knew that led to my constant employment. As a Technical Writer, I was seen as a specialist in my field. I did not have any technical writing qualifications but segued from a Training Instructor into publications who wrote all his teaching materials and I must confess had (still have) a passionate interest in the English language! This was during my first overseas excursion when working for Aramco in Saudi Arabia during the early 80s.

Therefore, my advice today is still it’s whom you know. As an ex-oil, gas and petrochemicals professional, it is widely known throughout the energy industries that having worked with someone in the past will always be a plus. You know them, they know you. For instance, I worked in Azerbaijan for two years between 2010 – 2012 and contracted to BP Azerbaijan. I was hired as the sole Technical Author in a small team of four where our remit was to update all BP’s offshore operating procedures. It was a great job with excellent working conditions and extras (per diem, flights, health insurance, etc). But I wanted to return to the UK to be home with my wife and daughter. So, I informed my Azeri boss that I would be leaving. The first thing he said was, ‘Do you know someone who could carry on the writing work?’ I said I’d get back to him within 48 hours. I contacted a Technical Writer who I knew had just finished a contract in the UAE. We both had worked in Oman. Yes, he was available. He took the job and worked in Azerbaijan for three years. The Azeri boss was pleased with his work – I know this for a fact.

So, it was WHOM I knew without hesitation. By the way, I am not decrying or belittling people who apply for jobs purely based on experience and qualifications. At the end of the day, you’ve got to start somewhere! Looking back, I suppose I was lucky. Before I left school I already had an apprenticeship all sorted out that was organized by my uncle. So, I did a 4-year apprenticeship as a Mechanical Engineer. I mean, today, how many youngsters leaving school already have a job waiting for them? You tell me.

I would suggest that maybe things haven’t changed much. It’s just that I feel for the thousands of university students who, after four years of study, attain their bachelor’s degree and then spend the rest of their lives paying off the fees.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Opinion Piece

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