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Career Forum in Oil & Gas and Future Prospect of Petrochemical Industries

Panelists:

  1. Mr Mohd Arif Mokhsein, Technical HSSE Engineer, SHELL
  2. Anas Alam Faizli, Project Coordinator, TML

Below are some excerpt from the forum;

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Moderator: Let’s discuss on current issue in hiring ‘recent graduates’ in oil & gas industries. Basically, in your opinion, how many of these graduates will score a job, as compared to experienced people.

Anas: I wouldn’t really know how many will be employed per se, but what I can share with you is what I think the traits of graduates that I would hire to be in my team:

1)      Firstly, there are a few advantages that graduates have above experienced hire in the Oil & Gas industry. I work in projects (development) so many of the valuable things we find I a team player are project management related characteristics ie team player, motivated, intelligent, independent and passionate, etc. This is where I think a fresh young graduate can value add because of their passion. Of course, experienced people would have the advantage above fresh graduates because they have done it longer, but I think this applies to all industries, not just in Oil & Gas. One thing for sure is that you young graduates are probably cheaper *joking*.

2)      Secondly, I’d like to invite you to think about the circumstances/ situation within the industry. Investigate first the nature of the job you are applying for. If a management trainee, have an idea as to where you might be placed by doing research, and asking questions. Then list 3 attitudes that you want to portray in an interview, given what you know about the “industry specs”, so to speak.

3)      Thirdly, I suggest you recognize the companies (usually bigger GLCs or MNCs) that have more capacity to take graduates, i.e. ones that give you more space and opportunity to learn. Not to say they will go easy on you, just that (1) it just gives you a boost of confidence to get hired first and get your “foot in through the door” since they are more likely to take graduates like you, but also (2) they are more willing to entertain your requests to change your scope, .ie. they are bigger and so have many more teams that you can ask to be staffed in if you feel like you want a broad scope or a macro view of all aspects of the operations before you decide on specializing.

4)      Fourth, I really, really urge you to leverage on your internship; MAINLY on the opportunity to network, and to understand the function of where you interned in the bigger picture/ the whole organization. By network I mean, know different people from different departments, know engineers, managers, team leaders, project managers, the finance guy, the HR guy, the IT guy, everyone! I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you the benefits of building your network, what I stress here is the importance of starting early, even at your internship stage. Automatically, indirectly, you will also get a better understanding of the team/ function of the job you are given during the internship, within the bigger organization or company. This is extremely important when you want to translate your experience into words in your next interview.

5)      Finally, be BOLD, we all know the law of numbers. If you send many, chances of you hitting/ getting hired by one increase. Send out your CV to EVERYONE, design houses, operators, consultancies, contractors, fabricators…

BUT! Word of caution- nothing turns off a recruiter more than a cover letter addressed to a different company. Double and TRIPLE check all your CVs and cover letters. Sending out many doesn’t mean you should compromise on QUALITY of each CV you send out. Spend time understanding each company’s hiring policies on their career websites, especially the big owner/ operator MNCs.

Moderater: We always hear that if you have two candidates (overseas and local grads) for a certain job post, and you can choose only one, often the overseas grad will score the job. To what extent is this statement valid? (Based on your experience)

Anas: Before I actually answer as to whether I think this statement is valid, let me first invite you to try and understand what is it about an overseas that graduate that often make them supposedly more “employable”. I think upon identifying this, it is not only very easy for us to come to terms with why (if this is even true), it will also help us mitigate our situation and circumstances that we are in and not just lament/ complaint about companies being biased towards overseas graduates.

OK, first, start with THROWING THE IDEA that they have BETTER DEGREES and an “foreign” university name on their CV. Why? Employment is NOT given based on the degree, but rather if you actually have the degree and whether you did well in it. In your free time, can research Spence’s (1974) proposition: Spence says that education is just a signal (interesting theory). It signals that this candidate has what it takes to go through a somewhat technical course, can do some numbers, have the will to finish something i.e. a 3-4 year course and have what it takes to study pass exams- which eventually is expected to translate into some kind of right attitude, mindset, evidence of willpower for you to be a valuable employee to a company. That’s it! It’s NOT the degree itself. How do I know this, my degree was in computer science, and spent my entire 10-year career in O&G. It didn’t put an IR in front of my name but it definitely did not mean I was seen by the industry as technically less competent in my job.

Then, you want to move on to investigate, why these overseas graduates have better employability, and that is because of exposure. This is of course the general case. There are many cases where students went and came back a more introvert person, caught up in their own study cubicles. The good news is, having no “abroad” exposure is not an issue, because we can emulate that here in Malaysia, in fact even more successfully. Interning here introduces us to the right people, helps us understand the industry structure in Malaysia, how contracts are awarded, who to go to for certain services, how things are done in the country, how things are done vis-à-vis Petronas, what are the regulations prevailing etc. In fact, local graduates are even more at an advantage then the overseas graduates as they have the opportunity to research, intern and go for interview exactly where we are going to be hired, instead of just coming back with a degree trying to start afresh. Of course, this is only TRUE when you actually go out there and be proactive.

On a side note/ comment, I also think that it is a possibility that the degree from abroad, especially UK, US tend to be TRADITIONAL, core technical competencies type of degrees as opposed to more specialized/ industrialized degrees. By traditional I mean mathematics, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, statistics, as opposed to oil & gas engineering, process engineering, applied statistics, engineering mathematics, IT with marketing and management etc. MNCs and employers generally, may tend to prefer these for the core technical competencies and the broad scope they offer as opposed to the “modern” more “applied” type of degrees which tend to narrow scope and breadth of studies. So choosing your degree well in the first place is important- pick ones that can give you a solid background and train your technical/ analytical exercise. There is of course no hard and fast rule, that only core technical degrees will get you a job. When it comes to jobs, a lot of things are on a case to case basis.

Moderator: Based from your observation, how do you see local intern at your company? What do you think is lack/good in the attitudes shown? What can be improvised? and – if any; can you compare the difference between local and overseas interns?

Anas: Honestly, I sincerely believe UiTM interns did a fantastic job in my office.  Just to share with you, mistakes that interns tend to make include:

1)      Oversight over the task at hand: interns most usually are given smaller tasks, do it RIGHT and do it with pride, in a short time. Don’t think your task is small, it is less important and exciting, you do it sambil lewa so you can ask the supervisor for more jobs and look good and proactive. Do the little that you are given perfectly, and you will come a long way.

2)      Saying that, secondly, interns tend to get too caught up in their small task as part of the small team they are put under, that they forget to look at the bigger picture. As I mentioned previously, it is very important for you to complete the small tasks perfectly, but take time to REALLY understand where your team sits in the bigger picture, the greater scheme of things. What is the role of your team, your sub division, your department and your organization within the industry? Know it and make sure you can explain it to an interviewer very well. This will a) show employers you really made effort to understand industry structure, and b) it most importantly helps you form an opinion as to whether you like where you are being put and why. IT’S PERFECTLY FINE if you don’t find your internship experience that rewarding, just make sure you know exactly WHY, and EXPLAIN it well, and seriously you might even end up being recruited/ offered a different position or a different team by the very same company! J

3)      Thirdly, is asking the same question repeatedly, showing non-comprehension of the previous explanation, despite having mengangguk and pretending to understand. Or someone who still does a mistake repeatedly after asking. This looks very bad with your seniors and supervisors/ evaluators. ASK to know, don’t ASK to show off, and never leave the question or conversation until your question is answered. Ask questions, because if you have asked and still repeat the same mistake, it will not come off to well.

What the ideal intern who maximizes his experience does

1)      Network: A good intern is a networker but at the same time doesn’t try too hard. Meet with different people, set up meetings with managers, team leaders in different departments find out what they do. You will learn very much about their job, the company, the industry, and if you do it well, you might actually get a specialized interview session and a recommendation for recruitment!

2)      Someone who always flags to his/ her supervisor his progress even though not asked. Someone who asks questions, give suggestions to better your task above how it has always been done. Someone who asks the supervisor how he/ she is doing periodically from time to time, not just waiting for appraisal time, and someone who asks supervisor “do you think I fit in this role/ team/ dept” . Don’t take it personally if you don’t because it only means you have a better role in another team/ dept and they might recognize that.

Moderator: Based on your past experience, for more than 10 years in Oil and Gas with big company, ie Sime Darby, Petronas and Talisman, can you share us some tips for working interview?

Anas: I don’t think I have to start by listing down what to say, what not to say in the interview. What to wear, not to be late, when asked about your weakenesses, answer the “positive weaknesses” like “perfectionist. You all know that, or at best you can all google that.

If I may share some tips:

a)      Firstly, you would want to ask yourself, what do I have that would benefit the company, this is very cliché I know, and come up high in most lists when you google interview “tips” but if you first structure your mindset going into the interview with this in mind, it will help you form your thoughts and describe yourself the “effective” and “employable” way. Not how everyone else/ all other candidates would.

b)      Secondly as important is to ask yourself, what YOU want from the company. This is the 2nd element of the primary thought process that graduates (especially Malaysian/ Asian) graduates fail to ask themselves. They always too easily subscribe to the idea that “I need a job so much, and this job pays very well, so whatever it takes, whatever company it is, whatever their culture is, how they treat employees, what kind of career progression does it ensure ME, doesn’t matter”. Not only will such thought complicate things in the long run when you’re actually employed and realized this is not the kind of organization that you want to work with, but also the lack of this thought will ALWAYS tend to make you sound like you are overselling yourself in the interview.

Moderator:  Technically, in resume and CVs, what are the strong points that need to be emphasized for it can outstand/outshine from other applicants? How important is CGPA?

Anas: Firstly, meeting the CGPA minimal requirement is only as important as segregating your CV from thousands of others. It goes as far as a “penapisan” exercise and nothing more.

For the question of CV, it is very important to not LAUNDRY LIST. Recruiters get really bored with candidates listing their positions and experience as head of chess, secretary of batu seremban club, member of debate team etc. What we want to know is WHAT YOU DID within those roles that made you learn something from doing that activity, that you never had before you had those roles. Take out clubs and societies you were in which only convene AGM once a semester and you’re only treasurer because you menang tanpa bertanding. Pick out the major ones that you actually conducted a major event, led a successful team to win a competition, etc.

Use the STAR technique (to those who have heard/ used it before, bear with me). This is a very important tool in an interview, but can also be applied in writing your CV.  STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

  1. STATE the situation you were in (your role as president of club X).
  2. STATE your task. Go more specific for example conducting an annual club event, or increasing the funds for the club that has been underfunded for years, rather than general overseeing roles.
  3. EXPLAIN the action you took to achieve that task (1), (2), (3)…
  4. EXPLAIN the result of your action. Don’t just say it was a success, give tangible numbers, for example: We managed to gather a crowd of 1000 people, we collected 50,000 RM in funds etc.

As there was no recording made to the forum – this is the best that was captured.

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