I am a tried and true Texan. While my parents were not born here, I was, and my children were. I have never seriously entertained the idea of living anywhere but The Lone Star State. I just have not been able to imagine life in New York or California, or anywhere else for that matter. Our living room decor is pure Texas. This is home, and it always will be. But lately, I’ve come to the conclusion I may not be able to stay here forever. My job search in Houston has been unsuccessful, to say the least, and I’ve now expanded it to the continental United States.
I worked in the oil and gas sector (O&G) nearly 20 years, and it was always really good to me. Even though there were times I didn’t love my job, I always enjoyed it, and thought it was fairly stable. I left Chevron in 2010 when my job moved from Houston to Africa, unsure what I was going to do, but ready at that point to leave the O&G industry. I knew times had been pretty good and I figured a fall would be forthcoming, but the company that offered me a home was BP, so I once again entered O&G.
The job search back then wasn’t too bad, to be honest. I put out a few resumes, and I got calls back. The rest of the country was in a recession, but things here in Houston were pretty good. People were pouring in to the city by the thousands. At one point, I read that nearly a thousand people a week were moving to Houston, all looking for a better life. It was evident on the roadways, too. There were cars everywhere; traffic gridlock was at an all-time high, I swear. So when I landed the job at BP, just 20 minutes or so from my house, I was thrilled. After having gone downtown every day for years, being so close to home was a Godsend.
Working at BP
The job I had at BP was extremely challenging on several levels. First of all, I’d never managed a budget completely on my own. I’d always been second chair, with a much stronger, more experienced cost engineer in the lead. I was used to working on drilling and exploration projects, but the job at BP was in the IT group, managing a budget for the hosting team. It was quite the education – a crash course in being not only the lead, but the only cost person in a team. But I had a strong foundation, thanks to my mentor, former co-worker and friend Julie. I wasn’t fearless when I walked through those doors, but I knew I could do the job, and do the job I did.
During my six years at BP, I survived five re-organizations. Every year, something changed about the organization, but my job stayed the same. Then, in the last re-org, it happened. My job was moved to Malaysia, and I was handed a severance package and shown the door. My career at BP had come to an end. In the time I was there, I went from managing one budget in the US, to managing, or helping to manage, four budgets spread around the world. I learned a lot, and I was grateful for the opportunity.
Laid Off and Starting a New Business
When I walked out of BP’s doors for the last time in February 2016, I was a little nervous. I’d known since the previous November (I was given my notice the week before Thanksgiving; Happy Freakin’ Holidays, right?) that I needed to find another job, so I started sending out resumes like a crazy woman. I didn’t get a single hit. No one was interested in the lady with ten years’ of cost experience, and all sorts of other accounting experience. I kept sending out resumes at a pace of probably a hundred per week until the middle of March, when I decided that I was going to start my own business.
Even after starting my business, I continued to send out resumes, though not at a frenetic pace. I kept my job search limited to Houston, with only a couple of forays in to San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Austin. I got a couple of calls, but nothing that materialized in to a job offer. But I wasn’t too worried; I had my business, and Chris had his. Surely, I thought, at least one of these businesses will take off and provide a little income. Sadly, that didn’t happen either, at least not to the point where we could be without a job indefinitely.
It didn’t really hit me that I needed to get really serious about a new job until April 2017, when our benefits with BP ended. After looking at the prices for health insurance outside of an employer plan, I knew we had no choice. We both needed to find jobs. The jobs I was seeing listed made it clear that it was unlikely I would find a job that paid as well as the oil industry, but I wasn’t concerned about that. I just needed to find a job that would provide a paycheck and access to benefits like health and dental insurance. Also, we were running low on money, and I knew we had to get serious or we’d end up living in a tent.
So I once again started papering Houston with resumes, applying to every accounting job that looked vaguely interesting and/or like something I would be qualified to fill. Chris also started applying to jobs, and he started seeing results. He began getting calls for interviews, and responses to his resume on Monster. My resume drew no interest, so I decided that I needed to have it written by a professional. I paid $300 for a professional resume writer to spruce up my resume and provide me with a cover letter, and once it was done, I started sending it out again. Still nothing.
Frustration in the Job Search
After more than year and a half of unsuccessfully hunting for a job, I found a tab on www.careerbuilder.com that gave me some insight in to the competition for jobs to which I had applied. I began looking at these comparisons and noticed a disturbing trend – for every accounting job I applied, less than half of the applicants were employed. There were hundreds of applicants for each job, and many of them looked at least as good as I did on paper. Even more disturbing, there were hundreds of fresh graduates applying for these jobs with little or no experience, but with master’s degrees and/or freshly minted CPAs. In short, the job market in Houston is flooded with accounting types looking for jobs. This is not good.
The Job Search Goes National
Last week, I made the difficult and somewhat disconcerting decision that my future is probably not in Houston. Maybe it’s not in the entire state of Texas, though I do still hold out hope that it is. The reality is, so many people have flooded in to Texas over the last few years, the competition is much stiffer than it’s ever been here. Meanwhile, the areas where those people left are struggling to find people with the appropriate qualifications in a number of fields. This is not an exaggeration; in the ten or so days since I decided to expand my job search outside of Texas, I have seen more interest in my qualifications than in nearly two years of looking for job in Houston.
On Tuesday of this week, I had three phone interviews – one in Dallas, one in Austin, and one in Iowa. These were all preliminary interviews with headhunter types, but that’s further than I’ve gotten up until this point. I have a phone interview on Thursday with a company in St. Louis, and expressed interest from offices in Michigan, and two in Tennessee. The job search is picking up, to be sure.
Of course, Chris and I sat down and discussed this at length before I starting applying to jobs outside of Houston, and we both agreed it was the right thing to do. We fully expect, based on the responses I’m getting, that we will be leaving Houston, and possibly Texas, in the near future.
While you might think we’d be really upset over this, we’re not. We’ll miss the kids, of course, and our parents, but this is a chance at a new adventure. The possibilities are endless, and it’s a good bet we’ll land somewhere that will afford us the chance to see new things. We are the adventurous type, and we are looking forward to going somewhere new and exploring new places. And this doesn’t mean we’ll never come home again; to the contrary, I imagine we’ll be back in a few years, maybe not until retirement, but eventually Texas will be home again.
I’m just hoping this job search lands us somewhere that’s fun!