INNOVATION March-April 2015

The shopping list is expanded with soft skills. “Especially for the project geologist and exploration geologist,” remarks Hougardy. “Companies want individuals with some people management experience.” Gone are the days of the geoscientist working only the back- end, simply supplying technical data. “They want someone who can take the technical data and translate it into commercial recommendations,” she says, which can be easily understood by those outside the industry such as investors. Business acumen is another skill in demand. “The industry is very cost conscious and interested in saving money on a project. So, a company is looking for someone who can also translate that technical information into terms that managers can base decisions on,” she says adding that some institutions, like the BC Institute of Technology, have been running business courses targeted at introducing mining engineers and geoscientists to the business management side of a mining operation. “It provides them with an idea of how what they do fits into the bigger picture.” Hougardy advocates posting a resume with a recruiter as a start—although she is big on networking as well. Not just face- to-face but also social media sites such as LinkedIn. Put your resume on file with a recruiter as some jobs are just not advertised, she advises. Mining and exploration companies—especially in a tight market—don’t want to be inundated with a pile of resumes, explains Hougardy. They turn to recruiters to see who is in existing databases or to handle accessing candidates and all the associated screening and background and reference checks. At the same time, the recruiter can act as an intermediary between the company and candidate and negotiate a salary and benefits package that is reflective of the market. Create Your Job Andy Randell, P. Geo, has been through the cycle four times. Geoscientists often refer to ups and downs as the good and bad years, but veterans become seasoned. “After the first one, you grow a thicker skin,” he says, although downturns tend to take many younger geoscientists by surprise as they emerge from university and can’t find a job. Strategies exist for surviving the down cycles. One is creating your own job. “When companies lay off staff, it’s usually the higher paid permanent staff and that represents a budget cut,” he tells. But, companies still need the services, perhaps in a reduced form. So, they turn to consultants. Randell was laid off in December 2012 from an exploration company. He set up a consulting practice Strata GeoData Services (SGDS) which does contractual work but a subsidiary, SGDS Workshops, also provides educational workshops, which have become popular. He admits it has not been easy as he’s worked 30-40 hours a week in the retail sector. “You have to swallow your pride and put food on the table,” he said, but he’s built up the consulting side of his business working 60-70 hours a week and is now in the position to cut back his retail hours. Building a consulting business is a challenge, but one he has enjoyed. “They have been the best two years of my life,”

he tells, adding that it has allowed him to build expertise in areas and regions of Canada. As an APEGBC mentor, he has advised several new geoscientists, fresh out of university, to set themselves up as consultants when they couldn’t find a full time job. It’s a move that broadens experience, keeps them in the industry, and can serve as a safety net when another industry down-cycle occurs between full time jobs. Keenness and Flexibility Wins the Day Individuals surviving a downturn are those who want to stay in the industry. “They are willing to do what it takes,” says Baker. It may not be the typical work they are used to, but they take it. Baker has had work and offered it—with a bit of an apology—to individuals that he has known are over- qualified and they have taken it to keep busy. “It is really about a work ethic. Some will say they have already done these lower tasks and are not going back there. But, it is a way to keep your hand in the game,” he says. When he’s looking to hire individuals, that keenness and flexibility goes a long way in putting a candidate out front. “I’m looking for someone with a positive and keen attitude and willing to take on whatever role that is given,” he says, adding that multitasking is a workplace reality. “Even in camp, someone has to burn the garbage and its one of the less glamorous jobs but it needs to be done. That willingness to take on anything in these downturns is the kind of attitude that shines through and it’s a good time to identify the keen people wanting to stay in the industry.” He says that while this downturn has taken many by surprise with its duration, the industry has enjoyed a long upswing and that perhaps has made expectations higher than they should be. “You talk to some of the older guys and they tell of graduating UBC and there were 60 people competing for a job and they all had lots and lots of field work before doing supervisory work. In the last upturn, people were given more responsibility earlier in their career and now there are higher expectations. You really have to do your time in the industry.” And, get used to the cycles. They are part of the industry, Baker says. But, the good news is that perseverance will pay off. v


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