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Five things to consider when considering pursuing an expatriate role in the oil and gas industry

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Oilfield Technology,

Dr. Susan Shortland, Senior Lecturer in HRM, University of Westminster, UK, considers the key issues that need to be kept in mind when deciding whether to pursue an expatriate oil and gas role.

Taking up an expatriate oil and gas role presents great career advantages and is an often attractive option if you enjoy traveling and are open to new experiences. However, balancing this career move with raising a family can be a real challenge for many. We’ve spoken to some contractors around the world who have taken the leap and here they provide key insights on things you need to consider and how they have made it work for both their career and their family.

Consider the type of assignment you can undertake

The oil and gas industry uses a variety of different types of assignments to service their international operations. These include long-term postings (typically for two or three years), short-term assignments (around six months to a year) and rotational positions (where you might spend 28 days in the field and 28 days off).

Long-term assignments are usually offered accompanied, meaning you can take your family with you. Short-term assignments and rotational positions are typically on solo status, resulting in separation from your family. Thus, it is important to consider which type of expatriate role best suits you and your family’s needs. Research shows that women tend to prefer long-term assignments as they offer greater stability for their families.

“My perspective has completely changed since I became a mother … Obviously there are family considerations and they are paramount. I would be concerned that I wasn’t put back in a pool just waiting to be sent out when the next project of interest came along.” (Una, mother of a new baby, in North Africa on a long-term assignment)

Consider the location of your assignment

It’s vital to examine where your long-term, short-term or rotational position will be taking you and possibly your family. While some locations are family-friendly and actively support a healthy work-life balance for parents, others are not as accommodating to the needs of families.

Conduct research on the childcare support offered in the assigned location to ensure your children will be given the best care possible. Fortunately, most family-friendly locations provide safe and reliable childcare services as well as excellent career opportunities.

“Childcare isn’t a particular issue here in Malaysia. We have affordable domestic support … I think that more women are able to enter higher technical roles and expatriate roles here because of this. The childcare enables women to win out.” (Fallon, HR Manager in the Asian Region)

Look at the housing options and commuting times

Daily commutes can be extremely frustrating when dealing with gridlock traffic or public transportation issues. Thankfully, housing accommodations for expatriates are often located near worksites. With convenient housing options, families are able to spend more time together rather than agitated in the car. This can be excellent for both your family life and your sanity.

“Part of the benefit of being an expat is that you get to have your housing quite close to the office. And this is key because it means that your hours between work and home are quite well-defined, and you are not spending a lot of time commuting or a lot of time sorting out other people to take your children to places.” (Izzy, mother of three young children, in Caribbean)

Think about the schools

International oil and gas firms typically provide a range of schooling support for parents expatriating with children. This can include assistance with tuition and other fees as well as practical help to find suitable schools and gain admission.

“Yes, the school fees get paid, which I think is a huge bonus.” (Val, mother of one teenage child in boarding school, based in North America)

Be sure to consult with your human resources department, which can share your company’s assignment policy and the level of financial support they offer. International schools can potentially offer a highly positive experience for your children due to their high academic standards and excellent facilities. Additionally, studying abroad exposes children to multi-lingual and multi-cultural experiences, developing them as international citizens.

Don’t forget security and medical issues

Of course, you also need to consider safety, security and health issues. Oil and gas exploration worksites can be stationed in challenging locations, so be sure to research the area’s crime rates and statistics to ensure your family’s safety. Additionally, it is important to note that certain worksites are located far away from healthcare facilities. For families with children, this could be of high concern especially if they need routine medical care.

All in all, if you are considering taking an oil and gas expatriate assignment, think through the key factors that could be of concern to you and your family. To help in your expatriation decision, reach out to a fellow worker in the industry who can provide you with some additional tips and advice or a mobility provider such as NES Global Talent who have dedicated assignment support teams across the globe. Fortunately, there is a lot of support for expatriates and families mobilising with children, but the key is to weigh your options and make the choice that will best suit your family’s current and future needs.

Suggested references

Shortland, S. (2018) ‘Female Expatriates’ Motivations and Challenges: The Case of Oil and Gas’ Gender in Management: An International Journal, Vol 33 No 1, pp. 50-65.
Shortland, S. (2016) ‘The Purpose of Expatriation: Why Women Undertake International Assignments’ Human Resource Management, Vol 55 No 4, pp. 655-678.
Shortland, S. (2013) The Effects of Children’s Education and Supporting Organizational Policy and Practice on Corporate Expatriation in International Education and Schools: Moving Beyond the First 40 Years, Pearce, R. (ed.) Bloomsbury, London, pp. 37-57.

Author: Dr. Susan Shortland, Senior Lecturer in HRM, University of Westminster, UK. Written on behalf of NES Global Talent.

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