Millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed, and after four years of the same, despite every new promise from this politician or that, many have given up hope. Saddled by debt, dreams are slipping through the hands of many like sand. People who have applied for hundreds, or even thousands of jobs without being given even an interview wonder when they will get their break.. Some hear about the North Dakota oil boom and it seems like it is impossible in today’s America. They hear about non-existent unemployment, entry level jobs that pay $80,000 a year, and the money that is flowing freely in the boomtowns. Some of these people will come here full of hope, only to see their dreams founder because they are unprepared physically, mentally, financially, and/or materially.
I want to speak to folks who want to come out here to make sure they are set up for success. That is why I put together this cursory list of things to do if you plan to come to North Dakota seeking work.
1. Make a plan- That plan can be vague, or even flexible, but you still need one. Ask yourself what your goals are, and it will be invaluable as you begin your search for work.
2. Talk to people with first hand knowledge- before I ever made it to Williston, I gleaned valuable tips from people who had been to the boom. Thesis knowledge is crucial to success. Ask around and you will be amazed at how many people have a friend or relative living out here.
3. Dress for the weather- It is called North Dakota for a reason. Don’t come without adequate clothes for temperatures as low as -40 F. I don’t care if you are going to be working indoors. You are a fool if you do not bring adequate clothes. I had to lend warm clothes to several people who showed up to work construction jobs in Gap fashion coats. If you are working outside, pay special attention to warm work boots and gloves. If you have questions about what you need, ask me in the comments.
4. Bring your Work Ethic- I’ve met a lot of folks out here who failed because they heard there was money to be made in North Dakota, but were not inclined to put in the hours or elbow grease to make the big paychecks. If you want to bum around, head to Southern California instead. If you are an able bodied person who can’t find work in the boom areas, you don’t want to work. This place will measure a person’s willingness to work, much as the America of our grandfathers did.
5. Be prepared for high prices and limited housing. Hotels are $250 a night. Sleeping in your car can get you in trouble with the law. $1300 is not unheard of for a single room in a house. Grocery prices are similar to. when I lived in downtown Seattle. Car repairs, gas, clothes are all sold at inflated prices.
6. Get off the drugs- Not all jobs require a drug test, but the best paying ones do. My company does both urine and hair follicle tests. If you use drugs, stop right now, get a short haircut, and wait 4 months. This should give you the 1.5 inches of clean hair you need to get tested. If you are using drugs, your chances of finding work are slim.
7. Mentally prepare yourself for hardship- Boredom, cold weather, and long hours take their toll. I couldn’t imagine staying here forever, so thinking about leaving gets me through. People come here because it is a great opportunity to save some money, get work experience, and get ahead, not to have fun. Your social life and your love life will probably be lacking. Resist the temptation to waste your money just because you are bored.
8. Stay away from the wrong crowd- There are some of the best and worst people in Williston. I have had nothing but good interactions with people out here, but trouble can be found if you look for it. The bars are rough and rowdy, so I recommend avoiding them if you want to keep out of hot water. There is a Catch 22 there though… a lot of people get their first oil jobs from people they meet in bars. So if you do go to a bar to meet people, don’t drink too much and watch your six o’clock.
9. Get in shape- If you are out here to work a blue collar job, especially a oil job, your chances of being hired are dramatically better if you look strong enough to put in a hard day’s work. Every guy thinks he is in grear shape whether he is or not, but hopefully you can honestly assess your fitness level.
10. Get right with God today- Death is never far away on the road or on the job. Don’t be caught without him in your heart.
Any questions are welcome! Look for a future post on a recommended plan for moving to the boom and finding work.