A Template Plan for Moving to the North Dakota Oil Boom

In an earlier post, I laid out some of the dos and don’ts of coming to the North Dakota oil boom to find work. One of my dos was “have a plan.” I’ve met a few people here who showed up in town with no money, no vehicle, and no friends to look for work. The beauty of this place, at the time of this writing, is that it is possible for those kinds of people to succeed here. However, it will be much easier if you take steps get a smooth start. So I will lay out a kind of plan template that I think would serve newcomers well.

Step 1-Do your homework. Tell people you are planning to come to North Dakota, and chances are good that you know someone who knows someone who is already out here. If you are able to make contact with someone who is already out here, pump them for information about available jobs.

Step 2-Put some money together. $2000 is the minimum I would come to town with. $4000 or $5000 would be much better. While you may land a good job within two weeks, you may not get your first paycheck until two weeks into the job. You are going to be paying big city prices for food, gas, and lodging.

Step 3-A vehicle is crucial to getting a job. Just like the rest of America, your work prospects are dim without a car. If you don’t have a car, you at least need a driver’s license, as many companies require one to be hired on.

Step 4 (Optional)- Apply for jobs on the internet- Many of the entry level jobs out here aren’t reflected on the internet. If you are in a specific field, you can try to apply for available jobs, but expect a poor response rate. If you have a friend out here that will let you use their address in applications, your chances of success are better. I have heard some companies won’t even consider your application unless you have a North Dakota address. Sometimes the better part of being hired in the boom is just being the guy that is here, right now, ready to work.

Step 5- Try to decide what kind of job you want when you get here. If you are an able bodied person, you will have no problem finding construction work and the like. Certain qualifications, like having a Commercial Driver’s License guarantee that you will find a job when you get out here. Document your competencies so that you can find your place.

Step 6-Don’t worry if you come out here without any specific job prospects. Most entry level people out here find their jobs by walking in or by word of mouth.

Step 7 – FIGURE OUT YOUR LIVING SITUATION BEFORE YOU GET HERE. My plan when I got to town was to live in my truck until I could find something better. The problem is that the city has really cracked down on this. RVs and campers cannot be parked with in city limits. WalMart chases overnighters out of the parking lot. If you are cited 3 times for sleeping in your car, you can have your vehicle confiscated. Fortunately, I ran into an acquaintance in Williston who let me park at her place for a few weeks. Otherwise, life could have been hard. Ideally, you can stay with a friend for a few weeks until you get a job with a housing allowance or company housing. All housing is in short supply… one bedroom in a house can run $1300 a month! Hotels can be about $250 a night. Staying in a campground with full hookups can be $800 a month. Finding a place to live is critical to success out here.

Step 8- Stock up on anything you need before you get here. No point in paying inflated prices. Do your shopping, especially for warm clothes, before you get here.

Step 9- Show up in town. Start pounding the pavement and talking to everyone you meet about where to find work. Its only a matter of time before you get hired on.

Step 10-Do temporary work until the right job comes along. If you don’t want to eat into your savings while you job hunt, there is temporary work you can do that will help keep money in your pocket. The first two weeks I was in town, I worked at a place called Bakken Staffing doing construction work. This had several advantages:

-Flexibility. If I wanted to work, I just showed up at 6 to wait for a job. Otherwise, I could take the day to go look for the jobs I really wanted.
-Paid every day. The pay was somewhat low by the standards of the Bakken, about $15 an hour, but they paid us at the end of every day.
-Long term opportunities. I you do temp work long enough, some companies might pick you up.

There is more than one way to skin a cat, but hopefully these recommendations give you a good start on a strategy for starting work in the Bakken oil boom.

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