Too heavy for Superman to lift

So: bummer.

I went to Colorado earlier this week to interview for a field engineer position at Schlumberger. It's hard -- damned hard -- to get these energy companies to even look at my resume, so getting to talk to real people and be considered for a job in an oilfield was an accomplishment. I went to the Houston Chronicle's Oil and Gas career fair a few weeks ago. Nothing came out of it, except a deeply burned memory of the Halliburton recruiter rolling his eyes when he saw my resume. (The National Oilwell Varco guy was good enough to engage me with legitimate questions about my experience and capabilities.) There's something about having aerospace engineer on my resume that screams effete and ineffectual to someone recruiting for a mechanical engineering position. Nevermind that half of the aerospace engineering departments in the U.S. are joint mechanical/aerospace engineering departments because of their similarities.

A rig we visited today

OK, I got a form email from Schlumberger this evening. I didn't get the job. /curses

It's too bad I'm not in the business of being satisfied at near-success, else I'd be happy by now. Do you know what scares me? Mediocrity. Or: the idea of mediocrity. I'm not cut out for it. I'm allergic to it. I'm repelled by it. I'm knee deep in it and sinking. One thing I learned from this rejection is that I still have an ego somewhere; I felt it deflate a little tonight. Another thing I learned is that I must have some confidence left somewhere; the swift, steel toed kick to my confidence is still reverberating.

You know, I just wanted to know that I still have it. What is it? It is responding to a challenge. It is exceeding expectations. Inevitably we all move forward. Tomorrow happens, and it's a product of today and yesterday and so on. That worries me. That's what seemed so promising about this job opportunity. It seemed exactly like what I needed: a position that required work in uncomfortable places and uncomfortable hours, and he who survives thrives. It seemed like a position that required hard work and rewarded hard work. I wanted to catch up; I'm behind. I'm not working hard; I'm not in a position where there is hard work to do. As a bonus, it was outdoor work.


So... how can I turn this from a disaster into another opportunity. I'm not sure. See, a million years or so ago, I was a runner in high school. I have a collection of four medals from the annual regional track meet; only one matters, but it really matters because of the other three. To qualify for the state track meet, you had to place first or second. First year, 3200 meter relay: we got fifth; no state meet. Second year: we got third; no state meet. Third year: we got third; no state meet. Fourth year: we got second, and qualified for state. I still have a bag full of perseverance that I acquired from that experience. Now, however, I don't have any patience to wait for the fourth and final round. Every day feels like falling another step behind someone else. And I hate to lose -- despise it. What I'm looking for is a opportunity that can harness this.

Maybe you want to hire me. OK: Kirk Kittell on LinkedIn.

Until then, I don't know which way is up. I hope that coughing up these words is a step in moving on -- rid myself of the poison of uncertainty and disappointment, rid myself of these things and move.

Tell everybody waiting for Superman
That they should try to hold on as best they can
He hasn't dropped them, forgotten them, or anything
It's just too heavy for Superman to lift

--Flaming Lips, "Waitin' for a Superman"

What does that mean (to me)? You can't wait for Superman to fix things for you. Save yourself.

3 thoughts on “Too heavy for Superman to lift

  1. Gordon R. Vaughan

    Ouch... It really annoys me when folks treat an aerospace engineering background like something lightweight or eclectic. One of the things that really appealed to me about the degree was that it was probably the broadest of all the engineering disciplines.

    I had to take classes in everything from EE to control theory to structures, fluids, computer science, thermo, etc, etc. YET most people seem to think that civil engineers (and maybe MEs) are the real engineers. Nowadays some folks get classes in human factors and interface design and who knows what else.

    To me, an aero eng. background says basically what you're saying, that you like to learn about new things and have exacting technical standards. Can't really see how that isn't applicable to today's economy.

    One thing I do wonder though is that since aerospace is such a boom and bust field, maybe they've had experiences where aero engineers hire on during a bust and then leave as soon as a good aerospace job opens up.

    BTW, Schlumberger has one of their research centers out here in Sugar Land, I don't know if you talked to those guys or not. Of course, Sugar Land isn't Colorado, can't help you with that!

    1. kirk.kittell Post author

      Hey Gordon. Yeah, the recruiter was from Sugar Land, but they took us to Colorado to see a field site. Schlumberger's recruitment process was awesome -- other industries and companies should do it like them. One of the field engineers said they ramped it up in the past year. Now they try to take prospective engineers through a long night then a day in the field to test them, to make sure they really want to do it. I suppose in the long run, that's less expensive to the company than having a bunch of people bail.

      It was cool -- really cool, actually. But, now I'm back in the cubicle. My suspicion now is that they probably didn't think I could handle the outdoor work -- like they think that I was going to cry if I broke a nail or something. They warned that we might have to spend nights sleeping in the cab of a truck... like that isn't something I've already done before 🙂 I grew up in the middle of nowhere.

      My girlfriend recently switched from aerospace to energy. She mentioned that there is a perception from some of the folks she knows in the field that aerospace is one of the higher-paying engineering jobs. I wish our managers would develop that same sort of perception, ha. You mentioned boom-or-bust; similarly, maybe they think that I'd think I was settling for a lower-paying, harder-working job, and that I'd run away as soon as I could.

      Or it could be that I gave an absolutely horrible interview. Or maybe I am unqualified. I'm not sure. I emailed the recruiter to see if I can get a few details, but he's not obligated to do anything. We'll see what happens.

  2. Todd Childerhose


    I saw your blog on the buzz application at Linkedin.

    For what it is worth the field Engineer job and Schlumberger is not all it is cracked up to be. You go in and work like a slave for 3 or 5 years and at the end of it realize that your technology skills have degraded, your marketability outside of the energy field is poor, and you don't make the kind of money you thought you were going to make at the beginning of the process. Although you are well paid.

    I know a ton of people who were in that job the same time I was. Most who left it went on to become more successful in life than those who kept at it.

    Just my two cents. Don't sweat the rejection. If they interviewed you they liked your Resume. Getting through the selection process to the interview stage is probably more important than getting a job offer in the long term scheme of things.


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