Interview: Making the transition from oil and gas to renewable energy


Since the downturn within the oil and gas industry many candidates are considering moving from the oil sector into the renewables. With a more positive outlook and continued growth of opportunities the renewable energy industry is attracting skilled and experienced professionals who are looking to retrain and apply their knowledge to renewables. Read our full interview below with Rob Wilson who applied his skills and experience from oil and gas and successfully made the transition into the renewable energy industry.


1. How difficult did you find it, to make the transition/move into renewables?

Very challenging. Over a 3 month period I sent over 300 applications both prospectively and via Job Boards.

I would say that of the 300 applications sent, I received 10 replies, of which only three resulted in interviews. I can retrospectively attribute my lack of success within the renewables market to a variation in terminology between sectors, and lack of industry “specific” experience. With hindsight, once placed in front of the hiring manager, I found it very straight forward to sell myself into the role. The greatest challenge I encountered, was simply being recognised at the application stage, and gaining that all-important opportunity to interview.

There certainly needs to be more interaction between recruiters, HR departments, and the “end client”, to better align expectations as to what a suitable and potential candidate should offer. I experienced so much rejection on the back of people misjudging my skill-set, and I know this to be a common theme amongst friends and former colleagues alike, who are struggling to find opportunities within the sector.

I would confidently speculate that the industry is missing out on a wealth of potential opportunity and experience, purely down to a lack of communication and understanding.


2. What advice would you give someone looking to make the move?

For many job seekers within the O&G market today, the level to which the sector is depressed is unprecedented, and my key insight was to understand that unlike jobs of the past finding me, I would need to actively seek-out work.

  • Be proactive and accept that looking for a job, is a job! Whether you are have the skills or not, searching for work is a numbers game, and by applying in both quantity and quality, you can actively tip the balance in your favour. As mentioned, I tailored over 300 applications to specific companies, and spent hours researching people to approach. My “time off” rapidly became 12 hours a day behind a screen and you must realise that if you are actively seeking work, you can’t underestimate the amount of effort and energy that needs to be invested into that goal.
  • Blanketing a number of companies with a one-size-fits-all CV will not go unmissed by recruiters, and is a fantastic way to remain unemployed. Understand your target company, research their requirements and values, and tailor the experience within your CV to become the person they need.
  • Whereas the quantity of applications is important, quality must remain paramount. When researching for companies, be honest with yourself regards what does and doesn’t appeal, and for the jobs you really want, be tenacious, and contact those employers directly. You will be surprised how well received the extra effort often is.
  • Build your network. Get yourself a LinkedIn Premium account and become the centre of the LinkedIn universe! Connect with the right people and get noticed.  Ultimately, my success in finding a job derived from in-mailing the right person on LinkedIn. Building relationships only costs you time, and you have lots of that being unemployed. Be mindful that whereas that effort might not bear fruit immediately, it will not do your future prospects any harm either.
  • Always follow your application to a company with a phone call a week or so later. In this current market, you are in fierce competition, and that phone call might be the difference, which ever so slightly differentiates you from your fellow applicants.
  • Job searching is hard work. Sign up for as many job alerts and job boards as possible, and let these resources take some of the load out of your job hunting.
  • Be assertive and be tenacious. You are the one with a vested interested in finding work, so take the lead role in setting the pace of any opportunities that arise. The flip side however, is to learn to recognise when avenues are closed and never pester or harass. Always leave any communications on good terms and despite the understandable desire to do so, refrain from burning bridges!


3. How easy was it to adjust to a new role in the Renewable Sector?

The first month was challenging as I had to get to grips with the new acronyms, values, objectives and mind set. I found however, that once over the initial settling period, 99% of my previous experience was relevant and the transition came easily.


4. What benefit do you think your O&G background gives you in the Renewable Sector?

The renewables crowd are a clever bunch, and I was pleasantly surprised at how progressive the industry was compared with my preconceptions.

Simply put, the benefit of Oil and Gas within the Renewables sector is that O&G is a more mature market, therefore has had more time and resource to develop best practises, quality and safety culture. I’m very keen to stress that that older doesn’t automatically mean wiser, although cross pollination between the sectors is only ever going to be a healthy thing to promote.

I have found that on a few of occasions already, I have brought a fresh prospective to the table, although equally, am also greatly profiting from the experience of my new colleagues.


5. What more could be done by the recruitment industry to help people making the transition?

My opinion is that recruiters and employers are missing out, on a huge, skilled, untapped resource. The transition won’t be suitable for all, although I personally know of a many good people, who are struggling to make the jump for no discernible reason.

Recruitment agencies need to read your CV and understand you as a person before picking up the phone. The desperate, late night calls from recruitment agents, offering you vaguely relevant opportunities don’t do wonders for your confidence and are a mutual and unwelcome waste of time.

I have never understood our prudery with salary. For me personally, I thoroughly enjoy what I do, although like most people, money is the key reason I need to work, otherwise honestly, I’d prefer to spend more time with my wife and daughter. I was far more inclined to apply for roles with stated target salaries, and companies should encourage an environment, whereby both they and the prospective employee feel comfortable to be transparent with salary expectations, save wasting each other’s time. I found this to be the case with my new employer, which was very refreshing, compared with the high-stake games I have felt pressured to play in previous interviews.

Throughout my journey of job seeking, I met some truly great recruiters who went out of their way to assist, either directly or indirectly. Similarly, I met my fair share of cowboys whom too many times, would build up hopes and then saddle-up and vanish off into the sunset, never to be heard of again. I appreciate that in their business, people are a commodity, although constant rejection and disappointment is both unprofessional and more importantly, emotionally exhausting for the job seeker.

Both agencies and employers within the renewables sector need to appreciate that the downturn in the oil market presents a unique and fantastic opportunity to attract wide-ranging talent and expertise. The preconceived idea that years of relevant renewables experience always equals best candidate is nonsense. As green markets mature, they need now to focus on the right people with the right expertise, rather than years of existing know-how, which inherently, can be both good, but also often detrimental to continuous improvement.


6. Do you feel there are any specific O&G skill sets that are suitable and applicable to renewable energy?

Barr the specific disciplines like exploration, drilling and production for instance, most skills are completely transferrable between Oil and Renewables.

Supply management, manufacturing, installation and construction to name a few, are all areas, which offer great synergy between the two markets.

There will always be a minor lag for people transferring between industries, although any negatives, which result from these required learning curves, will always be outweighed by the fresh perspective and invigorated energy that you typically take from a fresh challenge.


7. What about opportunities/benefits in renewables? Do you feel there is opportunity for progression and high salary earnings?

Certainly from my experience, there is a perception amongst O&G engineers that typically, remuneration is not great within the renewables market.

Although I have limited overview so far, the benefits are identical, if not better than Oil. The workforce is typically younger which seems to instil an emphasis on work-life balance and family, which for me is perfect!

I have found that the industry is evidently maturing, and on this basis, faster paced than oil and gas and not always completely efficient. Far from a negative, this for me provides a great environment to grow professionally, as well as capitalise on the rapid expansion of the industry.


8. Congratulations on your role at Dong Energy, what made you want to work for them originally?

Thank you.

As always, my present role at Dong Energy is the result of a number of factors. Having lost my job within the Oil sector, I was forced out of a comfortable position, in a familiar industry. This, combined with an underlying aspiration to transfer into green energy, dictated the types of company I applied to.

Albeit Dong Energy having an impressive online portfolio, I am more personally inclined to lean on the opinions of people rather than take decisions purely on marketing material or websites, and so as part of my research, I spoke with contacts within the renewables sector, and based on very encouraging feedback, targeted the company as a potential employer.

I am pleased to report that in retrospect, the whole experience of losing my job, and transitioning into green energy, has proven to be a fantastic move all round.


9. How did you get the role at Dong Energy?

By prospectively contacting somebody via LinkedIn. Be under no illusion that this technique always requires an element of luck, although if you take time to contact the right people, with the right story to tell, you will be amazed at how lucky you become.

I was told after the recruitment process, that one of the key factors behind prompting my interview was my Chartered Engineer Status, good proof for me that any small differentiator you can apply to your CV, has the potential to tip the balance.


10.  What do you enjoy most about working at Dong Energy?

For the sake of an unbiased overview for your readers, Dong Energy, like any organisation, has its idiosyncrasies. Holistically and genuinely speaking however, the job and company are absolutely fantastic to work for. 

Dong Energy are engaging in a number of enormous, and truly cutting edge projects, and I believe that the industry as a whole is sat in a proverbial sweet spot, between being mature enough to offer a safe and professional work environment, versus maintaining an openness and progressive attitude, which I felt sometimes lacked in Oil and Gas.

Overall, I am very pleased, and feel genuinely privileged to have landed so firmly on my feet, after such a challenging period of unemployment.


11. Final words

Irrespective of people’s drivers to move into Green energy at this time, both job seekers and employers stand to gain from the unique situation currently and in part, being driven by the depressed oil price. Between the skill shortages being experienced within the renewables sector, and number of highly talented people actively seeking work, I struggle to understand why there is not a more positive drive towards encouraging skills migration.

I would actively encourage anyone searching for work to persevere, irrespective of how much resistance you encounter. Equally, I would implore both recruiters and employers within the renewables industry to transcend any notions that oil and gas personnel have little to offer.


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Bio: Robert Wilson

Rob Wilson has worked for more than a decade as a professional Engineer within the Oil and Gas market, on a variety of EPC projects within Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Having based out of Aberdeen, Brazil, Paris and London, Rob had enjoyed a healthy career progression until the recent slump in Oil price.

As with many others, Rob became a casualty of the downturn, eventually losing his job in late 2015 with the collapse of Ceona Offshore.  

Rob has since gone on to work for Dong Energy, and talks about his experience of redundancy and of transitioning between the O&G and Green Energy markets.


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