Boots on the Pavement

My name is Derek Tisdale. I am 41 years old and I have rarely had any issues finding jobs. In my early 20s, I actually held seven different jobs at one time while many of my friends couldn’t get any work. But now, twenty years later, I am faced with trying to find work in a very bleak economy. A little about me…I grew up in small town BC. I have a university certificate that is also recognized by the BC Justice Institute. I nearly completed a General Arts degree before moving to Cold Lake, Alberta to work on the service rigs in 2005. I spent nearly two years working on the rigs working both Slant rigs and Straight rigs. When I left I was a Derrick hand training to be a driller.

I have certification as a National Construction Safety Officer (NCSO) through the Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA), as well as a Professional, Gold Seal Certified (P.GSC) credential through the Canadian Construction Association, and I am half way through an HSE Certificate offered by the University of Calgary.

I began my safety career nine years ago in residential construction where I worked for three years before moving to the seismic industry. I worked for four years at a downhole seismic company that operated in all three western provinces, the Northwest Territories, the United States, and overseas. I had the pleasure of developing plans, reading contracts, and working with clients to make jobs happen. During those seven years I wasn’t merely a safety hand who sat on the sidelines; I built and implemented safety management systems, training programs, orientations and worked with clients on the safety programs. However, I was also a “boots on the ground” kind of guy: I wheeled gravel and concrete, I rigged tools in and out of the hole, I put sensors in the ground, and cleaned and organized tools and the overall worksite.

In August of 2014, I began my journey with the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors as their Manager of Safety and Training. This posting came with a huge learning curve but was mentored by their president, Mike Doyle. There, I worked alongside other association representatives, Enform personnel, various HSE managers/ directors, WCB personnel from the three western provinces, and I was a key member in health and safety committee meetings with Work Safe/ Safe Work representatives from governments of the four western provinces.

On June 1st of this year, two weeks before the birth of my third child, the CAGC Board of Directors needed to do something to save money in order for the association to continue. The economic downturn was taking its toll on them so they decided to cut the position and move their offices to a new, less expensive space.

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The Tisdale Family: Ariella (born August 2016), 3-year-old Morgan, Derek, and 10-year-old Raiden. Fianceé Jennifer was resting!

So, on July 1, 2016 I was faced with a problem that I haven’t had to worry about in a very long time…I needed to find a job. I had spent a little time throughout June searching online job boards and putting the word out to the executives that I had worked with in various capacities during my time at the CAGC.

Another complicating issue was that it was summer. Very few industry organizations had a lot of work going on, so job prospects were sparse anyway. During July, I spent a lot more time on the Internet, sometimes applying for six to eight jobs per day. Eventually, you run out of options because all of the jobs that are open, you’ve already applied for and there aren’t many other places to turn. I began looking at company-specific websites for their major clients. I had made some friends in the seismic industry who allowed me the use of their offices to look for work, so I took advantage of that on occasion. It made for fewer distractions while job hunting, however, it didn’t seem to make sense once I ran out of jobs to apply for. I had some other seismic friends that said they may have work in the late summer or early fall that I may be able to help them with but some of that has gone by the wayside for the moment.

It seems that there are a lot of people talking and there are a lot of rumours going around. I have had friends who haven’t worked more than two months in the past year, so I knew that I would have a difficult time. Also, when you go to apply for a job and the job board shows that 300-500 people have applied for the job, you know the odds are remote that you’ll make it through the first round of cuts. Seasoned professionals are now in competition with beginners for the more entry-level positions. I’ve also had discussions with executives who have told me that they are just trying to keep the lights on and keep their staff employed. I’ve heard from others in the industry that there are now highly educated workers who have been earning a significant amount of money who are now faced with taking a massive pay cut just to work for a fraction of their previous salary.

I began expanding my search outside of Canada and starting applying for jobs in China, the Middle East, even in countries and cities that I couldn’t pronounce the names.

Other than that, a few considerate companies sent out rejection emails where they stated that although my qualifications were impressive, they don’t feel that I would fit in with the company. None of these statements came after an interview of any kind. If I did, however, have a phone interview, the HR rep wrapped up the conversation with a standard disclaimer that only chosen applicants will be contacted.

I can see how it must be hard though, working through 400 or more resumes, even for low paying jobs. I’ve even heard that companies are putting a cap on the amount of applications they’ll review. The surplus resumes, I’m assuming, must arrive in some inbox that automatically forwards them directly to the trash.

I was finally able to land a bit of work in early August at a local industrial insulation company, but it only lasted about three weeks. Once they got caught up with their work, they began laying people off again — and the newest guy got the axe!

I’m looking into completing my HSE Certificate through the University of Calgary and will keep plugging away.

As a family, we are finding ways to cut back on expenses: getting rid of our television and looking into alternatives; not going out for dinner; going for picnics instead of spending money at local tourist attractions; lowering our cell phone plans; not buying extra treats but instead make our own homemade snacks.

As I’ve said to my son in many of his martial arts and lacrosse adventures, “if you stop moving, you die.” You have to keep trying. You have to keep moving forward, you must keep a positive attitude and never say die.

Derek can be reached at [email protected]