So you want to work in resources? Here's how...

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Given the amount of media coverage centred around the mining and resources sector and its associated skills shortage, it's not surprising that 'going to the mines' is seen as an attractive option for an increasing number of people.

For some it's the lure of higher wages, for others it's the chance to live in rural areas while still working in their field of expertise. Whatever the reason, I can't count the number of times I've heard people say: "I’m sick of my job, I’ll just go to the mines."

Sorry to say, it’s not that simple! 

Although there might be a skills shortage, there's a high level of competition for mining roles. It's not unusual for recruiters to get hundreds of applications for a single position. Just like any other job you see advertised, there's a detailed process to follow.

Often people apply for mining jobs on Seek or through a company’s website. Then the frustration starts: "Why didn’t I get a call back?", "I have all the tickets/experience/skills they asked for in the ad, but I still didn't get an interview!"

If this has happened to you, here's how to make the right approach:

Don't assume recruiters will assume anything from your resumé and cover letter (yes, you will need to write a cover letter – more on this later). You need to make your skills, abilities and knowledge clear to them. If a recruiter has 300 applications to read through, you need to ensure that every word in your application draws their interest and provides them with what they need to know about you (see my earlier article on creating a winning resumé.)

Follow the same general rules of job search:

  • Make sure your resumé and cover letter is tailored to the role you’re applying for. This is especially important if you’re making a career change. If you're applying for a driving role, describing yourself as a "motivated banking professional" in the first line in your resumé really isn’t helpful. Print out the job ad and highlight all the key things they’re looking for. This is now your checklist for tailoring your resumé and cover letter. Clearly cover each of the key points from the ad.
  • Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. What would you want to know if you were hiring people for that role?
  • Write a great cover letter. I have come across a small number of recruiters who don't read cover letters, but I think this is because they are often poorly written. On the whole, a well-written cover letter will make your application much more competitive.

A great cover letter should:

  • Include your name and address (typical business letter layout – you can google this, or use one of the templates in Microsoft Word)
  • Be addressed to the contact person named in the ad. Where this is not possible, start the letter with "To Whom It May Concern". Steer clear of "Dear Sir/Madam" as most people don’t like these titles. 
  • Clearly state what role you're applying for and where you found the job advertised (e.g. Seek, CareerOne etc)
  • Introduce YOU. For example, if you’re applying for a driving role with no past experience, this might sound like "I am a responsible and reliable employee with a MR licence and a strong desire to work in Gladstone".
  • Address the key elements of the ad. For example, "I have the ability to manage my time and productivity, as demonstrated in my previous role as a process engineer. I was required to schedule my workload and meet demanding targets to ensure that projects were delivered on time".
  • End by stating your interest in discussing your skills and experience further at an interview.

Once you've submitted your application, if you’ve not heard back within about a week, follow up with a phone call. Not many candidates do this, but in my experience it will set you apart from the pack. Even if the selection process hasn’t progressed, it’s still a great chance to ask questions about the role, projects you would be working on, or perhaps for more information about the company. Be patient but persistent. You might need to make a number of calls to get to speak with the right person, but don’t pester them.

If you get advice that you’ve been unsuccessful in an application, call and ask for feedback on your application. Depending on how busy the recruiter is, this can be a chance to get feedback on your cover letter or resumé and also to understand if there was something that the company was looking for that you didn’t address in your application.

Talk to people. You’ve all heard the saying 'It’s not what you know, it’s who you know'. Start talking to people about your plans to get into the mining and resources industry. This way they can share what they hear and see that might be helpful. Use company and industry websites (like MiningFM!) to gather company information. Local expos (e.g. Work for Qld Mining and Gas Jobs Expo, Eyre Peninsula Mining Careers Expo) are also a great chance to speak to companies in the industry. Seek out recruiters who specialise in mining and resources. You never know when you’ll strike up a conversation with someone who has handy information.

Speaking of recruiters, what is it that they’re really looking for?

The starting point is of course tickets, licences and qualifications. What is required will vary from job to job, so explore this through company websites or with a recruiter to really understand what is required for your target job.

In general, recruiters look for some basic attributes in addition to the specific requirements of the role:

  • A positive attitude to safety and a willingness to comply with policies and protocol
  • Ability to relocate or travel to remote areas
  • Willingness to 'have a go'
  • Readiness to learn and gain additional skills

So, all of this should help you take a strategic and targeted approach to breaking into the mining and resource industry. Good luck!

More expert advice from Therese:

Therese Lardner is an industrial and organisational psychologist with extensive experience in all areas of the employment cycle from recruitment and selection to development, employee engagement and career transition. She currently works for Lee Hecht Harrison in Brisbane. Click here to ask for Therese's expert advice on landing your perfect mining and resources job or moving up the career ladder in your workplace.