“Safety is still Safety” right?

With the Oil and Gas market being at a low ebb I am seeing lots of highly experienced Safety Engineers looking for roles in other sectors and wanted to share my views and advice on those of you affected by this market downturn.

The argument that could be used is that “Safety is Safety” and the processes and principles are the same regardless of the market; ALARP does not change from Rail to Nuclear. A HAZOP Study has the same agenda in the Aerospace market as it does in Automotive, right?

While these facts are correct the biggest issue our clients face is twofold, and comes down to salary differences and industry standards.  A Safety Engineer that has spent many years working with Def-Stan’s has a different experience of safety to one that has been working to IEC61508 for example. From speaking to a large number of Safety Engineers every day, the feedback I get is that these ‘standards’ differences are not issues that can’t be overcome –  and the harder skill is the Safety Engineering approach over the standards required by a particular sector.
So now it comes down to each individuals salary expectation; if somebody is a Senior / Principal Safety Engineer earning over £50,000, they will more often than not want / expect to maintain that level of income, whereas a  future employer will want to pay the market rate for a Safety Engineer with experience in their field. If they didn’t have experience in their sector, the salary expectation would need to reflect this, and even then the employer will need to be sure the applicant is capable and interested in learning something new.

An employer’s view on changing markets is often down to the decision-makers own personal experience and career; if they  have changed sectors before they will be much more open to others doing it. If the Hiring Manager has only ever worked in one sector, then you can guess what their view is going to be.

This is where a well-connected and Safety Engineering-experienced recruiter comes in to their own; knowing who came from where is a key piece of data that comes from establishing close relationships, and a history of working with people over time. It is the fine details that make sending a CV worthwhile or not:

  • Choose your recruiter carefully and talk to them openly and honestly. There are more “specialists” than generalists in recruitment these days, so take a look at the background of the person you are entrusting with your career!
  • Quality over quantity wins every time with Job Applications. Do not fall into the mindset of more sent CVs increases the chances of success, it isn’t that simple and may devalue the merit of your niche skills.
  • If a recruiter will not disclose their client to you, thank them for the call and walk away. Job-Boards are a great source of CVs for less ethical recruiters (that like to ‘spam’ your CV out) and hope for a positive reply (at which point they call you). There is no good reason for a recruiter to keep the end client from you.
  • Be prepared to lower your salary if you are changing markets. Oil and Gas was the highest paying sector for many years and the gap to Rail, Defence, Nuclear, Automotive etc. is big; be ready for that.

If you are looking for a change of market or a new Safety role within your existing market, it pays to put yourself in the hands of someone who knows the market well. They will be the best person to present you with potential clients  – and jobs –  that closely match what you want and not just send your CV out and hope for the best !

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