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When Opportunity Doesn’t Come Knocking


It’s not always easy finding a job after graduation.

When BYU geology alum JD Shumway finished up his master’s thesis at the end of 2016, there appeared to be no job prospects in sight.

“I started to become worried as I neared the end of my thesis. If I didn’t get a geology job, I was going to apply at Target or something because unemployment wasn’t an option,” Shumway said.

As a child growing up in Texas, Shumway had always planned on working in the petroleum industry. It was a career path that seemed incredibly promising, especially as a BYU undergraduate.

“When I finished my bachelor’s, the price of oil was at $110 per barrel, which is great. Companies were hiring geologists left and right, but I knew I wanted to get a master’s degree,” Shumway said. “The month I started graduate school, oil dropped to about $50 per barrel. And by the time I finished my first year, it had plummeted to about $30 per barrel.”

Shumway’s original plan of obtaining a petroleum job right after finishing his master’s degree wasn’t panning out. He had interned for an oil and gas company the summer before graduation, and he expected to snag a full-time job at the same company after his internship.

“When the market was doing well, it was typical for this company to extend full-time offers to most of their interns as long as they didn’t catch the building on fire,” Shumway said.

But the market was different this time.

“The intern pool consisted of about fourteen people—maybe the company thought oil would recover and there would be more positions open at the end of the summer,” Shumway said. “It didn’t recover, and they only extended two full-time offers.”

Because he wasn’t offered a position, Shumway started applying to jobs while working simultaneously on his thesis. He was living in Houston—one of the top oil and gas cities in the world—but finding a geology job right of school still wasn’t easy.

“I started sending out my résumé, interviewing at every place I could,” Shumway said. “I got a job at a pipeline company—not a geology job, but a data analyst job.”

Shumway felt lucky to find a job, but it wasn’t particularly what he wanted to do. He continued to look.

“While I was there, I started interviewing with an oil and gas consulting company for a full-time geology position,” Shumway said. “I made it to the final rounds of the interview process, and everything looked promising. The day after the final interview, I received an email and subsequent phone call stating that they liked me, but I wasn’t qualified for the job.”

He was understandably upset. Shumway had come so close to getting the dream job he had searched for and then was seemingly shut down at the last moment. The company wanted Shumway to gain some more MATLAB (computer programming) experience.

“So I asked them if they’d be willing to hire me as an intern, let me gain experience on the job, and consider me for the position again in a couple of months,’” Shumway said. “That’s how I got to where I am now.”

Shumway is currently the youngest geologist at the organization. And although he is still an intern, Shumway said the company will be hiring new geologists shortly, and he hopes he’ll be hired to work full time.

“As an undergraduate, I felt that things would fall into my lap once I had my degree. As a graduate student, I realized if I want something, I have to make it happen,” Shumway said. “Opportunities don’t come knocking on your front door waiting to be let in. You have to go out and make your own.”