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Persistence pays off in oilfield job hunt

Justin Day, 20, of Salem, Ore., shows where he lived in his VW van in Williston, N.D., while looking for work in the Oil Patch. He recently began working in the oilfield near Dickinson, N.D. CARRIE SNYDER | FORUM COMMUNICATIONS CO.

WILLISTON, N.D. - Twenty-year-old Justin Day moved to North Dakota with no oilfield experience.

A month later, Day has a job that could pay him six figures this year.

But getting that job took research. And a lot of persistence.

Day, of Salem, Ore., is trained as a phlebotomist but couldn't find steady work at home.

He knew of someone who worked in North Dakota's Oil Patch, and he began researching opportunities.

Day spent more than a month working the phones and making contacts before arriving April 11 in Williston.

While Day was looking for work, he lived in his orange 1979 Volkswagen Riviera camper bus he and his dad restored.

"I sleep in it, cook in it, everything," Day said. "It's great."

Day applied for his job online and drove to the office to submit a resume in person. He also had an interview on the spot, and followed up with several phone calls to human resources.

"It takes a little bit of work," Day said. "It's not easy anymore to get a job around here, that's for sure."

Cindy Sanford, customer service office manager for Job Service North Dakota in Williston, said workers with oilfield experience are finding jobs immediately.

For those without experience, they will be more successful if they try to educate themselves on the industry and the job openings, she said.

"Do some research and come out prepared, instead of just showing up," Sanford said.

That's exactly what Day did, and a little more than two weeks after arriving in Williston he got hired as a floor hand for a workover rig, or service rig.

The job is in Dickinson, where Day is living in a hotel for now but will be provided man camp-style housing.

The job is hard work - he worked 16 hours his first day. But he's happy that the guys he's working with are helping him learn.

"I think I lucked out with the crew I'm with," Day said. "If you're willing to work hard, they'll treat you right."

If he continues to work 70 to 80 hours each week, Day expects his income will hit six figures. After taxes, Day estimates conservatively that he'll take home about $80,000 this year.

Day plans to take a week off after he's worked for three months to go home to see his family and buy a car.

Other than that purchase, Day plans to save money for college and for his future.

"Maybe I'll find a career out here. Maybe I'll go into petroleum engineering, who knows?" Day said. "But I'll be out here for a while."

AMY DALRYMPLE is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the North Dakota Oil Patch.