How to get a job in the best companies of the world without connections and money

“I don’t want Kazakh boys and girls to think that without connections you will achieve nothing. When you know that there is no one to hope for, you can do what others never dreamed of,” says oil engineer Galiya Sadykova, who signed her first contract with a large international company at the age of 20.

 The worst

– When I went to study at KBTU to become an oil worker, both parents and friends said that, in Kazakhstan, girls-engineers can’t achieve much, says Galiya. – Many of my fellow students (and they are mainly from the West of the country) already had positions prepared for them. All they had to do was to get a degree. I was in my city, but, at the university, I felt like a stranger, odd, because nobody in my family was an oil worker.

At the faculty of oil and gas with English language of instruction, there were no scolarships at all. Some students had contracts with companies who paid for their studies. Nobody offered it to me. I think it’s good: you will have to make up for the contract. Starting from the second year, I had another opportunity to pay for my studies. Different companies select top 10-15 students from the course and pay for 50-90% of their studies. This sponsorship made the life of my parents – regular employees – much easier: my father taught at the university and my mother worked for an insurance company.

I have a critically low self-esteem since childhood, but at the same time incredibly high ambitions. I want a lot, but it always seems to me that I’m not very well prepared for this. That thought had followed me all four years of the studies at the university. It seemed to me that everyone already knew everything, and I was the only one lagging somewhere in the tail. Therefore, it would be harder for me to find a job. To make my way in life and not to let the parents down, it was necessary to actively move and do something myself. Therefore, I never feared communicate with someone, do an internship in the place that everybody repudiated. I knew I wouldn’t have any other options. I don’t know how the lives of my fellow students are, but I know that many do not work in the oil industry. I liked it somehow, and I turned out to work in it. And the sea is just a big bonus! I never dreamed of this job.

– Why were you so insecure – all, except me, all are capable?

– I’m two years younger than all my fellow students. My mother happened to teach me everything before the school – how to write, count, read, multiply, and they took me immediately to the second grade. But there is a huge gap between 6 and 8-year-old children. I was too young for my classmates. They called me a child, and my good marks did not help me to get closer to them, I was always somewhere a little away from the class.

I remember, in the third grade, I came one day from school and cried standing in the shower. My mom ran into the bathroom: “What happened?!”“Nobody wants to be friends with me!” No, I had friends, but subconsciously I felt different.

Next day, my parents came to school and, in front of the whole class, were telling what a good, friendly and smart girl I was. “She can tie shoelaces since she was 4 years old!” mom boasted.“Be friends with Galiya!”.

Today it seems ridiculous, but then it was really difficult for me!

Failed interview

– How did you get into your first foreign company?

– I signed the contract before graduation. The fact that some companies in each country select several universities, where they can find good students and teach them themselves (in Kazakhstan – KBTU, Satbayev University and Nazarbayev University) was a great piece of luck for me.

When I sent my CV to my first company, the HR manager warned that the interview would be by Skype, but did not say when and on what topic it would be. I was only aware that they needed a person to the position of a seismic engineer.

Before graduation, my family went to spend holidays in the Arab Emirates. And the letter came at that time: “You have an interview tomorrow.” In the Emirates everything is blocked, you can not use Skype! I wrote that I have limited access to the Internet and asked: “Can you think of anything?”“It’s great that you are in the UAE,” said potential employers. “This is the address of the company’s office in the Emirates.” This correspondence was late at night. I spent the whole night studying my notes and looking for information on the Internet. I left the hotel without breakfast – it would take two hours to get to another Emirate. I appeared in the office of the company burned, with a flaky nose, in my only formal clothes – pink pants and a white T-shirt. The interview was technical, namely – about electrical engineering. They started with the elementary: what is direct and alternating current? I said something unintelligible. They looked at each other.

When they asked: “When you put two needles in the socket, you are electrocuted, and why doesn’t the battery, if you take it from two ends,cause the same, although it also generates electricity?” I couldn’t even make up anything.

“Imagine you turn on the computer and the monitor is off. What are you going to do?” was the next question.“Reboot.”“And it still doesn’t work.”“I will call a technician.”“You don’t have a phone. You can’t call anyone.”“I’ll go on any forum using another computer, and I’ll read what people do in such cases?”

– “But there is no other computer. Wouldn’t you like to take apart the one that went haywire?”

– “Of course not! I can’t put it back together.”

Interviewers added: “Imagine that your mobile is water permeable, and you need to take a photo in the pool. What would you do?” I said I’d put the phone in a plastic bag.“OK,” they tell me, “you’re already underwater, but there’s a hole in the bag. Your actions?”“Plug it with my finger.” And then I couldn’t stand it: “What do you want from me? I’m not an electrical engineer. I can’t do anything, but teach me and I’ll do it.”

That phrase saved me. Later, one of the managers who conducted the interviews said that of all the candidates, I was the only one who asked them to teach me something. And although I failed the interview, they definitely decided to give me the job. But I found out it later, and when I was leaving, the faces of the interviewers were saying: “Why have we spent an hour of our lives on her?!”

We returned to Kazakhstan; the day of graduation thesis defense was approaching. I was already preparing for the worst – to work as a saleswoman at the bus stop.

One morning I opened the mail, and there was a letter with a job offer! It was so unexpected. Dad (I called him first) was happy: “Be happy, my baby. Everything will be fine.”My practical mother asked: where, by whom, how much, what schedule? And then she said: “No.”“No what?!”“You’re not going. It’s dangerous. Find another job.” I assume that this is a normal reaction of any mother whose 20-year-old daughter was going to go to the other end of the planet to work in a men’s team in the seas and oceans. But I’ve made up my mind.

The HR manager told me what really happened. Many girls from Kazakhstan had the interview. When they chose me, in addition to the interview, internships in different companies and my readiness for any work made a difference: being a temp, sometimes I didn’t get enough sleep, sometimes I ate poorly, sometimes I missed meetings with friends…  But my hard work, it turns out, was noticed. This is how I signed a contract with a large international oil company at the age of 20, even before defending my thesis.

After graduating from the technical school, where the company immediately sent me, two years I traveled the seas in search of oil, then, when the transformation began in the company, I was transferred to another segment – in Kazakhstan, to the rigs. But here, despite the fact that the company is the same and the team is excellent, I got into a completely different reality. On a ship, I could maximum get wet from sea water when worked on deck. And in Kazakhstan, the pressure is high, and there is hydrogen sulfide and radiation, and the salary is much less… Undoubtedly, there are girls who suffer, no, do not suffer, but can live in THIS. I feel deepest gratitude and respect for them! Someone is satisfied, and someone has not seen anything better, but after two years of working abroad, I was able to compare. And when the cons outweighed, I decided to leave.

I tried to work in Astana as a leading Procurement Manager in one company. It was a big responsibility, I tried very hard, but the office life – its manners and etiquette – is a different universe. My boss came up to me four times to tell me that I couldn’t write letters. I was supposed to make a veiled introduction in “50 lines” on how respected the recipient was. And two lines at the end – the essence of the letter. These two months were the wildest in my life. Now, when I returned to the ship at the invitation of another company, I also write many letters to different countries – our projects are around the world. But here the requirements are the opposite: the letters must be short because the decisions have to be made very quickly, there is no time to be effusively polite, and at the other end – to read them, just none. I do not think that in Kazakhstan they do not know that extra words complicate the process, and yet people either react sharply to a short business letter, or have time to express their unflattering opinion about you for a letter not diligent enough. I took the criticism, although I found it very difficult. There was a feeling that everything was against me, and again I had the feeling that I was the worst.

The moon and the stars

– How do you see your future? Will you continue travelling the seas in search of oil around the world?

– Probably not. When every time you are in new places and with new people, the job brings joy. It is very cool, interesting and promising, but I want to try myself in other areas. For example, as a consultant or business analyst. There is also a desire to try myself as an IT engineer, and I’m doing it a little bit: I am learning to know which cable is better to connect, so that the equipment worked faster, and to be able to program. After all, why, in my first interview, were there so many questions about electrical engineering? Because the ship has a lot of servers and computers. They can break down, but there is no possibility to call the master, and it was important for the representatives of the employer to know that you, relying only on yourself, would tackle the problem to the last.

– Wonderful life.

– Wonderful, but in Norway, where I work now, in July, it may snow and hail. I go on deck in thermal underwear of my little brother who is a football player (it came to my mind to take it at the last minute). Or such moment: when the waves rise to a height of 7-8 meters, even experienced sailors don’t feel well. Everyone has a headache, nausea, work stops completely, it’s dangerous.

But I love my job. The way I got here is like dreaming about the stars around the moon (not even itself!), but surprisingly, I got to it. At the university, we studied both land-based and offshore development. But then I could not imagine that it is possible – to travel the seas in absolute safety with an international team. Well, to be honest, I quietly dreamed about it, but did not dare to say out loud. I just kept trying.  Here I am!

– Are youjust or already 23?

 – I’m already 23 years old. Many of my peers have their own families. Perhaps my way of life is scary for guys. When meeting in public places, I introduce myself as a landscape designer. “Yes, it is, of course, cool,” the guys smile. Haha, hee hee, no more questions asked. But then they add me to friends in social networks, see my photos, where I travel the world or walk around the deck in a helmet and overalls. And new questions: “What?! Do you work at a construction site? Or are you a rescuer?” When they learn that I’m a sailor, they are in shock, surprise, and then comes a mini-interview – how I got there, how many girls are on the ship, how much I earn, what I eat, what my cabin is. Well, then whether they are frightened, or they are not satisfied that the girl every six weeks is on the other side of the planet and does not answer the phone immediately.

For now, I’m not too upset with that. No, I really want to get married, I want children, but I’m probably not ready for that yet. I must first try to make myself. A colleague from Mozambique, when learned that I plan to get married in two years, said that forbids me to think about it until 30. “You’re so young, why would you do that?” He himself is 35 and he is just about to start a family. Other colleagues when they learn that almost all of the girls with whom I studied are already married, get very surprised. For most of them, early marriage is insane. They believe that since we are a Muslim country, it is done under the pressure of parents. They put the formation of a person as an independent personality above everything else.

– Do you see your future in Kazakhstan?

– I’m not ready to give a firm answer yet. I have never had a dream to go to the US or stay in Norway, but I want to try to live in different countries. A lot of places where I’ve been bring out positive emotions in me. The US, Denmark, England and Mexico are beautiful, but Kazakhstan will always be at the top. I was born here, I have friends, some kind of social network, I know that my family will always support me. Then, we have a very good standard of living. Our taxes are very low compared to those paid by Norwegians and Americans. We have a relatively cheap life.

– You tried to work in the West of the country, but what there, except the condition dangerous to health, did not suit you?

– Low self-esteem of employees. I am surprised at how work-related issues are addressed here. In the department where I worked before, some aspects of my working life were treated very differently. If it did not concern absolutely emergency cases, nobody is called from the house during a rest watch. And if this happens, then a huge letter of apology is sent, but the employee always has the right to say no. And in Kazakhstan, you are obliged to go almost without fail. When a friend of mine, alleging fatigue, did not go on an unscheduled watch, the management took it as a personal offense. They said that they had a negative opinion about her, and they would have it in mind. 

The absence of any standard in the same company is in itself abnormal, and then there are conditions. I can’t say they’re bad, but they could have been better. Saving money is an abstract thing, but when they do it on trifles (for example, on overalls) – it kills the desire to work. Sometimes you wonder: is there not enough money? But in foreign branches, it is not the case. People try to be indignant at first, but as a result, to satisfy their bosses, they pretend that everything is normal. But when they begin to think that all discontent can not be resolved, in some cases it can end very badly. The story in the West of the country that began with the published online photos of a foreigner with a Kazakh girl did not happen suddenly. It’s accumulated, overlooked, unheard.

– And what advice would you give to those who graduate from school or university?

– In general, I have active correspondence in social networks with graduates of different universities of Kazakhstan. One guy has recently written that he wants to go to work in a very large operator company in Kazakhstan, but, unfortunately, he does not have a master’s degree in a foreign iniversity (this is an unspoken preference for such companies). I advised him to try himself abroad, and he is scared: “But I have no experience.”“So what? Don’t worry, take your first steps. If there are doubts, I will help with all I can.” I really want to help. I can edit, for example, a CV, tell how to pass an interview, share my notes, answer all questions.

I gave lecturestwice in KBTU and once in Nazarbayev University. It inspires me when I help our guys. I didn’t have such opportunities. I asked several people, but few people were completely honest, but now I have gone through it and now I want to tell others about my little way. I don’t want Kazakh boys and girls to think that without connections you will achieve nothing. You’ll do even more without them. When you know that there is no one to hope for, you can do what others never dreamed of.

Merey Sugirbayeva