Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

This is a part of a series connected to our partnership with the Greater Houston Community Foundation's regional project Understanding Houston. This story, and others in the series, also appears on the Understanding Houston website.

Portrait of Paula Inman

Courtesy of Paula Inman

Paula Inman is a petroleum engineer who has built her career on the boom-and-bust oil and gas industry. With more than two decades in the industry, the Texas A&M graduate has seen its ups and downs reflected in her own professional path. Inman's most recent downturn started when she was laid off by BP in August 2015. She was laid off again in November 2016 by Hart Crowser. After being let go twice in 15 months, Inman entered her job search a bit weary, but still determined.

She focused her search in the oil and gas field, but also expanded out to other engineering-driven industries in an attempt to expand her possibilities. But nearly two years into her search, she fell victim to a scam she thought was an overseas opportunity, and it nearly drained the severance she receved from BP.

“I was begging. I was in the dumps. I was like, ‘Okay, God, what do you want me to do and how am I supposed to overcome this and continue to look for a job?’” Inman said. 

Despite the scam, Inman pressed on and was referred to WorkFaith Connection through a friend who was volunteering with the Christian-centered organization that encourages, educates, and equips disadvantaged job seekers with the skills and connections they need to gain employment. 

“I was distraught, but luckily they got me in and I was able to do an orientation class,” Inman said. “I thought, ‘I have a résumé already, this shouldn’t be a problem.’ But I went in with the attitude, ‘OK, I’ve got to take whatever I can from this organization.’” 

With résumé building, mock interviews, and professional coaching throughout the process, Inman feels she was able to receive the support she needed following the distress she felt after the scam. Over a four-month period with the organization, Inman applied to “hundreds of jobs” and had five interviews that went on to second interviews, but none stuck until she was able to find her current job as an engineering adviser with Occidental Petroleum Corporation, an international oil and gas exploration and production company headquartered in Houston.

“I found out I got the job through a voicemail," Inman said. "It was total elation. The excitement of, ‘Oh, I’m not a loser anymore.’ But throughout that whole process, WorkFaith never stopped praying for me and supporting me.” 

Even with strong experience in a healthy job market, people like Inman can still find themselves facing extended periods of unemployment in our region. Visit the Understanding Houston website to learn more about career services and economic opportunity in the Houston area.