Geologist Keri Belcher had a moment of relief earlier this year. Her employer, a medium-sized oil and gas company, had a round of layoffs — and she made it through. She still had a job.
Then came the coronavirus and the complete collapse in oil prices. This time around, she was laid off.
"It was kind of unfortunate, too, because I just re-signed my apartment lease," the Houston resident said.
Belcher applied for unemployment, and after seven weeks of waiting, still hadn't received a single check. She's applied for jobs, with no luck. She's looking for someone to take over the lease on that apartment.
And like many other people stuck inside, she's taken up new hobbies — like drawing and baking bread. "I got a nice crunchy crust the other day," she says. "Very exciting."
What comes next? She's not sure. Her career was just getting off the ground, and she's not expecting the oil and gas industry to go on a hiring spree any time soon. Besides, it's a boom-and-bust industry even in the best of times.
"I'm just wondering to myself, do I really want to go through this five years from now or another 10 years from now?" she asks. "So — I don't know."
Maybe a complete career switch is in order. Even if it means less time outdoors, which is what attracted her to geology in the first place. But what else could she do with her oil and gas experience and a master's degree in geology? Data analytics, perhaps? She's discovered she's not the only one asking that question.
"I guess I'm just a little lost," she says.