Also available at my LinkedIn page.
Although my time has been preoccupied since early Spring due to studying for my attempt to pass the NYS bar exam for the “fun” of it, I am now back to thinking about the oil and gas industry and writing about my observations (for whatever they may be worth). I have seen a good number of people leaving the industry in the recent months and past year, especially those in my “young energy professional” demographic. What follows are three general observations upon which I wanted to expound.
I. Sowing the Seeds for Major Future Skills Gaps by Near-Wholesale Reliance on Retirement-Age Personnel
First, there currently is an unwillingness to spend on young talent who would merely require a little bit of investment and teaching upfront to allow them to operate at their full potential going forward – this unwillingness to train and develop the young workforce in favor of retirement-age personnel that are at the precipice of leaving the industry for good will lead to issues down the road. Companies that kick the can now will be forced to overpay for young talent when oil pricing begins to increase and the demand for the younger heavy hitters rises correspondingly. It should be stated that this is a classic collective action problem with which the industry has had to grapple with during commodity pricing volatility, but I suspect that a company that decided to wisely invest in a good core of young talent during a slower period would outperform those who had to haphazardly pluck anyone it could get its hands on after the hiring had already picked up and the heavy hitters had been snatched up.
With the current pricing downturn, I imagine many young professionals who had joined the industry and the AAPL – but who ultimately ran out of work and were forced to take work in other fields – could have become valuable members of our greater industry with only a modicum of instruction and refinement. But such is probably the natural and probable progression of our industry, which had arguably become filled beyond a reasonable capacity over the past 5-7 years.
II. Industry Recalcitrance in Meaningfully Developing Young Energy Professionals
For those of us who are dead-set on breaking into the industry, we’re going to endeavor to make an impact and will eventually break the right doors down that stand in our way. For the average young energy professional, however, there seems to be a chasm separating what the industry purports to do for the young professional and what it does in actuality. Speaking only for the general Midland/Odessa area, I can personally attest to the phenomenon that trying to get anything in the arena of education or networking off the ground for young energy professionals – and being able to sustain any momentum – is a mammoth task. As I have told many people in conversations prior, I am discouraged by the seemingly lost opportunity our industry has neglected to pursue by not trying to pass the proverbial baton from those at the top of oil and gas to my generation. The networking and education that I get requires spending quite a sum between conference fees, travel, missed work, etc., and not all young professionals are able to financially jump through the flaming hoops that I have managed to get through for the sake of professional development.
Over the next several years, a large swath of those at the top of the industry will retire, taking their knowledge and experience with them. How great it would be if we could occasionally put the experienced industry veterans in front of a group of earnest and eager-to-learn young professionals to impart their knowledge and wisdom! Although I suspect that such discussions and events do take place, in this author’s humble opinion it does not happen nearly enough.
III. My Professional Generation Will Be Defined By A Willingness to Outcompete and Outperform, and a Lack Thereof
So if you’re unsatisfied with where you are at in an industry or field that you enjoy and would like to remain in, what is one to do?
Everything and anything.
Those who are doing the extra work – writing articles, shaking hands, talking shop, etc. – will win the long-term battle. Hone your craft. Do free spec work if possible. Invest in professional development. Lastly, appreciate that “currency” is why most people work – we all have bills to pay, things to buy, a retirement for which to save. But most people I know don’t appreciate the following concept:
“Experience is currency.”
Speaking only for myself, I know that I am willing to work for free for a period of time under somebody who has more experience than me in the interest of improving my skills and competencies under someone who has wisdom and guidance to impart (and am willing to put my money where my mouth is – feel free to call my bluff). Many people think of currency in its truest, literal form: dollars and cents. Isn’t it better to be looked upon in your field as someone who has talent or something interesting to say because of the time and effort you’ve invested in trying to make yourself the best in your field?
Young Professionals of all industries, we are in a new and great age of professional development. The tools and knowledge are in front of you, and information is more readily available and at our fingertips now than at any time prior. The logical conclusion to all of this is that the complacent, satisfied young professional risks missing opportunities to grow their networks and increase their industry knowledge – though they would claim that missing such opportunities would not constitute detriment or harm to their careers, I would take the opposite stance.