Fuel for the Fire: Career Progression Through the Lens of Logarithmic Growth

Even at my earliest stages working in the energy industry I have been very intentional about ensuring that I am always doing what I can to continue learning, both practically and theoretically. Fortunately for me the company at which I work has, over the past two and a half years, been progressively taking on more challenging and complex deals – this has nicely dovetailed with my own professional growth in the industry. Regular attendance at industry conferences and seminars also help; they broaden my perspective with respect to my practice areas as well as those areas that are a bit outside of my day-to-day work. But as I have argued to no shortage of people who know me, progression through one’s career and knowledge in a particular area does not occur in a linear fashion:

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Rather, my point of view is that this progression is best mapped as a series of many logarithmic patterns (don’t worry – I definitely had to look this up to put the word to how I saw it in my mind’s eye since I was not a stellar math student). It’s pretty much the opposite of an exponential pattern, which starts slow and then begins to take off. Here is what a logarithmic pattern looks like:

Screen Shot 2019-06-08 at 6.45.01 PM

But the chart above is not meant to represent one’s entire career – rather, it should be seen first as representing a particular skill or function, and then from there the collection of skills and functions that make up your current role in your organization or firm. As a basic example, being able to intelligently negotiate an oil and gas lease is a good example of a skill that we can use for this thought exercise. The first dozen of leases that one was to read and attempt to negotiate would provide a great deal of education; the next dozen would still provide education, and then after several dozen the rate of education would tail off and there would not be too many matters of first impression for someone negotiating oil and gas leases save for once in a while. So any given person is generally working on and improving a multitude of skills and competencies at any given time, and so there are as many logarithmic patterns attributable to a professional as they have a repertoire of regular skills and functions in their role. If one were to average these logarithmic patterns for a given professional then you get what I would consider their aggregate logarithmic pattern.

In a micro sense, as a person gets more reps with respect to a particular skill or function the better they become and the less educational each rep becomes; building on that, in a macro sense the average of the person’s evolution in all of their current skills or functions gives us an aggregate pattern that begins to collectively tail off after some time. What this means is that a person who is in a job performing the same functions and utilizing an unchanging set of skills for an extended period of time learns and grows at a diminishing rate. So what’s the point?

For someone who is complacent and content to have their job and doesn’t really desire much more, it won’t matter to that person. But for anyone who is conscientiously wanting to continually be challenged in their work and forced to grow, the “tailing off” phenomenon that I’ve alluded to several times above will be a difficult period for such a person to go through. The key is to seek out opportunities to learn and grow – examples include but are not limited to:

  • To the extent possible, work on new types of workproduct and matters (ideally with the oversight of a more experienced colleague) and solicit feedback.
  • Take on the task of proactively learning/researching things in your field that haven’t yet come up in your work but could in the future.
  • Attend continuing education seminars and conferences.

Ultimately every professional is responsible for their own growth and development, and should be cognizant over the long term about how their current work and trajectory fit into their overall career roadmap. For anyone who desires to avoid stagnation professionally one should regularly reflect on what part of their own logarithmic pattern(s) they are currently in and proceed accordingly. Alright, algebra lesson: over.

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