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The survival playbook for oil & gas professionals

A career in oil & gas can be bumpy, learn how to navigate these bumps with tips from Pink Petro's "The Bottom of the Barrel: Developing During a Downturn"
The survival playbook for oil & gas professionals

As the energy industry deals with below $50 a barrel oil, how can employees at oil & gas companies proactively and calmly navigate the bumpy road ahead?  In a recent webinar, “The Bottom of the Barrel: Developing During a Downturn”, Pink Petro, the social channel for women in energy, offered up enlightening career-survival advice for both women and men in oil & gas.  Their advice focused on getting in the driver’s seat and taking the wheel, rather than passively sitting in the passenger seat. As companies announce plans to downsize, it is not time to panic.  Rather, it is a time to accept the nature of the industry, realistically evaluate your current job viability and create an action plan. Moderated by Katie Mehnert, Pink Petro CEO, the webinar focused on understanding the current business landscape and how to address it.

How low will it go?

Oil prices are on everyone’s mind, so how low will it go? Panelist Paula Waggoner-Aguilar, The Energy CFO, deferred to the analysts who are saying that it should hit bottom at around $40 - $45 bbl. She emphasized that “this is a very lumpy business governed by supply and demand fundamentals” amongst a backdrop of complex petro politics.  China’s and Europe’s appetite for energy is decreasing as their economies are losing some speed. This is coupled with the success of the US shale revolution which has increased supply dramatically.  Compounded by OPEC not budging on decreasing its production, at least in the short term, supply is outpacing demand putting downward pressure on prices.

The Survival Playbook

Paula continued by offering a “Survival Playbook” to help oil and gas professionals navigate the peaks and valleys of the energy cycle.

Paula offered the following plays:

  • Always maintain an emergency savings.
  • Constantly build and maintain relationships with your network.  Don’t call someone only when you need something from them.
  • Keep your resume current. If you are laid off, you can hit the ground running.
  • Focus on your attitude and leadership ability. If your company announces layoffs, stay calm and roll up your sleeves looking for ways to pitch in beyond your usual job title.
  • Pay it forward. Help others who are looking for a job by plugging them into your network. This might include walking their resume to a hiring manager.
  • Develop your natural hedge like the integrated majors.  Learn a new skill or be open to different segments like midstream or downstream.

Panelist, John Sequeira, TL One Partner CEO, offered his own version of a survival playbook. He placed the downturn and layoffs in a broader context by offering up a quote from Helen Keller, “When one door closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” John asked, “What opportunities does this downturn represent for you?” 

His playbook involves an inventory with these critical survival questions:

  • What are you doing to make yourself indispensable to your current employer?  Take on extra roles and go outside the job description to show your value and commitment to your organization. 
  • What’s your story? Can you articulate your value to managers and tell them why they should keep you?
  • Do you know your marketability based on the knowledge, skills and abilities that you possess?
  • How is your personal and professional network? Are you proactively maintaining relationships inside and outside your organization?
  • What do you want to do? John said, “If it is to be it is up to me.”  Get clear on what you want and evaluate all of your options. This may include looking internally at other jobs at your current company, looking externally or even getting into a new field.

The third panelist, Islin Munisteri, BP Reservoir Engineer and 2014 Young Engineer of Year gave her perspective from the upstream trenches. Islin understands and embraces the high risk, high reward nature of the business.  She said, “A lot of risk comes with the price cycle, yet the price cycles are getting shorter.” She looks at the long term and says not to panic. It is vital to control your fears about the possibility of losing your job and take control of your own career. Always continue to learn, understand the needs of the business and make yourself valuable to your employer.

In wrapping up, John offered, “When life gives you rough waves, surf them.” Surf’s up for some oil & gas professionals and it may be time to get out of your comfort zone by networking more, learning new skills, volunteering for new roles at the office or even exploring new career choices.


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