Oil & gas industry’s collective motivation still high, individual motivation sometimes not

Wow.

That’s the only thing I can say in response to how last week’s piece was received20,000 views (and presumably still climbing), a bunch of LinkedIn shares and great comments, and lots of follow up emails from readers.

Even more surprising in this day where anyone can be negative while hiding behind the relative anonymity of a screen was that the reception was almost totally, overwhelmingly positive!

It was awesome to hear that rather than abandon their dreams, my piece motivated some readers to double down on their ambition to work in some particular area of the industry.

More generally, I think the article was so well received because people in this industry are optimistic – probably due to many past ups and downs – and amongst all the negative financial forecast in the mainstream media, something came along and said “you know what, just give it time and things will work out”.

The last observation I came away with was confirmation that people bond most tightly when they go through stressful or difficult times.   The oil and gas industry is not just a group of people showing up to work every day, but a community, a culture, with a shared history and outlook forged through decades of highs and lows.

The comments and messages weren’t just directed at me, but rather all the other oil and gas colleagues out there: “keep your head up, we’ve been through this before, it’ll be ok”.

And it will be, trust me.

Unfortunately, I did get a few more of those “how can I get a job/will you help me get a job in the industry” emails I alluded to in last week’s piece.

The positive aspect here is that it is great people aren’t dissuaded by current market conditions, and it is flattering they would go to me for advice.

However…

The messages do convey (perhaps unintentionally) a certain laziness, like the senders want someone else to do the heavy lifting of writing a resume or researching companies for them.

Even though I would love to help everyone – and I certainly do my best behind the scenes of these articles to provide everyone that asks with constructive input – here’s why it is not only impossible for me to answer such an open-ended question, but also because doing so could actually harm your career progress.

Your network has to be yours so it can help YOU

I get requests with people occasionally asking “can you put me touch with someone you know at x service company or operator?”

Put yourself in my shoes:  would you risk your social capital putting someone you don’t know in touch with someone who trusts you?

Equally important though is that your network will only be helpful if YOU built it.  Tapping into other people’s networks is fine (and that’s the point of networking) but you have to have some organic growth first, whereby you gain people’s trust and develop your industry network by yourself.

This is what has happened between several readers and I:  they emailed me some really thoughtful initial messages, and then kept the follow ups equally unimposing (ie “I need you to introduce me to so and so”).  We are to the point where we HAVE built trust and if they ever needed an introduction, I would do it, but that took work upfront for them to build that trust.

Only YOU can decide what you really want to do

There’s a saying that goes something like “the journey is as important as destination”, and that is completely true when it comes to finding a new job…or partner.

Think of finding a wife or husband:  you both have to get to know each other really well, and put in a ton of effort to learn about each other before hand before you agree to get married.  Of course, hopefully the effort doesn’t stop after marriage, but that work upfront is crucial:  you learn things about each other, you work to adapt and you grow.  Put another way:  no one can date other people for you or tell you what kind of man or woman to go for!  You have to take the time to see if there is a match or, because you’re the one involved in the relationship, maybe you decide they are NOT the one for you, and you move on.

That’s perfectly fine as well, but only by being directly involved and active in the process can you make these decisions, which is why expecting someone (me or another mentor) to show you the end point to your career and the way there makes no sense***.

Get help after you have helped yourself

I love this industry because, especially in the field, it’s pretty transparent whether you’re working or not.  Likewise, when I get emails, I can tell almost immediately who will make it and who won’t.  I am always, always happy to answer people’s questions, but unless it’s clear that I’m being asked for advice – a “fork in the road” has been reached – rather than “The Way”, I’m usually unable to do very much.

If you want a job in the oil & gas industry, and you’re actually that motivated, it’s up to YOU to make it happen.  YOUR end point – a career in oil and gas – and YOUR way there will appear when YOU do the research, put in the work, make the connections and put in the time to learn about the industry.

Even if I replied with a personalized, 100 step plan, mapping out exactly my thoughts on how to build a career in the business, to everyone that asked for one, there is nothing I can do on the follow through.

That’s on YOU, and you’ll be quite surprised that at some point, if you stick at it, things will start happening for you.  They won’t happen immediately, and opportunities won’t always come around when you want them to, they may not be what you planned, but they will come around.

Bottom line:  I love how resilient the people in this industry are, and I love the collective support I saw manifested last week.  However, if you’re an individual undeterred by low oil prices and still want to join the business, or you already work in oil & gas and want to make the most of this downturn and further your prospects, that’s on you to make things happen.

In fact, for those who want a plan, I’ll cave just this once, and present to you the fool-proof, step-by-step instructions that have worked for me so far:

  • Work hard
  • Keep working hard
  • Don’t stop working hard
  • Tired?  Too bad, work hard some more
  • Repeat

Good luck out there.

David Vaucher is an upstream oil & gas industry thought leader and a Director with the global management consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal.  He is passionate about helping his clients in the oil & gas industry take action and drive change in their internal processes and organizational structures.  You can receive more of his thoughts and commentary on Twitter @DavidAVaucher

***Quick plug for those interested in how I made my own way in the oil & gas industry:  I wrote a book last year compiling how I reached the point I am at currently, as well as my general thoughts on how to break into the business and make a career in oil & gas.  It’s not the only place to start your research, but you may be interested in checking it out nevertheless.
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