As we round out the year, from a career perspective, there has been much banter back and forth here online and within the industry as to what people should do. In these (as has undoubtedly been the case during every previous downturn) volatile, uncertain times some of us will be thinking thoughts such as – “to stay or to go? / “to stick it out or to leave for a more stable field?”
This is of course following the conversation regarding the drop in prices. In fact, for the past couple of years, it seems no one is really interested in talking about too many other topics apart from these. This point most likely won’t change until things stabilize.
Around this, there have also been many fair questions, thoughtful answers, and good posts by fellow oil & gas and energy colleagues about these subjects. This includes the input from other well experienced industry veterans who have been through these cycles two, three, or even more times in their careers. It is great to see advice given, advice received, and opinions voiced or heard.
Here I will agree with some of them and say that for those who are already working early or mid-career in the oil & gas industry, this is not the time to pack it in. (Please note this is NOT speaking of people who are laid off or forced to resign – that is a different and unfortunate situation for those who have had it happen to them involuntarily – and yes, it could happen to any one of us, none of us are immune to it).
While there are a number of reasons for this, in my viewpoint, a few main reasons for this are:
1) We have all known (or should have) at the time we entered this industry, that it is one which is cyclical, and will continue to be so… Meaning, while hard times have returned for some, the good times will also return, whether it is in another 5 months or 5 years.
This is about more than just income; it is about the love of the business and its unique qualities. Remember the saying “we have cloudy, rainy days so that we may appreciate the sunny, pleasant days”? It is applicable in this situation as well, and gives us a greater appreciation for what we have when things are on the topside.
2) Consider it not as a problem, but a challenge, and more precisely an opportunity. An opportunity to take more personal development courses (even those not required by your job or employer) on your own; an opportunity to pay more attention to the trends and areas where there are critical human resource needs; an opportunity to improve your expertise by focusing on deepening and widening the skill set which makes you valuable to your particular specialization, and at the very same time learn something new which stretches your competencies, which you could use at a later date.
Some of the greatest accomplishments throughout history have been made by passionate visionaries who were able to see something positive (or possible) at times when most of the world surrounding them saw only the current reality in front of them.
3) Consider attrition… There will be people who were once planning to enter the industry during the high times (and yes, many only motivated by wages and nothing else, rather than a genuine interest in the field), who are now steering towards a different career altogether out of fear of taking the risk needed to enter it.
Whether you call it a weed out, shake out, or trimming the fat, if personal economics was their only objective, this is a good thing, as these types of people are toxic to the business in the medium to long term. So those who continue to be willing to weather the storm – because they enjoy what they do above all else and can see the longer term picture – will be in a great position, with richer experience and a stronger set of both soft and hard skills, to capitalize on it when the sun comes back out again.
For those of us who have transitioned into the industry from a previous career field and are now mid-career (right in between the baby boomers and the young Y generation), this could be a tempting prospect during these trying times. But many of us do not and will not regret it, because it is one of the worlds most interesting businesses to be in during either boom or bust, due to the type of work itself.
Ultimately, it is a personal choice based on individual circumstances, regarding ones staying or going, and there is no right or wrong decision, because each of us have our own goals and vision for life.
However, what is clear is that these select individuals – those who, instead of voluntarily quitting and running when things get difficult, plant their heels firmly in further, and use the crisis to their advantage – will be part of a leaner generation of better, more agile, more adaptable leaders in the future.
As alluded to in the title… this is not the time to quit the industry – it’s the time to dig your boots in!
See you in the field.