Hanging On Helps Today; Preparation Helps Your Future

Has it happened to you?

It’s happened to me: Friends in the industry emailing me to say that they have just been laid off.

Or worse, you’re the one sending the email. It has happened to you, and you are joining a growing number of AAPG members that I meet who have been caught in the wave of downsizing that is washing over our industry.

As exploration and production companies and service companies react to the slump in oil prices by significantly curtailing operations and cutting staff, I have to ask myself whether we’ve learned anything as an industry from previous downturns or whether we are destined to repeat our past mistakes.

Yes, our commodity business is cyclical. There are good times and there are bad times.

But it is science, talent, risk-taking and experience that generate the good times. It’s geoscientists and engineers that form the core of that activity, and they currently feel like those silent movie stars who were always trapped in absurdly treacherous situations, dangling precariously, tightening their grip, hoping not to slip, and waiting.

Now what?

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Has it happened to you?

It’s happened to me: Friends in the industry emailing me to say that they have just been laid off.

Or worse, you’re the one sending the email. It has happened to you, and you are joining a growing number of AAPG members that I meet who have been caught in the wave of downsizing that is washing over our industry.

As exploration and production companies and service companies react to the slump in oil prices by significantly curtailing operations and cutting staff, I have to ask myself whether we’ve learned anything as an industry from previous downturns or whether we are destined to repeat our past mistakes.

Yes, our commodity business is cyclical. There are good times and there are bad times.

But it is science, talent, risk-taking and experience that generate the good times. It’s geoscientists and engineers that form the core of that activity, and they currently feel like those silent movie stars who were always trapped in absurdly treacherous situations, dangling precariously, tightening their grip, hoping not to slip, and waiting.

Now what?

Well, the first thing each of us can do is accept responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in. That doesn’t mean we created the situation – though that can be a factor, and if it is we need to recognize it – but rather that we accept responsibility for how we respond to it.

We’ve chosen to work in a volatile business. We need to own that.

And we need to prepare accordingly.


Mental preparation is essential – thinking through how you’d respond to a sudden negative shift in your situation, and it’s the preparation that is most frequently ignored and left undone.

Why? Because figuring out how to make the mortgage payment if your family income drops is not fun. Yet, accepting responsibility means doing that hard work.

And speaking of preparation, where is your résumé right now?

Where is the contact information for your personal and professional network that you’ve developed over the years?

Our employers hand us smartphones and laptops that become extensions of ourselves. We spend hours with these devices, often blurring the boundary between personal and professional. It’s a persistent trend, particularly with our younger colleagues, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

But I promise you that your employer’s policy manual contains no blurry lines or fuzzy definitions. If it’s on a device that belongs to them, it’s theirs.

So, I ask again: Where is your résumé?

Where are your personal and professional contacts? Are they under your control?

This type of preparation is about protecting your downside, ensuring that if something bad happens that you have given yourself the best chance to respond in a productive way. It’s not fun, but it’s necessary.

Applaud yourself for doing the work!


Equally important is building your skills and network. There is no better time than right now to ensure that you are technically proficient, honing your skills and looking for deliberate ways to add value to your employer or to create a new path for your career.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was a 20th century American motivational speaker and author who was famous for saying that “you will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

As I mentioned last month, the AAPG World-Class Education Conference scheduled this month in Houston is a great way to gain new skills and expand your network. And I’ve written repeatedly about how being involved in AAPG, both as a participant and as a volunteer, can benefit your career.

Perhaps now is the time for you to take this step.

It’s no coincidence that most of the conversations I have with AAPG members who have been laid off are at events where they are building new skills and meeting and talking to people.

They also have a gleam in their eye, because while downturns are unpleasant and can be painful, they are full of opportunity.

Who will you be in five years?

Hold on, friend. Hold on.