Oil prices go up. Oil prices go down. This should perhaps be added to the list of sure things in life, alongside death and taxes.
Market observers look for patterns in these price fluctuations driven by supply and demand, attempting to identify turning points in the cycles. Some say they’re 16 years long, others say 27. What is certain is that they occur, and that most petroleum geologists will see several of them throughout their careers.
Each cycle has its own subtle variations, but as the writer of Ecclesiastes explains, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
And so it is with commodity cycles.
So as we navigate our paths through these cycles it can be helpful to understand how those who have gone before us did it. There is something to be learned, there is knowledge to be transferred from generation to generation. And AAPG is where this communication can best occur.
Merits of Mentoring
I discussed this issue with Jim Gibbs over dinner a few months ago. Jim, as most of you know is a past-president of AAPG and the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the AAPG Foundation. He is founder and chairman of Five States Energy Capital, LLC, – his day job – after working both for an integrated oil and gas company and as an independent and consulting geologist for about 20 years.
Jim has seen his share of downturns, and one of his passions is talking about the opportunity and importance of mentoring.
Our industry is full of petroleum professionals who have successfully navigated multiple downturns and are now slowing down their pace of activity, transitioning to retirement or to a new phase of their own careers.
Many retiring baby boomers are in the midst of this shift with many wanting to stay engaged and involved in the science and profession. At the same time, the influx of early career petroleum geologists into the profession over the past decade is for the first time facing the reality of our cyclical business.
Both of these groups could benefit from the knowledge and experience – the wisdom – of our more experienced colleagues. Whether it is baby boomers wanting to develop a company of their own, or new professionals looking for a toehold in the profession, there are many AAPG Members who have done these successfully.
You’re never too old to have a mentor.
The Necessity of Networking
As Jim told me, many professionals of his generation are eager to help, willing to share their knowledge and experience with others. But the requests are few and far between. And they need to be based on a relationship, not a cold call.
You cannot just send an email to someone you admire and ask to be mentored. That’s not how it works. Instead, you need to find ways to get to know potential mentors.
The buzzword is “networking,” but it’s actually simply putting yourself in situations where you can engage with like-minded people, get to know them and then ask questions. In other words – cultivate a professional relationship.
As this issue of EXPLORER drops into your mailbox you might be at the 100th anniversary Annual Convention and Exhibition. ACE is a great place to begin making these contacts. One of the reasons we schedule AAPG events and experiences throughout the year is to provide opportunities for community and relationship building. It’s a principal reason professional associations exist.
Mentoring isn’t magic. You still have to do the work, to find and develop a mentoring relationship, and to build and develop toward your career goals. And I can promise that progress on both fronts won’t be as fast as you’d like or necessarily be a smooth ride.
Jim launched Five States Energy in 1985 and immediately had to navigate a downturn that left an indelible impression on a generation of petroleum geologists. But within every downturn hide many opportunities. Just remember the old saw that “opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”
And when your time comes and you seize your opportunity, don’t forget to thank your mentor.