As we steadily move toward closing out Spring 2021, those still currently employed in the oil and gas industry are looking toward a promising but uncertain future. With remote work on the rise and new challenges concerning opportunities for advancement in the industry, at the top of many employees’ minds is how to secure a promotion in an environment riddled with blanket layoffs and the continued threat of COVID-19.
In a recent article by Human Resources Today, new HR trends for 2021 are largely driven by a need to re-envision how regular communications look in a newly remote world. Video conferencing and instant messaging software have made collaboration and engagement more meaningful in many ways but have also created unexpected challenges. A May 2020 Forbes article also states that “employees are reporting greater productivity and higher job satisfaction” due to increased opportunities to work offsite. However, the shift in working style has become a double-edged sword. Not only are many finding it more challenging to set work-life boundaries by leaving work “at the office,” but sweeping organizational downsizing has left many employees performing double the duties for the same salary.
That said, even during a downturn seeking a promotion is not only doable but necessary to avoid career stagnation. Here are some of the best ways to level up:
- Take on a responsibility – or two – that no one else wants: By taking on responsibilities others won’t, you’ll set yourself apart. Your current managers will notice because you’ll be making their lives easier. Take on previously unfinished projects outside of your territorial or assigned scope of work that will directly alleviate stress on your colleagues and managers. Once they see the value you bring to the department/organization, it will be an easy decision to promote you. In fact, you will be the first person they think of for a raise or promotion because you stepped up when others did not. In short, make the extra effort to stand out!
- Make yourself indispensable: This tip directly stems from my initial suggestion to take on new and challenging responsibilities. When choosing which tasks to add to your plate, carefully consider if they will directly alleviate others’ workloads and show off your leadership skills. For instance, every manager wants and needs someone who can save a department money or boost revenue. Similarly, people management is a critical aspect of climbing the career ladder. The more ways you can find to prove yourself as someone who will step up to the plate time and time again, the more likely you’ll be considered for managerial positions. Bear in mind that taking on a few small projects will rarely get you noticed by higher ups. Strategize which unfinished or new projects you can take on that will position you as the candidate of choice for a promotion when employee evaluation time rolls around.
- Facilitate both technical and non-technical communications: It can be easy to stay only in the technical realm in many oil and gas roles, particularly for engineers. When all communications are remote, it takes extra effort to get “in front of” key personnel who can recognize and appreciate your willingness to go outside of your comfort zone and strengthen your cross-functional communications. For instance, a reservoir engineer might shift from a highly technical, office-based role to take on more operational responsibilities. Operational responsibilities require a wide variety of skill sets that range from vendor management to crew supervision. While these roles are not for everyone, leveraging your technical expertise to support operations will make you stand out as the “go-to” person for managing projects end-to-end.
- Put a face to your name: Take the initiative to ask your manager out to lunch (if possible) or to have a quick Zoom chat. Spend the time to ask what they have enjoyed most and least about their time in management. For those questioning what “leveling up” really entails, chatting with a current manager can provide valuable insight. Like the old adage states, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Stepping into a promotion can, in some cases, make someone realize that they prefer to stay lower in the chain of command. And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
While being promoted might seem like the next step in a standard career progression, each professional should assess their own strengths and preferences. In most cases, leveling up means being more “visible” in an organization, which is not always the right fit for some. In any case, developing strong leadership skills takes practice. Whether you decide to develop these skills in a professional setting to obtain a promotion or apply them to something like volunteer work, the goal should always be the same – do your best to help others. In many cases, a promotion will be the natural result for someone who demonstrates true servant leadership.
Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.