Sympathy (and Hope) to the Oil-and-Gas Unemployed

I get it. Anger. Fear. Shame. Betrayal. Uncertainty. Immobility. And that is just in the first week. After that, the problems get more complex.

There were years of lunching and small-talking and team-meeting and celebrating Christmas with people to whom you had entrusted your future. Then, suddenly and for ambiguous or even dubious reasons, those to whom you were willingly loyal in the morning instruct you to leave immediately, while they watch to make sure you are not disloyal as you leave.

Then come the feelings and the confusion. What did they REALLY mean? Do they really not have enough money? Did someone have it out for me? Was my work that bad? Was my whole time at the company a lie? Why didn't they fire the guy who made the bad strategic decisions that got the company into this condition?

Eventually comes the uncertainty and unease of undesired ennui. Showing up at a job one day, you know what to do, what work is in front of you and beneficial to the company. The next day you know neither where to show up nor what to do nor for what even to hope.

Openings are rare, and applicants are legion. The meager unemployment benefits have, or soon will, run out. There is only so much "networking" one and do, and the pay is pathetic.

The statistics hide the private reality, but they do show the magnitude. Of the 200,000 or more oil-and-gas jobs lost, about 100,000 people (read "families") in Texas have suffered this way. Nearly 18,000 jobs were lost nationally in July, and a friend of mine lost her job just last week.

What are the unemployed to do now? I wish there were a simple answer, and I sure wish I knew what to say.

The sad fact is that many people will have to leave the industry. It seems very unlikely that activity and employment will return to previous, frenetic levels. If history is a guide, though, employment was cut too deeply. Between recovering prices and retirements, some are actually predicting a shortage of staff. At some point.

Pivot or persevere? I don't know. By analogy, Rocky Marciano wanted to be a baseball player, but he found success when he pivoted to boxing. Michael Jordan found success by persevering after being cut from his high school basketball team as a freshman. There is no glib, easy, ultimate answers.

The initial answer, though, is easier: create runway. Cut expenses, create some kind of income, and buy some time. Then use that time not just to look for a job but to try to seek out and pursue multiple options. If you are learning about the market and where you fit, then you ARE making progress. Rocky learned that his strength was his quick hands, so he played to his strength and pivoted. Jordan grew six inches and saw his opportunity open. What is the feedback you are getting from your efforts? How much runway do you still have? Where are your best chances?

In the meantime, I'm so sorry you are scared. I encourage you to hope, to try and to learn. I do think that lay-offs have about ended, and I can imagine a pick-up starting early next year. But whatever happens, this is not the end.

Bless you.