Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Conceit of Oil and Gas Workers

Over the years, the words "Oil and Gas" earned it's reputation as the Holy Grail of industries. If you have one foot in it, you are most probably marked for owning a thick wallet. Having "O&G" in the blurb of your businesses tantamount to an insignia on the shoulder and the prestige that comes with the industry gives an elevated impression during social mingling.

People who can call themselves coming from the oil and gas industry have been paid well for decades. The problem is, they think this privilege is going to last forever. The technological know-how of those who have gone to the rig have made them a demand, cultivating a sense of entitlement across all of them in the industry. "Pay up if you want me," has become their mentality.

Coming from the oil and gas industry myself, I cannot deny that one cannot turn into an expert overnight. Although it is understood that anybody from any industry would be wobbly at the top if there they did not pay their dues at the bottom, field experience is especially looked up upon in the oil and gas industry. Even if they had worn hardhats, boots and overalls, it is not impressive if it was a brief dabble. Which is why most of the experts in this industry are expected to have years of rig experience under their belt. Tacitly known as years sacrificed away from family, from civilization, from parties and celebrations. The forlorn moments of leaving on the boat or chopper to rigs in the middle of the ocean is generally believed to be too outlandish for societal beings.

However, missing out on so-called life is not uncompensated. Our oil and gas friends are on a pay scale that is head and shoulders above other industries'. So much so, that sometimes their compensation becomes pampering. After so long, pampering evolve into entitlement. For the uninitiated, they live in a bubble of contentment that they have found their endless source of cashflow. They are experts in their field but only in their field. They counted their chickens too early.

In 2015, I had the opportunity to witness how a dip in crude oil price collapsed many businesses and paralyzed individuals' financial stability that they have enjoyed for so long. Those who were spendthrift were caught in the muck of debts, finding themselves having to sell assets. Because of the niche nature of oil and gas jobs, many find themselves not being able to fit their expertise in other jobs. As learning new skill sets and acquiring new knowledge is not a challenge for people who can figure out how to extract oil from underneath the sea, there is one other thing that prevents them from surviving a recession.

It is called pride. The conceit that has been brewing under those rare rig knowledge and hefty paychecks disarms the most brilliant minds and survival skills. Reeking of arrogance, some who lost their jobs during the oil slump approached job applications by filling in the remuneration section with a price that is that is three times higher. Not only they have unrealistic salary demands, their knowledge outside the oil and gas field is as relevant as a junior's. Not understanding this situation or rather, not accepting this reality is a double edged sword. It can either force them to venture into entrepreneurship or like some of my friends, stay unemployed indefinitely until an employer matches their demand or wait until the industry recovers because taking a pay cut and a downgrade in lifestyle is apparently too much to bear.

While I understand that it hurts when you have to settle for a Casio rather than a Rolex that you never had to think twice to buy before, it is really time to come back down to earth when necessary. Your child doesn't need a BMW to go to school. It doesn't take a pandemic to teach us that nothing is guaranteed. The only constant is change. There is a Chinese saying that literally translates to "Get down on the ground and walk when the horse dies". There will be times when an industry thrives and sets. Materials come and go. The only thing that stays is resilience. No one said that grit needs 'face'. There's nothing wrong for a rig manager being a delivery boy. The more humble you are when you are in the clouds, the easier you will grasp resilience when you fall.

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