Inner Reserves – Valuing Your Skills in a Low Oil Price Environment

Valuing your skills in a difficult market: as part of our occasional series on career development in the oil industry and the skills needed to succeed, we asked Ken McKellar, an experienced adviser on career transitions, to comment on the options available to professionals in a low oil price environment: 

The current low oil price environment is not new, nor is the large number of oil and gas professionals suddenly finding themselves having to look for new positions. Back in the late 1990’s a $9 oil price, coupled with the job losses that followed a series of mega-mergers, forced a large number of oil and gas professionals into new careers, often outside the industry. Most of them subsequently flourished.

Today is no different and some would argue easier: the current oil price is four times that of 17 years ago, with underlying merger activity less significant. People are no less skilled either, as the oil and gas industry is more people-intensive than most.

The doom and gloom around the prospects for oil and gas industry professionals is overdone. These professionals have a range of skills which, on closer examination, are attractive and transferable into other industries – or indeed, to other functions within the industry. Project management, supply chain management, joint venture operations, commodity risk management, HSE and corporate planning are just a few skills which other industries could use.

Many oil and gas professionals also have the right training and cultural fit to move careers. Because of the areas of the world in which they work, they have learned to be adaptable, resilient, self-reliant, good managers of change and ambiguity, and generally robust in the face of adversity. These attributes are in demand in most business areas, so professionals should not hold back from seeking opportunities elsewhere in their own firm or at another oil and gas business – or in another industry.

The main impediment for oil and gas professionals considering an enforced change of career is that they are unaware of the extent of their own talents. A typical route after leaving a major oil and gas company is to do some consulting work combined – eventually – with a few non executive directorships.

This route is pretty limiting because an executive may have at least one more executive role left before going the plural route, without realizing it. After all, the people who left the industry in the 1990’s have left gaps which today’s old executives have to fill.

A structured self examination of strengths and past successes, coupled with lots of feedback from industry contemporaries, is a particularly good starting point for maximizing future career choices during times of adversity. This exercise, coupled with a conviction that there is really no upper age limit for deploying professional skills, is a very good starting point for reinvention in a low oil price environment. Any gaps that might be identified can often be easily addressed with training – such as the short Oil & Gas MBA courses run by Warren Business Consulting.

With a depressed oil price here to stay for the next 3 to 5 years (according to some commentators) now is the time for everyone in the industry to revalue their personal reserves.

Ken McKellar is a Partner with Crescendo Board Practice LLP, which advises Boards and groups of executives on the people aspects of corporate change. He has over 25 years’ experience of advising clients in the energy and financial services sectors through senior roles in professional services (partner at Deloitte and Ernst & Young) and investment banking (Executive Director at UBS and Noble Grossart). He has worked extensively in the UK, Western and Central Europe, the CIS and particularly the Middle East. He joined Crescendo Board Practice LLP from Deloitte Middle East where he was a senior partner and energy and resources industry group leader for four years. Ken is a Chartered Accountant and certified business coach. A dual British and Swiss national, Ken speaks fluent German and French as well as conversational Arabic.

E-Mail Ken at or phone him on +44(0)7746554345

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