Changing Career Directions

The objective of this survey was to capture the opinions of the magazine’s readership on topics related to the loyalty of young professionals toward the E&P industry, their motivation, and the importance of cross-disciplinary moves within their company. The survey was responded to by 664 readers.

The forum was divided into three sections:

  1. Loyalty to the E&P industry.
  2. Motivating factors at work.
  3. Cross-disciplinary career moves.

Loyalty to the E&P Industry

In one of the previous surveys, “Job Market in the Oil and Gas Business”, the Forum explored the loyalty of young professionals toward their companies. The results indicated that concepts such as long-term loyalty to a company have almost disappeared in today’s marketplace. In particular, the percentage of young professionals who consider the possibility of remaining in the same company decreases with time linearly, passing from 90% in the next 2 years to about 20–30% in the long term (10 years).

In this issue, we investigated the degree of loyalty toward the E&P industry in general: Approximately how many years from now do you see yourself working in the E&P industry? Unlike the first survey on individual company loyalty, commitment to the industry at large increases with time. The overwhelming majority (84%) of survey respondents see themselves working in the E&P industry more than 5 years, and 70% see themselves in the industry more than 10 years (Fig. 1). People over 35 are more committed to this industry than younger respondents.

Fig. 1—Approximately how many more years do you see yourself working in the E&P industry?

Results indicate that the E&P industry will preserve and retain the professionals.  However, it is unlikely they will remain in the same company for more than 5 years. Working young professionals appreciate that the industry has great demand for their skills, and the employment market is very buoyant. This career diversity has the potential to produce well-rounded individuals as long as they are managing their own careers with the future in mind.

This introduces us to the next question: What parameters should companies monitor to maintain a high level of motivation among their young professionals? By controlling the young professionals’ motivation, companies improve not only their retention, but also their performances.

Motivating Factors at Work

What is really needed to be motivated at work?

The results are represented by a pyramid (Fig. 2). At the base is “marginal requirements”; they represent the parameters that are significant and offer basic satisfaction but cannot be considered sources of motivation. Moving up, factors such as salary, achievements, and recognition of work done become increasingly important; they are necessary but not sufficient for motivation.

Fig. 2—The pyramid of the motivating factors.

At the pyramid’s peak, labeled as “the ‘must have’,” are factors that truly influence motivation at work; these are job interest and challenges, work/life balance, and career opportunities. These results indicate that by monitoring these three factors together companies can retain young professionals.

Given that job content and challenges are the top drivers of a young professional’s motivation, what is his/her attitude toward a move within or outside his/her company?

Cross-Disciplinary Career Moves

How long do you see yourself working in the same technical or business discipline?

More than half of the respondents see themselves remaining in the same discipline for 5 years or less; at 10 years, the percentage halves. By gender, females appear more inclined than males to change technical or business disciplines earlier. There is a greater interest in changing disciplines from younger respondents. This implies that there is less interest in developing a deeper level of specialization, and there is, therefore, an associated enthusiasm to change disciplines (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3—How long do you see yourself working in the same technical or business discipline?

A period ranging between 2 and 5 years in one technical discipline is considered by many to be the optimum to obtain the relevant knowledge and subject understanding before moving to other areas of the business.

What are the reasons behind a cross-disciplinary career move?

About two-thirds of the survey respondents desire cross-disciplinary moves within their company, and 85% believe that they are important for their career progression (Table 1). Other findings:

  • 63% believe that their company encourages such a move.
  • 70% think that a cross-disciplinary move would increase their motivation at work.
  • About 80% believe that it would help their employability within, and outside, the E&P industry.
  • 79% believe that a cross-disciplinary move is necessary to proceed to top-level management in their company.
Table 1—Please respond to the following questions about the
possibility for a cross-disciplinary move within your company.

The following are some comments by respondents that support a discipline move along the career path:

  • “In today’s world of technological advancement, straightjacketed professionalism is no longer in vogue. The more multidisciplinary you are, the better your analytical skill, because you bring a lot of diverse reasoning to your work.”
  • “I think that professional and technical well-roundedness is absolutely necessary for top achievement in this industry. It is extremely important for each individual to have at least an intermediate understanding of all parts of the processes within the industry.”
  • “It appears that when seeking experienced employees, employers most frequently prefer that applicants be specialized in one particular field, having little or no cross-disciplinary background.  However, while hiring an individual with a cross-disciplinary background will not yield immediate results to a company, this background will add tremendous value to the company’s long-term outlook.”
  • “Considering the increasing complexity of the oil and gas industry and all the challenges ahead of us, people with cross-disciplinary background will be very important in the industry in the mid-term.”

On the other side, young professionals realize the value of sound technical skills and the risks associated with a move to other disciplines:

  • “A cross-move is becoming more of requirement; however, I still believe there is value and a requirement in staying on one particular career path and becoming an expert in a certain field because of the growing complexities of the existing resource and of the new finds.”
  • “There is a skill shortage of engineers in the industry. Currently it is better to be good in one discipline rather than being a “Jack of all trades” without having the required depth."
  • “I think most people, especially young people, would get farther faster by becoming experts in what they enjoy before worrying about picking up a second discipline. They should focus on becoming an expert in one role first.”

From the respondents’ comments, there appears to be more than one school of thought regarding cross-disciplinary moves within the company; many believe that such moves are essential to gain the necessary experience to move into top management, and others believe that one can succeed by developing a high level of expertise within their own discipline. Some individuals clearly would prefer to contribute technically within their own discipline, while others prefer the variety and growth that accrues with being exposed to multiple disciplines.

Given that the large majority of young professionals are positive about a discipline move, which discipline would they prefer to move into?

In general, “Management and Information” represents the most desired area to be considered for a career move (Fig. 4). This is not surprising and may well be caused by the fact that 80% of the respondents currently belong to technical disciplines. Only 5% of the respondents currently belong to the “Management and Information” macro-area.

Fig. 4—Which macro-area would you consider moving into in the future?

The following list indicates the top two respective disciplines that respondents would favor moving into from their current discipline, in order of preference.

Fig. 5 displays more detailed analysis of the disciplinary preferences, with a focus on the largest discipline of responders: Engineering/science. Management is by far the most desired discipline, with around 45% of preferences. Economics/planning and operations follow with percentages around 20%.

Fig. 5—Which discipline would you consider moving into in the future?

Results clearly indicate that young professionals desire management roles. Will they be ready? Given the increasing complexities of operations and of new hydrocarbon finds, it is likely that “management positions” will have to be held by people with strong technical skills in the future.


The responses to the survey indicate that the overall E&P industry is safe in terms in terms of building and retaining an experienced workforce and is considered a great resource for career opportunities. Young professionals appear to have a very positive attitude toward the industry, finding it extremely challenging and appealing from many standpoints. The problem of retaining young talent does not seem to belong to the E&P industry but to the individual companies within it.

Young professionals consider content and the challenges offered by their jobs to be the true driver for them and their strongest source of energy “to go that extra mile.” This is combined with a correct balance between work and private life, a factor of growing importance in the new generations. Furthermore, young professionals seek a clear understanding of future career plans and growth opportunities. Companies that are able to monitor and carefully balance these critical success factors will be able to boost young professionals’ motivation and increase their performance and retention rates.

Challenges at work can be offered in the form of a change in discipline. The majority of young professionals think that a discipline change would be beneficial in terms of competency and career opportunities. Reasons given for changing disciplines are centered around:

  • Gaining broader exposure to different areas within the industry to build capabilities necessary for future management responsibility.
  • Keeping motivation high.
  • Offering new challenges.

On the other side, respondents against a cross-disciplinary move refer to the growing complexities of operations and the industry need for a deeper knowledge of each single subject, and to the potential loss of know-how. Two-thirds of the young professionals seek a future in management. Only a small percentage of them are seeking technical specialist roles in any particular discipline. This presents its own problems, given that we work in a technical industry in which strong engineering is the backbone of operational success. What is the reason behind this strong desire for management positions? Are today’s technical specialists not adequately rewarded in the E&P industry?

The growing complexity of existing oil and gas fields combined with an aging workforce introduce us to the theme of this issue: the attitudes of young professionals toward their personal career development. The need for young professionals to develop a larger cross-disciplinary skills base is growing, and each individual discipline is becoming more advanced to address the increasing complexities of operations. This article investigates the motivating factors behind a young professional’s career decisions and examines his/her intention to move to other industries or disciplines within the oil and gas industry. The results point out how addressing young professionals’ skills development is becoming more crucial for the E&P industry’s future success.

Loris Tealdi, TWA Forum Editor


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