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10 August 2016

How to survive a lay-off in the oil and gas industry.

Oil prices are down.

It's no secret. Oil prices are down and today's newspaper featured experts who estimated that USD40 to USD50 per barrel will be the new "normal" for the next five to six years. The days of multi-month bonuses are gone. The days of oil and gas being the lucrative sector are a distant memory. 

The oil companies are now facing the reality of cheap oil: Hurrah say the developing nations! Hurrah say the advanced nations! And in the quiet corner of the room, the oil-producing countries shed their tears quietly.

If you feel bad about being laid off, don't. It wasn't your fault. At least, if you were laid off along with a few hundred other folks. If you were laid off by yourself then it's probably you.

People are being let go. My wife's friend's husband was let go by his company. He was an expatriate, drawing expat pay and enjoying a good life. They had a huge mansion, rented of course. They had three maids. Their kids went to a pricey international school that taught them things like French and rugby. It was a great living while it lasted. Sometime last year we had one of those house parties and I had a chit chat with him. How is the industry, I asked. I knew that things were not as bright as before, but I didn't know how bad it was. He smiled and was polite. He said that they're purposely lowering prices for now but prices will go up to $50 per barrel and by next year (which is this year) they expected $70 per barrel. Not $100 per barrel, but $70 to $75 per barrel. And then sometime this year he was let go. 

Those who are being let go are positive that the good old days will be back. They think that they have to tough it out for a few months. Maybe a few years. And then, when oil prices go back up, they'll come back and they'll join the industry again. 

But for the mean time, oil companies are cutting costs. This includes our beloved Petronas. In January 2016 they announced that they might cut 1,000 jobs. They started reviewing contract staff positions in an effort to cut costs. By the end of February 2016 they announced that in 2016, they would be cutting expenses by RM15 billion, to RM20 billion. 

RM20 billion might not seem like much to you, but it's a lot of money for me. Did I tell you that I'm seeking a sponsor for my doctoral studies? 

Incidentally, there was that leaked memo in January 2016, in which Petronas told its staff that it was cutting expenditure by RM50 billion over the next 4 years. 15 down.... 35 more to go! An analyst was quoted saying, "If last year was bad, this year will be worse."

You need to be strong to overcome. Believe that you can overcome. Soon the good times will be back.

Being Let Go Sucks. But not for the CEO.

It's like breaking up. You may have had the experience of breaking up with someone. "It's not you, it's me. It's not your fault, don't feel sad. I'll make it up to you. We'll be friends. Look, here's a wad of cash, you'll find somewhere to start all over again. We'll meet again sometime as friends."

What they really want is to cut off their expenses as soon as possible. They want to minimize losses. When prices per barrel go too low, it gets too close to the production cost per barrel. They feel uncomfortable. They need to trim costs in order to survive. In 2015, Shell's CEO decided to take a pay cut of 8%. That was probably to show the workers that he was tightening his belt as they were tightening theirs. His direct remuneration went down, down, down.... to $5.61 million. 

But pundits said that Mr Ben Van Beurden is an angel compared with other CEO's in the industry. This year, his total remuneration package dropped from 18.6 million Euros to 5.57 million Euros.

In comparison, CNN said that Schlumberger's CEO took home $18 million. That's after Schlumberger cut 25,000 jobs. BP CEO's take home package was $19.6 million

Long story short, if you're expendable, you should be prepared, because you might be let go. But companies sometimes let senior staff go first, because they think that younger fellows can do the job just as well as the older fellows, with lower salary. Fire one old fellow, and hire four or five in his place. It's the logical thing to do.

How to survive a lay-off.

So you've been laid off, or you think that soon will be. It's time to get ready. The most important thing is to know that it's not the end of the world.

It's not the end of the world.

You might miss your pay package, but life has to go on. It's like breaking up with your dream girl. She's obviously going to move on and someone else will get her, so you have to accept it. Move on. Be strong.

I'm glad to share my opinion with you. But it's just another opinion. Your opinion might differ.

You need a job. 

You need income to survive. Either find work that pays, or start something. There are many things that you could do. Drive a Uber car. Design websites. Pursue an MBA and try to get a scholarship while you are at it. Work for GoGet and deliver packages all over town. If you're entrepreneurial, you could start an online shop, selling things without owning any inventory. If you're wordy and nerdy you could lecture in a college. 

Do whatever it takes to earn a living, and don't give up. 

If you are applying for a job, you need to know that it's a slow market. You should try applying to a different industry, but never miss an opportunity to emphasize the skills you've built up during your time in the O&G sector. Hustle if you need to. Call recruiters. 

Be positive.

Don't give in to darker impulses like robbing or committing suicide. That's dumb. You won't live to see the brighter days. It's like getting dumped by the girl of your dreams. She starts seeing a dumb jock. After a week she's fed up. She decides that she's better off with you. Same theory applies to the oil companies. They might come upon better fortunes and they'll want to rehire you. Just wait and see.

Rally those in similar situations to team up and support each other.

You aren't as unique as you like to think you are. You got laid off. So did a few hundred other people from the same company. So did a few thousand other people from the same industry. And guess what? They all feel the same way as you do.

So rally them up. Organize meetings so that you can meet up. Brainstorm, chit chat, have a bite together. Play Scrabble or chess. Strum a guitar, or get into a studio and jam. Organize an outing, or a meeting, or a dinner. Anything to see a few familiar faces. Be strong, don't cry when you see them.

Build something that can make money.

We all have it in us -- that spark of creativity and enterprise. Learn to harness your inner artisan. Make something that you've always wanted, and put it on Kickstarter. The crowds will go wild just looking at your creative creation and you'll soon have enough money to pay for the first run of production. Or you could go small. Make cookies. Make a video game. Make a documentary. Write a book about the lessons you learned during your time in the oil rig. 

Because when you build something and you finally make money with it, you'll be happy. Now you'll finally understand what it means to earn a decent living. An honest living. Forget the big corporate life, this is the new ideal. The hipster life where you make artisanal things and you sell them on Etsy and Sunday morning flea markets.

It's also a good time to build something that will generate income passively. Write a novel, or a book. Paint. Photograph. Maybe you could make a font. All these things can be sold online, again and again and again, with very little extra cost. There are websites that will be happy to help you sell digital goods, like Gumroad. Give them a try.

Turn something bad into something good.

If you were laid off, now's the time your new story begins. It's going to be an inspiring story, called "How I got back on my feet after my employer laid me off." Close your eyes, and imagine yourself living the life of your dreams. Maybe you imagine a podcast or a blog similar to this one. Maybe you see a motivational book. Maybe you see yourself on stage, talking to a crowd of youngsters about the time when you still had hair on your head and you were laid off. And then you hustled. And then you got good at whatever you did. And then you succeeded. 

It's just like How Stella Got Her Groove Back. She meets a mysterious young man, and she feels rejuvenated. She got her groove back. It's just like Austin Powers, getting his Mojo back. You need to get your groove back. Either that, or get your Mojo back.

Here's a mental exercise. 

Close your eyes and imagine that you've overcome all your hurdles. Imagine that you're now living a new life. Then, far far away, you see the old you. The you who has just been laid off. How did you get from the old you to the new you? Let your imagination run wild. Imagine what happened, that allowed you to go from a bad situation and make it better. It's just a challenge that you will overcome. Step by step, how did you make it better. Close your eyes, and imagine. Then imagine it again. And again. And when you can finally see it clearly and brightly in your mind's eye, you need to write it down. Write about it. Draw it. Paint it. Tell others about it. Affirm that it will happen. Pray hard that it will. And finally, go out there and do what it takes to make your dream come true.

Hustle hard. Be smart.

Further Reading.

Thanks for reading. Read more:


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Anonymous said...

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