katie.mehnert

How Inclusive Communities People and Companies are Gearing for the Next Era of Energy

Blog Post created by katie.mehnert Champion on Feb 8, 2017

Been talking about inclusion -- and how it’s different than diversity -- for a couple of weeks now, as these are heady topics on my mind as HERWorld approaches (four weeks now). Harvard Business Review actually just covered off on this too, with an article called “Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion.”

All I can say to that is “amen.”

I think one thing we miss a lot in these discussions is the role of the unemployed, or recently laid-off, or as we politely call it "in transition".

Remember the oil/energy sector is doing better at the beginning of 2017, but 2015 and 2016 were not great. We all have close friends and colleagues who got the axe, if we didn’t ourselves. This historical watershed market event has been tiresome and painful for so many.

I always find it incredibly sad when people try to build networks or communities and leave out those in transition- these are the very people who probably most need the community and relationship-building aspect. Here’s an example I once heard from a friend: he joined a Chamber of Commerce networking group. In December of that same year, he gets laid off. In January, my friend is all into the “renewed spirit” and “new year” and “job search” mentality, so he tries to go to a Chamber of Commerce networking event -- the same organization he paid dues for. They wouldn’t let him go.Why? He no longer was employed by a CoC organization.

In a word: obtuse.

In my early career, I was laid off more times than I could count on one hand (and yes I even got fired, once). It doesn’t make me any less of a professional. It just means that certain jobs weren’t the right fit, certain managers weren’t, or companies had revenue erosion.

Your career arc is a huge ecosystem. Many factors play into it beyond simply your level of performance.

I think that “ecosystem” point is important. I believe, and I try to build Pink Petro around, this idea of “connection through community.” Some of our most active community members, like Amanda Barlow a wellsite geologist who wrote a book in her time off, speak about this concept all the time. Words like “connection” and “community” can sound fluffy to executives, especially in times of revenue erosion that might lead to layoffs, but they’re crucial to how people build careers and establish mutual value-add relationships.

Unemployed, laid-off, or (buzzword alert) “in transition” professionals are always welcome at Pink Petro for this reason. The entire landscape of building your career has shifted drastically in the last 10-20 years; while the average tenure for North American jobs is about the same as it was in the early 1980s, modalities are much different. Remote work is on the rise, the “gig” economy is on the rise, project-based hiring (especially in oil/gas) is on the rise, and we’re gradually reducing stigmas associated with job-hopping (probably in large part because people realize it’s one of the only ways to make more money).

Aside from Pink Petro which has focused on keeping women in energy in the game, I've seen amazing examples of how in-transition communities have formed. The Pay it Forward Network (a movement created by Carlos Pineda) is a shining example of how community can be a powerful way to keep people engaged in a downturn. The mission of the “Pay-it-Forward Networking Programs” program is to bring professionals in transition and sponsoring companies together to a win-win situation for both.  Companies get to showcase their technology and product lines, and or their knowledge by investing their time with professionals (potential future employees and future customers), encouraging & helping them keep-up to date with today’s processes and technologies. The program is made of volunteers; while anyone can help, the events can only be attended by personnel in job transition. The Pay it Forward Network has been so successful they now have a "cookbook" for other industries to follow.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers Gulf Coast section has an in-transition community that was formed by former Chevron executive (and Pink Petro member), Susan Howes and several other displaced colleagues. The In-Transition network is an invaluable resource to its members having workshops monthly to keep skills fresh and help members build their networks. In a month the local chapter in Houston is holding a career event to help get companies paired up with qualified talent as the market rebounds. The network also connects its members to resources on entrepreneurship for those seeking a new challenge outside of the traditional corporate world. After all, innovation and new ideas and new companies form out of market cycles and the SPE has been game changing in how its been able to engage its members to stay relevant and grow.

Because of these shifts around how we think of work, I firmly believe any efforts at “inclusion” have to, well, include those in transition. We’ve all been there. We all needed access to those corridors and relationships at the time. So let’s make sure we all open up those doors and don’t root ourselves in bylaws and process too much.

That's what communities do: they throw aside rules and process and unite, connect, develop and grow their people. My hats off to Carlos, Susan, and all of the volunteers and companies who have put their efforts in keeping our greatest assets (our people), engaged. It's a strategy that will pay off in the longer term.

Perhaps you're in-transition (or about to be)? What's that been like? How have you managed through the communities of practice you're a part of? I'd love to hear more inclusive examples out there that spotlight the good in including those who are looking for their next opportunity!

PS - I hope to see you at the Career Fair next month - the specific details here. If any of my HR colleagues at companies who are hiring would like to get involved, please send me a direct message. I also hope you'll come out to HERWorld on March 8 in person or online! We have options for all!

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