One of the complaints I commonly hear is that newer landmen aren’t getting the diverse training that is necessary for them to be successful over the long term. The concept of ‘specializing’ is turning into having a landman with 5 years of experience who has only bought leases or only run title from disk. Regardless of my personal thoughts on using the number of years of experience, I think that it is the landman’s job to make himself a professional with a good background of work experience. What I see happening is that landmen get a chance with a broker, and fall into a rut with these brokers. The larger brokerages are the main culprit, because it is easier for them to keep one person doing the job they know than the teach the inexperienced landman a new function.
So what is the solution? Step out of your comfort zone. If your current broker isn’t giving your opportunity to learn new things, or they simply don’t have work that would allow you to learn new things, then you have some options available to you. Some are scarier than others, but they will benefit your career in the long run.
You just slip out the back, Jack
Sometimes the best thing you can do is find a new broker that will allow you to learn some new skills. As is the case in most professions, you can generally make more money and get more responsibility by moving to a new company. This can be especially true in situations where you came to a company as a inexperienced, or lightly experienced, landman. However, don’t break the cardinal rule and burn any bridges. You should make certain that you complete your project, or that you get your work to a place where it can be picked up by someone else.
Make a new plan, Stan
I can hear all of you now saying “But I like the people I work with!” Sometimes a change of pace is just a matter of speaking up and letting the boss know you are bored. If you can demonstrate that you’ve done a great job in your current role, and are willing to put in the time to learn new skills then you have a good chance of getting more responsibility from your broker.
Go to your broker with PLAN. Show them how well you’ve done so far, tell them what you’d like to learn, and be willing to put some skin the game. How? There are plenty of continuing education courses for all types of skills. The IRWA has a great pipeline right-of-way course, the AAPL has a workshop on Working Interest and Net Revenue Interest, there are several companies in Dallas and Houston (and probably elsewhere) that teach lease analyst and division order analyst classes. Ask your broker for help, and then do your part by obtaining the skills needed.
Hop on the bus, Gus
Many new landmen start in plays that are close to home because the brokers don’t have to pay expenses for them. It’s arguable, but generally this saves the clients some overhead cost. Unfortunately, the oil and gas life cycle will affect what work is available in the play. If it is a new play there may be mostly leasing and some a small crew reviewing title. If you are in an area that has a lot of old production, you may find there isn’t much leasing going on. However, you might that you can learn about buying right of way in an area with a large number of rigs drilling wells.
To get some new experience you may find that you have to travel. If you are going to be a field landman on a long term basis, this is something you should get used to anyway. The most interesting job, or the job that pays the best (or hopefully both) is typically not the one that is located close to home.
Just drop off the key, Lee
In many cases you’ll be able to leverage your current broker, and projects he or she has available to learn new skills. Sometimes it just won’t be possible. Don’t be afraid to give them back the key to the office, and “write when you get work”. Of course, it’s generally best to find somewhere to land before you take this route.
As long as you leave in the correct way, by offering notice and not leaving a client hanging in the wind, your relationship with the broker you are leaving should be good. Most people can estimate how their broker will react to the news that they are leaving from watching how others have been treated when they left — and if anyone of them ever return.
And get yourself free
It can be a scary thing to leave a broker that you have a long history with, it’s even scarier if it is the only broker you have ever worked for. Part of this business is making connections, networking, and selling yourself. You’ll have to learn how eventually, and if you keep waiting for the market to be ‘hot’ you’ll be waiting a long time. Making things happen is what successful people do. You do want to be successful, right? That’s the only you can get yourself free.