Has your professional training kept you up to date with the skills you need as you progress through your career? You may have undertaken lots of technical training and be at the forefront of industry issues and developments, but highly successful professionals are not just technically aware, they possess ‘soft’ skills, which are becoming increasingly sought after.
Many of us worry about whether we will have good jobs in the future, but the outlook for technical experts who have good soft skills is that they will always be in demand. So how does this relate to you? Your technical skills are important and you should develop your expertise, but these are not the sole means to higher-level opportunities for most people. To climb the ladder you need to be able to clearly and concisely share your technical expertise with your colleagues - this is non-negotiable.
If you are failing to recognise the growing importance of soft skills you could be missing out on excellent opportunities, so identify which skills you have by considering what you do well and how you approach certain situations and problems.
What are soft skills?
Employers are now looking for people who can do more than just perform a set of tasks. Qualifications are vital to building a successful career, but it is also important to remember the significance of basic skills and talents that do not necessarily require formal training. These skills seem so basic they are often overlooked, but employers are increasingly searching for more than a qualification, and highlighting your soft skills can put you at a considerable advantage over similarly qualified candidates.
It isn't possible to survive as single entities within the workplace; you have to be able to see the bigger picture, to appreciate your role as a team player and to bring additional personal skills to your profession. It is also important to be familiar with both marketing and financial aspects of the organisation for which you work, as levels of efficiency and productivity are likely to increase with a better understanding of these. Desirable soft skills for engineers include:
Interpersonal skills: These include the ability to lead, motivate and delegate. They are important at every level of organisational responsibility and should always be evident. Being the most technical person in your field is not always enough to succeed unless you can combine this with the ability to convince others that what you are doing is important.
You will certainly need to demonstrate exceptional interpersonal skills if you are to progress professionally. Almost without exception, senior-level vacancies specify interpersonal skills as essential qualities for successful applicants. For example, consider a time when you utilised your interpersonal skills to effectively communicate your ideas to others and obtained their agreement, or when you developed a relationship with a co-worker that you disliked in order to succeed for your company.
Team working: There are two issues a team must consider as a group. Firstly, and most commonly addressed is the task at hand and problems that might be involved in completing it. The second and most overlooked consideration is the process of the teamwork itself and what procedures will ensure the group works cohesively. By acknowledging both of these issues you will be able to clarify group objectives and enhance your team working capabilities.
Lack of evidence that you can work effectively as part of a team is a sure-fire way to eliminate you from the recruitment process. It is absolutely imperative that you have the skills to interact in a group situation. You can demonstrate this by recalling, for example, a successful project that you were a part of, what your role within it was and why the project was a success.
Negotiation skills: Negotiating in a way that means you are able to achieve desired outcomes and still maintain successful ongoing relationships with others is also beneficial. Influencing positively will help you achieve more of what you want and build relationships based on openness, trust, understanding and mutual respect.
Being able to see a situation from another person’s perspective is the key to successful negotiation because appreciating how they are thinking will enable you to present your own thoughts in the most favourable way. An example of your own negotiation skills might be a time that you and your colleagues effectively identified a common goal, assessed different approaches to reaching that goal and considered the suggestions of all participants in order to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone involved.
Communication skills: The ability to communicate ideas to others effectively is an absolutely essential requirement for technical, engineering and IT professionals, as the nature of the industries make them dependent upon shared knowledge. In fact, communication skills could be the deciding factor in determining whether or not you are promoted, so without them your career progression could be severely impaired.
Speaking clearly and coherently will allow effective verbal communication with others. Bear in mind that how you speak is more influential to the person that you are communicating with than what you actually say, so think about your body language and tone of voice when you are talking.
The ability to present comprehensive written ideas will enable you to put forward professional documentation of your thoughts and is a highly regarded skill. If you write so that misinterpretation is minimised you’ll find that people are far more receptive to your suggestions.
Communication is a two-way process so listening is therefore an essential aspect. Listening is more than just hearing what is being said. Effective listening encourages others to listen to you and respond to what you say. If communication skills are an area that you feel you could improve on, set about identifying ways in which you could develop them.
Time management: Demonstrating time management skills means controlling and using your time as effectively as possible. Learning how to prioritise can be difficult in a new role, but categorising your responsibilities into two types can help. Visible tasks like filing and clerical duties are those that can build up on your desk waiting for completion, while progress tasks such as planning and long-term strategies do not have a physical presence. Plan so that you have a balance between the two, trying not to neglect the need for progress tasks to be carried out.
Some people are able to produce their highest quality work under immense pressure, while for others meeting tight deadlines can affect their ability to carry out a task efficiently. The best way to prepare for this is to ensure that you plan ahead by identifying the objectives, the tasks that will need to be completed to meet the objectives and the time you expect it to take to complete.
When delegating work, you can decide whether or not the task must be followed precisely or whether a degree of the individual’s own contribution is appropriate. The more you are able to delegate, the less you will be required to dedicate your own time to the task. In addition, an individual’s dedication to a task is likely to increase with greater responsibility.
How do I identify my soft skills?
Think about which soft skills you use in your current job - what would your manager say were your strengths? These personal traits make you unique. Maybe you never miss a deadline or perhaps you have a great attitude. Ask friends, family or colleagues to write down your good and not-so-good traits and have a look at consistencies in their responses. This will help identify your strengths and allow you to work towards improving your weaknesses.
Look into the skills and experiences that would be required in the type of job you are seeking. You can do this by contacting a recruitment consultancy that places engineers in the particular role you are interested in and asking what the fundamental requirements of this role are (don’t worry about asking recruiters, as this is part and parcel of their job.) Job postings and vacancy specifications will also give you an idea of what personal qualities are desirable. How can previous experiences and scenarios be used as examples to support your application for this position?
If you are looking to apply for jobs that are a bit different from your previous roles, you may be put off because you feel you have no previous relevant experience. While in the strictest sense it could be true you have no exact experience, there may be aspects of the role you have done in the past, but in a different context. Skills you have learnt and developed in one situation that could be used in a different situation are referred to as ‘transferable skills’. Having identified these skills, you can see which would apply to the job you are considering - transferable skills can demonstrate more experience than you might think.
Once you have assessed your current competencies and identified areas that need improving, you can begin developing new skills. Traditionally many technical employees have embraced new technical skills and neglected their soft skills, but as with any change you need to be aware of your readiness to change as well as knowing what you want to achieve.
Demonstrating your skills
The demonstration of your key skills should be something that you do through your CV initially, then follow on throughout the interviewing process and should then be ongoing through your working career.
Demonstrate your strengths by finding an example of when you used a certain skill. Think about the whats, whens, whys and hows of every situation and this should help to communicate your selling points and enhance your credibility. Try to show your employers new and alternative materials that distinguish you and your interpersonal skills from the rest of the candidates - presentation footage can demonstrate verbal communication skills, while reports can be used as evidence of your writing capabilities.
Developing new skills
Having identified certain skills that you need to improve and develop to match job criteria, you should then develop a plan, identifying your goal and the steps needed to achieve it. Keep the steps small and manageable and put them in a time frame, defining how you will know when you have reached your goal to measure your success.
Ask others for help. Soft skills by nature involve working with others, so ask for help in developing them. Share your plan with a mentor or talented co-worker and ask for their assistance. Locate a person who does well at what you want to learn and request feedback as you develop. You can also tap into educational, developmental or training opportunities at your work. Meetings, seminars and volunteer work can all help improve certain desirable soft skills.
Finally, continue to challenge new soft skill sets. Research tells us that continual learning keeps our brains active and therefore our minds healthy. Few jobs exist that do not require learning new skills regularly and everyone can improve certain areas of their soft skills capabilities.
*This article was first published on 1st June 2014 by Paul Robinson, Business Development Manager in Oil & Gas
and is reprinted here with full permission.
**About the Writer:
Paul is an experienced Recruiter/Manager with over 20 years in Recruitment including 12 years in the Malaysia Oil & Gas Industry.
Something interesting to share?
Join NrgEdge and create your own NrgBuzz today
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 20 May 2019 – Brent: US$73/b; WTI: US$63/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
At first, it seemed like a done deal. Chevron made a US$33 billion offer to take over US-based upstream independent Anadarko Petroleum. It was a 39% premium to Anadarko’s last traded price at the time and would have been the largest industry deal since Shell’s US$61 billion takeover of the BG Group in 2015. The deal would have given Chevron significant and synergistic acreage in the Permian Basin along with new potential in US midstream, as well as Anadarko’s high potential projects in Africa. Then Occidental Petroleum swooped in at the eleventh hour, making the delicious new bid and pulling the carpet out from under Chevron.
We can thank Warren Buffet for this. Occidental Petroleum, or Oxy, had previously made several quiet approaches to purchase Anadarko. These were rebuffed in favour of Chevron’s. Then Oxy’s CEO Vicki Hollub took the company jet to meet with Buffet. Playing to his reported desire to buy into shale, Hollub returned with a US$10 billion cash infusion from Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway – which was contingent on Oxy’s successful purchase of Anadarko. Hollub also secured a US$8.8 billion commitment from France’s Total to sell off Anadarko’s African assets. With these aces, she then re-approached Anadarko with a new deal – for US$38 billion.
This could have sparked off a price war. After all, the Chevron-Anadarko deal made a lot of sense – securing premium spots in the prolific Permian, creating a 120 sq.km corridor in the sweet spot of the shale basin, the Delaware. But the risk-adverse appetite of Chevron’s CEO Michael Wirth returned, and Chevron declined to increase its offer. By bowing out of the bid, Wirth said ‘Cost and capital discipline always matters…. winning in any environment doesn’t mean winning at any cost… for the sake for doing a deal.” Chevron walks away with a termination fee of US$1 billion and the scuppered dreams of matching ExxonMobil in size.
And so Oxy was victorious, capping off a two-year pursuit by Hollub for Anadarko – which only went public after the Chevron bid. This new ‘global energy leader’ has a combined 1.3 mmb/d boe production, but instead of leveraging Anadarko’s more international spread of operations, Oxy is looking for a future that is significantly more domestic.
The Oxy-Anadarko marriage will make Occidental the undisputed top producer in the Permian Basin, the hottest of all current oil and gas hotspots. Oxy was once a more international player, under former CEO Armand Hammer, who took Occidental to Libya, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, the Congo and other developing markets. A downturn in the 1990s led to a refocusing of operations on the US, with Oxy being one of the first companies to research extracting shale oil. And so, as the deal was done, Anadarko’s promising projects in Africa – Area 1 and the Mozambique LNG project, as well as interest in Ghana, Algeria and South Africa – go to Total, which has plenty of synergies to exploit. The retreat back to the US makes sense; Anadarko’s 600,000 acres in the Permian are reportedly the most ‘potentially profitable’ and it also has a major presence in Gulf of Mexico deepwater. Occidental has already identified 10,000 drilling locations in Anadarko areas that are near existing Oxy operations.
While Chevron licks its wounds, it can comfort itself with the fact that it is still the largest current supermajor presence in the Permian, with output there surging 70% in 2018 y-o-y. There could be other targets for acquisitions – Pioneer Natural Resources, Concho Resources or Diamondback Energy – but Chevron’s hunger for takeover seems to have diminished. And with it, the promises of an M&A bonanza in the Permian over 2019.
The Occidental-Anadarko deal:
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
In April 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production averaged 830,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.2 million b/d at the beginning of the year, according to EIA’s May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought the operations of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), to a halt. Widespread power outages, mismanagement of the country's oil industry, and U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela's energy sector and PdVSA have all contributed to the recent declines.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Baker Hughes
Venezuela’s oil production has decreased significantly over the last three years. Production declines accelerated in 2018, decreasing by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline increased to an average of over 135,000 b/d per month in the first quarter of 2019. The number of active oil rigs—an indicator of future oil production—also fell from nearly 70 rigs in the first quarter of 2016 to 24 rigs in the first quarter of 2019. The declines in Venezuelan crude oil production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years. EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in 2018 averaged 505,000 b/d and were the lowest since 1989.
EIA expects Venezuela's crude oil production to continue decreasing in 2019, and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines pass. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities using the U.S. financial system stop transactions with PdVSA by April 28 and that U.S. companies, including oil service companies, involved in the oil sector must cease operations in Venezuela by July 27. Venezuela's chronic shortage of workers across the industry and the departure of U.S. oilfield service companies, among other factors, will contribute to a further decrease in production.
Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019 Executive Order 13857, immediately banned U.S. exports of petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—to Venezuela. The Executive Order also required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. Preliminary weekly estimates indicate a significant decline in U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in February and March, as without direct access to cash payments, PdVSA had little reason to export crude oil to the United States.
India, China, and some European countries continued to receive Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc. Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storageuntil it finds buyers for the cargoes.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and Clipper Data Inc.
A series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, likely damaging the reservoirs and associated infrastructure. In the Orinoco Oil Belt area, Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil that requires dilution with condensate or other light oils before the oil is sent by pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. Venezuela’s upgraders, complex processing units that upgrade the extra-heavy crude oil to help facilitate transport, were shut down in March during the power outages.
If Venezuelan crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, heavier molecules sink and form a tar-like layer in the pipelines that can hinder the flow from resuming even after the power outages are resolved. However, according to tanker tracking data, Venezuela's main export terminal at Puerto José was apparently able to load crude oil onto vessels between power outages, possibly indicating that the loaded crude oil was taken from onshore storage. For this reason, EIA estimates that Venezuela's production fell at a faster rate than its exports.
EIA forecasts that Venezuela's crude oil production will continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting further declines in crude oil production capacity. Although EIA does not publish forecasts for individual OPEC countries, it does publish total OPEC crude oil and other liquids production. Further disruptions to Venezuela's production beyond what EIA currently assumes would change this forecast.