Millennials emerge into the workforce with expectations of rapid career growth but often become impatient with slow progression and ignore factors critical to long-term success. The need for instant gratification causes millennials to become impatient and forego learning skills essential to long-term growth.

Over the past few years, we have worked with a significant number of millennials in the oil and gas industry. The most successful have put in time where it matters, spent time with operations, and been paired with experts.

By the way, I’m a part of the millennial generation, so this is not a lecture coming from some old geezer!

Put in Time Where It Matters

In attempts to advance as quickly as possible, millennials often view a college degree as a ticket to automatically progress to the next rung on the corporate ladder. What millennials often fail to realize is their degree helped secure the current position but does not prepare them for future opportunities. Many companies still have a culture where hard work and loyalty can take individuals from a roustabout on the rig floor to a senior operations manager. Many of these senior managers have degrees but advanced based on hard work and time in service. A degree is a foundation to build on.

Corporate managers often complain young professionals begin pursuing other opportunities after holding a first job for less than one year. Jumping from position to position without fully understanding a previous role hinders the creation of critical knowledge and relationships for the future. A two to three year minimum stay in each position is a realistic timeframe for learning and building important relationships before pursuing increased responsibility.

Entry-level positions allow employees to make mistakes and take risks with minimal repercussions. Spending time in entry-level positions is crucial for new employees to learn from mistakes and gain hands-on experience required for senior level positions.

Spend Time with Operations

Millennials prefer to enter the workforce at the corporate office because that’s where the business is managed. However, starting and staying in the corporate bubble prevents young professionals from learning how the business really operates and earning the respect of operations leaders.

I once overheard a corporate employee lamenting that she was passed up for multiple opportunities for promotion. When asked if she had interest in working for operations, she said she had worked too hard earning her degree to “take a step backwards” to work for operations. Although she had gained an understanding of important accounting and record-keeping functions, she lacked bigger picture experience.

Pair with an Expert

Many millennials enter the workforce with a can-do attitude, don’t like to ask for help, and rarely leverage the experience of more seasoned individuals who are approaching retirement. It’s essential for new hires to quickly identify experts in the organization who have a broad knowledge of the industry and experience working across functional areas to serve as mentors.

In addition to spending time with operations, pairing with a mentor is the next best way to learn the fundamentals of the business. Mentors will able to share key learning experiences and can help shorten the learning curve.

We recently had an oilfield services client who purposely paired promising young professionals with seasoned operational managers nearing retirement. Within six months, the new employees had received a condensed 30 years of experience from the veterans and would move to the next functional area. The new employees who participated in these rotations learned the business and developed critical relationships in the industry.

Strategy for Success

Millennials are often perceived as having an attitude of entitlement in the workforce that is detrimental to long-term career success. Millennials can handle these challenges and can advance ahead of peers by putting in time where it matters, spending sufficient time with operations to learn the business, and by pairing with experts to quickly gain experience.

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