Lean In? Really, I Just Want A Job

I’m sure you’ve noticed the affordability of gas lately. I’m talking to the point where there’s a zero in front of the decimal point after you cash-in fuel rewards. Good news for consumers; bad news for business. Some of you may have seen recent headlines that yet another oil and gas company slashed {or will slash} a considerable amount of jobs. It’s a rough time in oil and gas, and that means it’s taking a toll on those of us who are in the industry. The downturn started a couple of years ago, which consequently added a couple of wrenches into any type of plan :: career, family, life.

We’ve all heard about leaning in and really going for the gusto with our careers. But what happens when you don’t even know if you will have a job? Then, add the complexity of having a baby. Any route you choose is riddled with risk.

I work for a large oil and gas company, and I’ve been through two rounds of layoffs in the last two years. During that time, I was pregnant twice, birthed two children {yup… two under two}, took an extended maternity leave, and was on bedrest for the second pregnancy. Talk about perfect timing… not!

While I was dealing with the layoff process, I did not think much of it. It did not seem like a huge deal. Above average deal, yes; big/huge deal, nah. However, looking back on it, I was stressed out! I had my fair share of worries.

HMB_Lean_in_Oil_gas_downturn

Should I lean in?

I ultimately had two options :: 1} I could stay with my company and accept the uncertainty of my career trajectory, or 2} I could search externally and {somewhat} have the control in my hands. I chose to stay with my company for a variety of reasons {love the culture, ability to minimize major change while figuring out the working mom gig with an infant, and unknowingly being pregnant}, but that decision didn’t answer all of my lean in questions.

The way my company did layoffs was that you had to apply for your job, as well as an additional three to four internal jobs. I had heard that layoffs could be an opportunistic time where one could be placed in a “better” job – a job with more influence, scope, and opportunities. If things worked out my way, my career aspirations wouldn’t take a sidetrack {yes, drilling terminology intentionally used!} due to the economy. It was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, right? Right, but I wasn’t the only leprechaun. Posted jobs were oversaturated with experienced personnel who wanted any job which gave folks like me with less experience less of a chance. I had to be realistic.

Really, I just want a job.

Sure, I had all these desires for my career, but I had to remind myself that now is not the time to fast-track when the entire industry was pushing pause. In fact, one of my mentors told me straight-up not to be picky and to be happy that I even had a job. Isn’t it so interesting how we humans want more after we’ve been given so much?

However, the conundrum of balancing ambition with settling was still present. I had to apply for jobs that fit in the spectrum between superb achievement and giving up. I wasn’t necessarily leaning in, but I was perhaps leaning sideways.

What about my babies?

How long should I take for maternity leave? What will they think of me being on bedrest? Will my job keep me from my babies longer than I want? {Insert any and all mom guilt here.}

There are no answers to questions that stem from mom guilt. But, the advice and reassurance I needed and received from my friend and mentor {a mom of three kids and a very accomplished professional in the industry} was this:

You will never get that time back. You will figure it out, and you will make it work.

After all that’s said and done, I still have a job – a great one, in fact. I was one of the lucky ones, but it took a lot of figurative life-saving-hand-waving to remind the powers at be that I was temporarily indisposed. Keyword: temporarily. I return back to work in April after I complete an extended maternity leave with my second-born.

To my compatriots in oil & gas, hang in there. Remember that this downturn is temporary, and there’s only so much that you can control. As the Yiddish proverb goes, “Man plans. God laughs.”

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Kristine grew up in Houston where she met her husband Richard. The high school sweethearts welcomed their daughter Kara {2014} after naturally overcoming infertility. Sixteen months later, their son Ray {2015} joined their family. She balances the allergy mom life as well as a full-time job at an oil & gas supermajor where she is the queen of PowerPoint. Her Houston roots run deep with her Bachelors degree from the University of Houston and MBA from Rice University. Kristine loves traveling, good food, and experiencing all things H-town with family and friends, especially drinks {bars, breweries, boutique coffee shops!}, museums, and of course, BEYONCÉ. You can follow her adventures on vu hu life, Instagram and Twitter {@vuhulife}.

1 COMMENT

  1. I enjoyed reading your story and am sorry to hear about the stressful time you’ve been through. I don’t think Sheryl Sandberg’s advice in Lean In is incompatible with your situation. She talks about risk vs reward in career decisions and taking time to slow down when you start a family. She even talks about when she was jobless for a year.

    On a personal note, it wasn’t until my youngest was about three that I really started to catch the “Lean In” bug! I work in downstream (refining).

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