Career blending (what every explorer should be wearing this summer)

July 2017


Whether your working life glides easily along well-oiled tracks or is a daily drudge, we all pause to reflect on occasion and ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing. Do I enjoy what I am doing and if not, will what I am doing take me and my family to where we want to be soon enough (given the choice)? The questions challenge how much you are in control of your career plan or whether it is even important to you. Only you have the answer and only you can effect real change, but we could all do with a little helping hand once in a while.

In the post-war era of restricted (though unlimited) fossil fuels, the lack of awareness of global warming combined with exploding demand from emerging economies on energy supplies pretty much guaranteed us jobs for life, albeit shaped by the rise and fall of politically driven oil prices. That era has gone now forever. Today, we are all members of an e-connected global professional workforce, responsible for charting and directing our own career development as the industry encroaches on peak oil. Our talent, skills and experience are as relevant now as they were then, we simply have to adopt a different mode of career navigation to achieve our aims and sync that to industry trends.  20th century notions of brand loyalty have been replaced by 21st century lateral mobility allowing us to either move up or out of the organisation that we work for.  The professional world has suddenly become flat where anyone with the skills, the capability and the knowledge can command a job anywhere in the world for the right price, choreographed by dedicated groups of head-hunters (who tend, let's face it, to be more interested in people already on the treadmill).  Skills and talent are the qualifying entry points – experience and knowledge are what make us unique and what differentiate us - make us stand out.

In short, we need to market ourselves; become more visible whether we are currently in a job or not. Corporate or head-hunter targets withstanding, the resulting journey is truly ours for the taking.  We can either choose to go with what feels good or what is, by necessity, expedient.  However we shape our future, our personal development is a constructive process that grows in the direction of our choosing.  It is only natural then that we should have some way to actually measure our progress in a standard and comparable way.  How do you want to project yourself on to a profession which is lucky to have you and achieve the visibility (and opportunities for personal advancement) that you deserve? Personal branding has been out there for 80 years now and is today the throbbing heart of social media, the modern idiom. You can start rebranding yourself this summer by wearing the (pan-gender) silk bow-tie presented in the header...


To understand why, let’s wind back a few months to the April article this year, where K2V Ltd announced the launch of a new tool available to anyone with an interest in harvesting knowledge*. The Knowledge PinMap™ was developed to prevent us from falling in to the trap of forgetting the past and being condemned to repeat it. Locating pins geographically is a peculiarity that suits extractive geoscientists, because resource rich regions of the world are geologically unique, so attributing knowledge to certain regions adds real value to our knowledge base.  The tool allows knowledge holders to broadcast the existence of what they know by sticking a pin anywhere in the world where they have acquired knowledge in their careers, which is most effective when crowd-sourced. It is so much more compelling, however, if you just try it for yourself: click here. The tool can, of course, be used by any “group” wishing to make knowledge visible for any reason, demonstrated here by a group of global consultants.

So why should YOU spend 2-3 hours of your precious time sharing your hard-earned knowledge with other people?  Why not just keep what you know close to your chest and consolidate the job you have now?  It is clear why any organization would want to know “who knows what, where and when” so that prior knowledge can be accessed to de-risk opportunities before any money is spent on maturing an opportunity. Today, now that globally somewhere close to 1000 geoscientist have pinned their knowledge, a clearer picture is emerging as to why doing so might benefit your career.  The responses boil down to a few important learnings:

  • It is fun taking a trip down memory lane, “tapping in to work that I had almost forgotten because I scarcely thought it relevant anymore”.  It turns out that “after years of trying other things, the original premise I had was actually probably right”.  “How did I ever reach that conclusion?”  And “how does hindsight alter my view of the world now?”  If you have a passion for something, the best way to make sure that the truth is never lost is to share that passion.
  • When the funnel is being stocked with opportunities and something shows up with your name on it, how brightly does your candle still shine?  Don’t hide the existence of your knowledge – celebrate its presence if not the knowledge itself before having a conversation about why that knowledge is important to someone. This maintains a connectionto “exploration new ventures” even though your current job may be in something completely different.
  • Let’s not forget that sharing the existence of knowledge saves the organisation money, at the very least delaying the re-invention of knowledge content if not entirely removing it.
  • We must market ourselves - sharing your experience greatly increases your personal visibility and if balanced with fellow travelers’ journeys, gives a definitive measure of what you know given the historical context and where.  Being seen encouraging new opportunities, helping to map your historical knowledge on to current business realities makes you the consummate team player – someone that future leaders would like to know and in itself demonstrates leadership qualities.
  • Changing “Function in Role” over time is a measure of career development.  Use our tools to build your personal roadmap and identify potential forks along the road ahead. This is essentially what blending careers is all about (below)…

Enter the bow-tie: firstly, my sincerest apologies to event-based initiatives (particularly HSE) for having the cheek to re-invent a perfectly good metaphor. “Function in Role” is the key table in the Knowledge PinMap™, which changes through place and time and is in itself an expression of career development, summarised in diagram below:

We start our careers on the left, become highly functional in the knot before emerging rebranded at the height of our powers on the right, having achieved degrees of mastery; broader able to specialise or contribute to decision making. The metaphor starts to make more sense when you untie the knot and lay out the tie (below – vertical scale equates to the range of options available to individuals, horizontal scale is time for a single career). We are responsible for blending our careers and rebranding ourselves through the selection of personal choices, which allow us to broaden or specialise, placing the emphasis on the importance of knowledge attainment in the process.


The “Function in Role” is quite granular, allowing us to take some pride in our personal transformations and the choices we make. The list presented here is absolutely not comprehensive and will grow as more people sign up to it but the roles can be used to establish the relevance of knowledge to a specific business question, or to establish who contributed what to the exploration business process. It also assumes that the process is linear but then who of us can claim that we tie a bow-tie correctly first time every time? The culmination is the tie-pin: we take the accumulation of a career (whether or not we attain mastery) and revert to being a contributor through consultancy, teaching or becoming CEO of our own company. The pin fixes the tie and completes our attainment of achievement. The Knowledge PinMap™ is the starting point to help you make your own bow-tie and complete it with the pin of your choosing.

If the current trend towards increasing lateral mobility continues, then what differentiates you is what you know. All the knowledge in the world is no substitute for raw talent, however inexperienced you may be. To quote a chief geologist “Every year we hire the brightest talent that we can. And every year, we get rid of a few of them”. If you can demonstrate a track record delivering volume and value whilst working well with others, you are in with a chance.  Throw in strong skills with a clear business focus combined with technical leadership, as well as actively developing others and you get the essential building blocks for a rewarding professional career in which the individual will have good choices. You must use all your powers to e-navigate along the path of your own choosing, selecting the options for accumulating knowledge to take you where you want to be in your career.  What you know might get you in the door; delivering on the basis of what you know will keep you there.

I began this article by suggesting that we can choose our career either by what feels good or what we are driven to by necessity.  If that sounds unfair, it is.  We don’t choose when we are born, when we complete our education and become available for work.  Our journey is ineluctably set by our availability and where in the economic cycle the industry happens to be at that time.  We hitch a ride on a wave that doesn’t know we exist but carries us along or dumps us anyway; we are either lucky and land just behind the crest of a wave and surf all the way to retirement or we have the misfortune to land in front of the wave, which pushes us in to a never-ending spiral scrabbling to keep a job.  That is not planned – it is luck pure and simple.  The anti-cyclicity of university intake versus the industries’ capacity to uptake has created dangerous demographic bulges in industry as well as unsustainable swings in academic supply. If you really want a career in either mining or oil & gas, you need to be aware of where you are in that cycle and plan for it, conscious that there is an end to everything, which is beyond your control. That means riding out the lean times by being fully engaged in a project that adds knowledge (consider further studies) and being ready to move laterally in the boom times. It doesn’t make any difference whether you are continuously in the same Function in Role or whether you have been out of the industry for years, your experience is as relevant today as it has always been because it is unique. Possess it, use it and plan for it! The Knowledge PinMap™ showcases breadth and depth of knowledge, helping to avoid stumbling over another quote from a Cajun ex-colleague “He had a lot of experience.... all of it bad”. If you know someone whose career is in need of a boost, then pass this on; we all have the capacity to make our own luck if we have the will to possess it and make it happen. You just have to choose not to be a victim.