The Landman Shuffle: Side Hustles to Keep Your Skills Sharp When the Work Slows
Shocker – a cyclical market means job instability. Anyone who’s worked in the oil and gas industry long knows the ups don’t last and the downs can hurt, and if you’ve been paying attention, you recognize that you now sit in the precarious depths of an oil and gas recession. That said, sometimes the best you can do is find a comfortable seat on the pile of nails you’ve been offered.
On the upside, it is possible to wade through these uncertain waters and step onto shore relatively unscathed, especially since industry decline hasn’t yet devolved into full-on stagnation. Furthermore, if you manage these early days with calm planning, you’ll not only look like a professional badass but pave the way for consistency and growth down the road.
So, if your workload has taken a hit, you’ve lost work days or even your position, don’t panic. With a little research and elbow grease, you can stay busy and relevant. Both full and part-time positions exist that are landman adjacent, and while you’ll certainly miss the excitement of a well-working land unit, you might enjoy a reprieve in spite of yourself. Now, dust off the old resume and give some thought to your next move. Here are some ideas to get things percolating:
Keep It Legal
What do all landmen have in common? Contracts. Whether you spend days analyzing Warranty Deeds, negotiating Oil and Gas Leases or working through JOAs, your job requires a solid understanding of legalese and contract law. Therefore, it never hurts to stay close to the paper trail.
To start, you might look at oil and gas attorneys, but if the search proves fruitless, any position where you handle legal documents looks good on a landman resume. If you have a law degree, you stand a significant chance of getting hired. If not, don’t worry. Attorneys need an entourage to get the job done, and new positions pop up all the time.
For instance, many attorneys have one or more legal assistants who conduct research, maintain and organize files, and support attorneys in various other capacities. For anyone attached to a more freelance or work-from-home opportunity, technology has created the need for specialists who collect electronic documentation. These professionals do what’s called e-discovery, searching for and preserving supporting docs spawned by a lawsuit or criminal case. Not a far cry from running title, eh? You might miss eating stale sandwiches in the basement of a remote courthouse, though.
Check Out Real Estate
Aside from contracts, landmen deal with…um…land. It makes sense, then, to stay within arm’s length of any transaction related thereto. Depending on your situation, you can start with a position as a realtor’s assistant, getting to know the practice and your aptitude for it, working your way up as you see fit. If your oil and gas hiatus feels more long-term, you can try your hand as an agent, broker, realtor, office manager or appraiser. While commercial real estate is perhaps a greater reach than legal work in terms of maintaining your landman status, it still keeps you at the table. Understand, however, that going for certain professions can require extra legwork on the front end. You might need a class or two online, some testing, and a license to become a realtor, broker or land appraiser. Again, depending on your long-term plan, the extra effort might or might not be worth it.
If you prefer working with people and not paper, consider a position in sales. Not only will you stretch those muscles used to sustain conversation, but you’ll sharpen your negotiation skills, always a shrewd move if you want to return to a landman position once the smoke clears. For a double whammy, marry sales and land, opting for a job as a real estate agent. Like mentioned above, you’ll need some education and a license to move forward, but in the end, you’ll add some attractive experience to the resume.
Other sales positions abound, so if real estate makes you queasy, don’t fret. These days, most businesses are peddling something, and they need sharp-tongued, intelligent people to move the goods. From insurance and packaged items to pharmaceuticals, medical devices and software, there’s no shortage of work in sales. Just spruce up your cover letter and start Googling.
Work for the City
If you live near an oil and gas asset, chances are the industry will come back around at some point and need qualified land agents to fill the gap. When that happens, companies will again need to work with municipalities for a number of reasons. As such, anyone familiar with the inner workings of a city has something valuable to offer. Your first move might take you right to the courthouse, that land of milk and honey run by clerks galore. And if you’ve spent time there in other capacities, you may have a leg up on other applicants, as a familiar face can do wonders when it comes to getting an interview.
Outside the courthouse, city jobs have much to offer, including benefits, regular business hours (with a zillion paid holidays), and job stability. From human resources and IT to accounting and administration, simply scan job boards for your city and see those results fly in.
Get Your School On
If sudden career changes give you hives, you can take this opportunity to expand your education. Landmen are an eclectic bunch, and many have law degrees, MBAs, and PLMs (Petroleum Land Management). Some schools also offer online masters programs in petroleum-related fields, making the step that much more convenient. Not only will a relevant degree make you extra hirable, but you’ll expertly fill a year or two, graduating in time for all this mess to turn around.
No one likes the inconstant aspects of the industry, but weathering downturns is part of the deal. For a lesson in perspective, casually drop the word “recession” to a 30+ year landman, and you’ll find yourself subject to a lengthy diatribe about the Lost Decade, aka the 1980s. This ugly era left many landmen out of work, reducing them to bitterness and squalor as they trudged along in unrelated fields like street performing and falconry. But seriously, the 80s hurt landmen, yet many came back years later to sustain lucrative careers.
Smaller but painful downturns hit in 2008 and 2014, and some land professionals are still finding their footing. This is all to say, chin up. Get a steely resolve and positive attitude, and you’ll be on your way to greatness regardless of what happens next.
Wizdom Land is a title software for E&P companies, landmen and attorneys that organizes each step in the examination process. Easily keep track of your title, team progress, and documents. Wizdom provides peace of mind by keeping sensitive data organized, secure and confidential.