HR Discussion

Managing Your Career

Susan Howes and Elizabeth Schwarze, Chevron

Whether you are in your last year of college, in your first assignment, or have 10 years’ experience, you need to think about actively managing your career.

Career Maintenance

First of all, there are critical documents you should maintain throughout your career. Just as important as changing the oil in your car to keep it running optimally, you need to perform scheduled maintenance to ensure you are always prepared to accelerate to grab an opportunity as it comes along and keep your career running smoothly.

The documents you should update regularly are a résumé, performance management plan, and career development plan. These documents are interrelated, and updating one generally means you should update the other two.

Résumé. A résumé is a familiar career document that is important to keep updated even after you land that first job. A résumé can also be used to proactively seek new assignments within your company. Some standard elements your résumé should include are industry-related internships, industry experience, leadership experience, and distinctive collegiate experience.

For example, include your thesis title if it is particularly relevant to a current industry issue. Leadership experience could be in collegiate organizations, civic groups, military service, or technical societies, as well as on the job. Be sure to list any notable awards you have received.

In terms of format, it is advisable to describe your most recent experience first and include fewer details about assignments the further back you go chronologically.

When describing each job or role you held, include a brief description of the job, team, or project; the scope of your responsibilities; the business impact that resulted from your efforts; and the specific skills you applied, including technical software used.

In your early career, as a young professional, a résumé of one to two pages is sufficient. Later on, as you become a subject matter expert, you might include an addendum listing industry papers and articles you’ve written, presentations you’ve delivered, and volunteer service and leadership in technical societies or in your community.

Annual Performance Management Plan. As a working professional, you should begin each year with an agreement with your supervisor about what your key job responsibilities will be for the year. As you write your performance management plan, make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-limited (SMART). Your SMART goals should be aligned with the annual goals of your department and your business unit.

Your performance management plan should also include development activities for enhancing your competencies. These development activities should encompass skills you want to develop as part of your short-term action plan. They can be related to training, being mentored, or broadening your experiential responsibilities.

You should review your performance management plan with your supervisor at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. If you change jobs or get a new supervisor, that also would be a good occasion to discuss your performance management plan.

Career Development Plan. Once you are established in your first job, it is important to start drafting a career development plan. This is your roadmap to help you plan what you need to do today so you can get where you want to tomorrow.

It helps to document your short- and long-term goals as well as your current strengths and gaps. You can then write action plans to address each of your goals.

Interrelationships. Your short-term action plan or development objectives from your career development plan should be included in your annual performance management plan. Once you’ve completed a year of work, you should update your résumé with a list of your accomplishments and newly acquired skills. Then you should reassess your career development plan to reflect what you’ve learned and to adjust your course, if appropriate.

Researching Your Opportunities

To build a robust career development plan, you should be knowledgeable about your company and the industry. Some things to research and consider when comparing job opportunities are the prospective job’s location, its scope, the skills the job requires and how well they match your own, the technologies employed on the specific job or project, and, of course, how well it fits in with your career development plan.

How do you gather information about opportunities? The following are some suggestions:

Ready to Start Looking?

Be proactive in communicating your interests by sharing your career development plan with your supervisor and mentor. Ask for their insight to see if there is anything you can add and if you are being realistic about your short- and long-term goals. Then, you need to compare/contrast the attributes of any opportunities open to you. The following are some suggestions for assessing opportunities:

A New Job

Now you have a new job lined up, what’s next?

Once you have secured that next assignment, plan for a smooth transition out of your old job and into your new job. Assuming someone will backfill your role once you are transferred, prepare to make the handoff. This is important because it sets up your successor (and, therefore, your workgroup and boss) for success. The following are some things to consider and discuss:

As you move into your new job, prioritize your time to focus on the most business-critical activities so nothing gets dropped during the handoff period. Learn all you can from your predecessor in the job. You also should set aside time to talk to and get to know your new teammates and peers in your new workgroup or business unit. Ask questions, listen, and take notes. Ideally, you will get varied perspectives on your new job and project. If you work on a producing asset, go to the field if you can and get to know the field personnel. Finally, as you start in your new job, try to bring something new to the team; be prepared to share a new idea, new way of doing things, or lessons learned from your old job.

Career Management

Managing your career is an important part of being an oil and gas professional. Key actions include informing yourself about opportunities within your company and industry, building then acting upon a career development plan, working from an annual performance management plan, building skills today to achieve your goals tomorrow, and updating your résumé annually so you are prepared to act when an opportunity arises.

Susan Howes is organizational capability consultant in the reservoir management department at Chevron. Previously, she served in management positions within the reservoir management framework and standards group and the Horizons Program, Chevron’s Technical Competency Development program. Howes is formerly learning and organizational development manager at Anadarko. Her 30-year career includes various engineering assignments in Denver and Houston, including responsibilities in reservoir management, recruiting, and career development for engineers; managing acquisition and divestment projects; economic evaluation; reservoir studies; and simulation of conventional and unconventional reservoirs. Howes holds a BS in petroleum engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. She is a registered professional engineer in Texas and a licensed human resources professional. Howes serves on the SPE Soft Skills Council. She was the 2010 chair of the SPE Talent Council and served on the SPE International Board of Directors as regional director for the Gulf Coast Region and chair of the membership board committee. Howes is a past chair of the SPE Gulf Coast Section. She received the 1997 SPE Young Member Outstanding Service Award, was named a Distinguished Member of SPE in 2003, and received the 2005 SPE Distinguished Service Award. Howes is president of the Chevron Women’s Network.
Elizabeth Schwarze is a geologist with Chevron, serving as manager of the applied reservoir management team in the US MidContinent Business Unit. She started her career with Chevron in 1990 in New Orleans, working as a development geologist in the Gulf of Mexico region. Schwarze has held assignments in San Ramon and Bakersfield, California; Maracaibo, Venezuela; and Houston, Texas. Her career has included roles in new ventures, development geology/geophysics, finance, business development and planning, and cross-functional team leadership. From 2008 to 2010, Schwarze focused on people management while in the role of earth science sponsor for Chevron Global Upstream. She holds a BS from Duke University and an MA from The University of Texas at Austin—both in geology—and an MBA from Tulane University. She is a member of both the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and SPE.