Forgotten Promises

May 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

As I have dallied on the fringes of the oilfield for the last 32 years my curiosity was piqued when I read in my local paper, the Chronicle, that the World Affairs Council in Houston honoured an oilman last week as the International Citizen of the Year. I read the man chosen for the honour “is an unparalleled leader” and has “contributed to Houston’s stature as an international city”. There was much praise heaped on the honouree and I wondered what words of wisdom the former Baker Hughes CEO and now executive chairman, Chad Deaton, had to say to an industry recruiting graduates with little experience while also dealing with a greying population.

“The world has become much more competitive”, Mr. Deaton said. “My advice to the young generation is to take a job abroad.”

It amused me as his words were I’m sure similar to those spoken, often in despair, to the black sheep of the family as the Western world started it’s progression East a couple of centuries ago.

Back in the day when young men disappeared to the Orient for years at a time, it was expected they would earn their fortune before showing their face again. If they survived beri beri, malaria or a string of unnamed ailments they might return to base to marry well and either board the ship back to foreign climes to rake in more riches, or call it a day and live off their overseas earnings.

My father’s career abroad followed just such a path though the riches accrued where not at the same level as some of the earlier adventurers. However even in 1947 when he left England initially with the British Army and then moved to ‘trade’, he had few expectations of returning to England until he retired.

But it’s different now. Different even to when I started my nomadic life as an accompanying spouse in 1980 after a childhood on the global trail. We blithely set off around the world with no real expectations of returning to Britain in any foreseeable future. As it turned out we did and were lucky my husband was offered a challenging position that also interested him. A couple more moves and a merger later and his options were not so broad upon return to a new base in the US. Fortunately he was happy to leave the overtaking company. Many are not.

Too often men and women are encouraged to seek overseas postings with their organisation on the tacit promise their career will be given a boost and, after the requisite number of years, their return to the mothership will be welcomed. What no-one actually points out is that ‘out of sight out of mind’ is often the modus operandi and if it isn’t then people at base come and go, rarely talking of Michelangelo, and the fruit dangled a few years earlier are not forthcoming.

I was curious to know of Mr. Deaton’s overseas experience so did a little digging. His time in Russia and Western Europe was obviously beneficial and his career continued to soar in the fickle world, whatever the industry, of international relocation. However I do think while his words of advice can be true, caution should also be exercised; there are no guarantees.

For some of us the excitement of life abroad, of new countries and cultures is enough but for others the experience is a means to an end, and that end can be a bitter disappointment. A dead-end role in a cubicle, or a lot of posturing about possibilities in the pipeline if “you’ll just be patient while we go through the reorg” or benchmarking or whatever they chose to call the latest round of pink slips and job shuffling.

It is very disheartening for those who have relocated, sometimes with the accompanying spouse having given up his/her own career, and often with children, to return to not very much.

It is enough to make decide you to not just go abroad, wherever abroad is, but to actually stay there and become a true international citizen of many years.

No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s