5 Tips to Consider for Post-Retirement Oil Consulting | RefinerLink

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5 Tips to Consider for Post-Retirement Oil Consulting

By Steve Pagani

Mar 07, 2020

Tips for refinery workers seeking to start consulting companies post retirement.


It’s no secret that the oil industry will face the largest exit of employees over the next 5 years.  We have all expected this Baby Boomer retirement exodus for the past decade, and it merely got delayed due to the recent economic downturn.


As with the many thousands of retiring oil refining hands out there, you’re likely planning your re-entry strategy after your formal “retirement”.   You have observed a scarcity of technical proficiency left to fill the retirement void.  Lack of corporate planning and a limited oil refining talent pool has provided the perfect opportunity for retirees to come back and provide consulting services for astronomical pay!


But wait, if this is what you really believe, you must understand that many good things are too good to be true.  The reality is that the oil refining proficiency gap is smaller than you think - consulting services will be a dime-a-dozen.  Read these tips to determine if you have what it takes to really make the cut, or if your time is better spent on the golf course.


    1.  Understand Your Value



So you think you’re a SME, right?  You may have spent the last 35 years of your career within the oil refining industry, but do you even know the value of your skillset? 


Most retirees have had only a mediocre career, so it is impractical to believe that an individual will provide greater value as a


consultant than as a regular employee.  To gauge your value to industry, ask your- selves the following questions:


-  How many refineries have you worked in?

-  How many companies have you worked for?

-  How many different roles within each refinery have you held?

-  How many different regions in the world have you worked in?

-  How expansive is your oil refining network?

-  How specialized is your skillset?



If you do not have favorable responses to most of the questions above, then you will be hard pressed to find easy work as a consultant.  It is a fact that the refining industry cannot hire talent fast enough; however, this is specific to new talent.  There is not much room for mediocre talent, so be realistic with your expectations. 

    2.  Polish Your Marketing Skills


Life while working for an oil company is relatively easy.  Competition remained thin over the past couple of decades, and refinery engineers became shielded from the cut-throat environment seen in other industries.  As a result, oil refiners became complacent and slow to adapt. 


If you plan on starting a new career as a consultant, you need to brand your image and start mastering the skills of marketing.  From cold calling, to print ad placement, to online SEO and SEM; stand-alone consultants need to retool themselves with proper marketing skills.  In the new age of technology, a consultant’s ability to survive in this world depends heavily on adaptation of technology.  Creating a LinkedIn profile and jumping on several message boards isn’t going to get you far.  You need to truly understand what it takes to develop new business leads.       


Beyond landing new clients, you need to also understand how to maintain repeat clients.  Good consulting is not just about sharing knowledge all at once, but it’s also about getting organizations to implement your recommendations in an effective and efficient manner. 

Understand what barriers are required to implement a solution, and also recognize how much information an organization can absorb at one time.  It’s pointless to develop multiple solutions all at once if an organization can only consume one solution at a time.  Target one success at a time, and you will be called back to provide future consultation.



   3.  Understand The Market


Ask yourself this question, “Where is the proficiency gap within the refining industry?”  If you think long and hard, you’ll realize that the answer is “Execution”.  This creates a fundamental disconnect because individuals who want to consult are the ones who do not want to execute.  Experienced knowledge is highly valuable, but only if it can be implemented. 


The honest reality is that the oil industry does not need more consultants.  It needs do-ers.  The issue is that the existing do-ers are too green - situational consultants are not the solution to this problem.  This industry needs mentors, and mentors that have a vested interest in developing organizational capability.  I challenge you to find ways to meet this demand with your expertise. 


Do not just brand yourself as a generic Hydroprocessing Specialist – you will become lost with the hundreds of other hydroprocessing specialists out there.  Find a way to use your expertise to develop an organization, not just solve a one-off problem.  If you are able to crack this nut as a consultant then you will be ringing the register day and night.



    4.  Narrow Your Scope


As mentioned previously, the oil refining consulting world will be a highly competitive one.  The only way to stand out amongst thick competition is to differentiate yourself.  While you may have deep expertise in many areas, focus on the area that you excel in the most and extensively market that service. 


Few people in the oil business understand how internet marketing works - specificity is key!  Conduct research on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and you’ll realize that narrow scopes will yield better results.  Do not fall into the trap of trying to cast a wide net, as the sea of the internet is bigger than your net can handle.  Figure out what it means to have “Keywords” associated with your business – I promise you that you will thank me for giving you this tip!



    5.  Leverage Connections



This is likely the most challenging area for most engineers.  Whether it is pride or personality, networking is often the most difficult task for any refinery engineer to perform


The refining industry is still an old boys club to some extent, so relationships matter, and trust is important. 


The best way to get your foot in the door is to leverage past connections.   Undoubtedly you have had colleagues change companies, or you yourself switched at one point in the past.

Reach out and put in a plug for yourself.  Check your pride at the door, and contact folks that you don’t know all too well.  If you are worth your salt, then your reputation should support your outreaching efforts. 


The main point is that work will not just come to you.  You likely will be poor at internet marketing, so the only avenue left is to get your hands dirty and market yourself the old fashioned way.  If you are serious about consulting, you need to commit yourself fully.  Otherwise you will just become another name among the list of many wanna-be consultants. 



Do not get me wrong and think that I am trying to dissuade you from venturing out on your own.  In fact, I would encourage you to try the consulting path if you have an inkling of a desire to do so.  My intent is to help you establish the proper expectations, and also arm you with some tips that will play a role in your success.   


So if after reading this article you still believe that you have what it takes to consult in the oil refining business, then press on with your plans.  Feel free to even ask us for advice, or request help to get started.  Email Support@RefinerLink.com and we’ll get you on your feet.

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  • K.S.Lee :   Thank you for good advice.

    Aug 22, 2015

  • G. Chidambaram :   This is indeed an interesting view with quite some points to ponder. The problem is that with modern simulation softwares and too much borrowing ideas and thoughts from licensing/engg/catalyst/chemical companies, the core value of one's own technical competence lies discarded and unexplored. I have often observed this in my life and many a time succumbed to withdrawing my own thoughts and beliefs under pressure. People like to hear what they believe is right and not what is right.

    Aug 29, 2015

  • Joan Cooke :   Great tips. They are applicable to any startup consultancy.

    Aug 29, 2015

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