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Seminal Guidebook "Becoming An Independent"

Available for Digital Download

Jessie Holland
Jessie Holland
A recent revision of Jim Gibb’s 1999 publication, “Becoming An Independent Geologist: Thriving in Good Times and Bad,” is now available for digital download to AAPG members at store.aapg.org.

The “Becoming An Independent” digital download costs only $5 and is a collaborative effort based mostly on Jim’s previous work, but also includes additions and edits from Bob Shoup, Hal Miller and Jessie Holland.

Even though there are entire specific organizations dedicated to becoming and working as an independent geologist – the Society of Independent Earth Scientists (SIPES), for example, is indeed a wonderful resource – this guidebook serves as a simple, yet tactful overview of things that you should deeply consider while envisioning your future career path as a geologist and as a business man or woman.

The information included in the guidebook is by no means exhaustive, but acts as a specialized summary that is much more direct and useful than a Google search on the topic. Plus, it also is a fun read!

This revision incorporates many tried and true geologic business concepts of being an independent contractor. You will find testimonials acquired from AAPG members over the years, including some “Millennial” updates on marketing, business structures and new ways to target your potential clients for the long term.

Many members have found that setting up an independent entity online can be confusing, and may be unnecessarily expensive and complicated. The guidebook is full of good information from people who have made mistakes while navigating this process, and the authors are hoping to help you avoid those same mistakes. There are many quick-links in the digital download that will take you directly to the filing websites you need – and tons of other useful resources that directs readers to explore their own diverse and challenging options.

The best part is that this publication is specific to geologists, so it gives the reader a good perspective on:

  • The industry
  • What to expect
  • How to build your team
  • Cost management
  • Creating a clientele.
  • How to charge for your services
  • Links to usable contracts
  • Very good general advice

Figure 1: Historic Oil Prices (Red = low-price environment; green = high-price environment, discussed in detail in the revised edition of Becoming an Independent.
Figure 1: Historic Oil Prices (Red = low-price environment; green = high-price environment, discussed in detail in the revised edition of Becoming an Independent.
Current market and commodity conditions (figure 1) have prompted the revision of this guidebook. Many members have reached out to the DPA and to AAPG’s Career Services Committee, looking for any options they may have during this current down cycle. Many good points are made along the way, and it mentions out-of-the-box things you really need to consider when you are making the transition from employed to self-employed, including:

  • Your own tolerance and capacity for risk
  • Your own capabilities
  • Your desire to be more business-minded
  • Your overall strategic outlook on retirement

There are many options when considering life as an independent. Petroleum consulting, environmental consulting, expert witness consulting, teaching, prospect generation and operational consulting are all discussed. You will pick up tips on writing a business plan and different business organizational structures are generally outlined to give you perspective when you are choosing whether you want to start an LLC, a corporation, or a sole proprietorship.

As we all know, a strong and evolving network is vital to your professional development and prosperity. The guidebook notes that when you are starting on the independent pathway, it is a really good time to rework your network and find new common geologic interests with your peers and advisors, other than just business and jobs. Everyone likes making new friends. As long as you both go into the mentor/mentee relationship with no expectations other than lifelong friendship and planned continual contact, everybody wins. It can be as easy and fun as having a pen pal that you discuss geology with.

We have reached an interesting time in professional geologic development, as the transfer of knowledge is not as fluid as it once was:

  • Gen Xers got started at a precarious time, and many have found they do not have a trusted and reliable mentor; they have had to erode some big mountains without much force behind them
  • Millennials, on the other hand, are begging for guidance and looking to their computers for answers.

Some geologic answers cannot be found on Google, and some questions are best answered face-to-face with someone who has seen the most rocks, and who can put together big picture ideas with their own magnificent, well-connected knowledge. If you don’t have a mentee or a mentor, now is the perfect time to go find one – and the guidebook provides outstanding guidance in developing these relationships.

The hopes embodied in this collaborative guidebook are that it will educate geologists about what is in store for them as they become independent, how they can keep going even when things get tough, and ways they can embrace downturns.

Even though it may seem like it is time to consider an entirely different career, it really is important to embrace downturns and remember why you became a geologist in the first place. Right now, we are laying the foundation for the future of the industry, and your hard work now could really pay off later.

You probably have always wanted to have some time to really think about what you want to be when you grow up, and during the process of going independent, you can really refocus your life and go after those crazy dreams. Proposals to large companies, which they would not consider in more expansionary periods, may suddenly become feasible.

Just think about how many logs and drilling records were overlooked due to the rapid drilling activity in the past five years. A lot of this information is public knowledge now, and is dying to be reinterpreted and re-examined.

The discovery of entire new plays awaits you, and we wish you so much luck as you take the first steps in making the next big discovery, and becoming your very own boss!

Becoming an Independent?

Whether you have been laid off or have chosen to fend for yourself as an independent or consulting geologist, AAPG has a resource for you.

With the help of some DPA members and others, an updated version of "Becoming an Independent Geologist" is now available for $5 through the AAPG bookstore, at http://store.aapg.org/detail.aspx?id=ADD-604.

Informing our membership of resources is one way we at DPA can fulfill our commitment to support our membership through this downturn. If you have an idea or suggestion that might help our fellow members, please contact the DPA leadership for consideration of your idea.

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