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AAPL’s Advisory Landman Connection Program

It’s a match: After six months in the AAPL Advisory Landman Connection Program, mentor Pam Feist, CPL, (right) and her mentee, Riley Johnson, signed up for another six months of mentoring.

FEATURED IN LANDMAN, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 / BY RACHEL STOWE MASTER

An hour a month can make a lasting impact.

When Riley Johnson left The Woodlands, Texas, for Texas Tech in Lubbock, she thought she might major in accounting since she had always been good at math. But land soon won her heart. 

“I learned about the daily responsibilities and the characteristics a landman should have, and I thought I fit that mold perfectly,” she said. “I really like how it’s a competitive job that requires you to be a people person and grow your network.” 

She joined AAPL as a Student member during her junior year and became an Active member after earning her B.A. in energy commerce with an emphasis in petroleum land management in 2017. When Johnson — a landman I at Apache Corp. in Midland, Texas — heard about AAPL’s new Advisory Landman Connection Program, she was quick to apply.

“I’ve always been a strong believer in mentorship. Even in college I tried to do whatever I could do to help younger students out,” she said. “When I saw that AAPL was starting this program, I thought it would be a great way for me to get plugged into AAPL and also to connect with another professional in the Permian Basin and be able to learn from an experienced landman.”

She filled out the online application (landman. org/get-involved/mentorship) — “which was really easy” — and soon had a match: Pam Feist, CPL, land manager at Lakewood Exploration and vice president of Lakewood Operating Ltd. in Midland.

“I’m very thankful to have met Pam and to have a relationship with a successful, strong female landman who has accomplished a lot, grown 
a great network and has a great reputation,” Johnson said. “Just being able to bond with someone who I know has been in my shoes and experienced similar things that I have has been pretty unique.” 

“I’ve probably learned just as much from Riley as she’s learned from me,” Feist said. “This has given me a whole different perspective on a lot of things and great satisfaction to know that I’ve helped somebody. Riley is a very bright and ambitious landman with a great future, and it has been a pleasure to be her advisor and friend.” 

BRIDGING THE GAP
Launched in August 2018 to help bridge the experience gap among AAPL members, the Advisory Landman Connection Program is an online networking and career development tool that provides an easy way for members to connect and share with each other.
 
“We have so many young landmen coming into the industry and then we have so many of our experienced, seasoned landmen who are retiring,” said Feist, the promoter and a member of the Advisory Landman Connection Committee. “This is an effort to use the knowledge of our experienced landmen to mentor not only the young landmen coming in but also any landmen who are moving into a different area of land and need some guidance and support.”

According to AAPL’s most recent annual report, more than 40% of members are 50 and older, while less than 8 percent are between 20 and 29 years old. 

“I also saw a real need for our field landmen who are in the courthouse day after day. They don’t have the same mentoring opportunities as company landmen,” Feist added. “So this is an easy way for our field landmen to make those connections and gain knowledge from experienced landmen, whether it’s moving into a new geographical area or a different area of expertise and using technology to do so.” 

APPLY TODAY
To become a mentor or mentee, visit landman.org/get-involved/mentorship and fill out an application as an “advisor” or a “participant.” Applicants specify their preferences for demographics such as venue, specialties, career stage and start/end date. Members of the Advisory Landman Connection Committee evaluate the applications and suggest matches, which are then reviewed and approved by the committee as a whole when it meets monthly.

The committee hasn’t set a specific target for participation in the program, but its goal is to have enough volunteer advisors in place with sufficient variance in geographical area and experience to make timely — and optimal — matches for the participants who apply.
 
“We’ve learned it’s better to wait a month or two to find a perfect match rather than just say, ‘Here’s a participant and an advisor — let’s just put them together.’ It needs to be tailored to their specific needs,” Feist said. “Making a good match is key to making the program work. It is key to the whole mission, which is to connect landmen together and help each other gain knowledge.”

Once a match is made, the advisor and participant receive a letter with contact information as well as tips and suggested questions to help them get started. 

“The advisor is the one who needs to make that first contact with their matched participant,” Feist said, “and then it’s up to the two of them to decide what works best — do they meet once a month or more than once a month? Do they want to meet face to face, via telephone conversation, Skype or email?”

Since Feist and Johnson are both based in Midland, they found meeting for lunch once a month works best for their schedules, and then both feel free to call, text or email if questions arise in between monthly lunches. 

SMALL COMMITMENT, BIG IMPACT
After the first six months of the program, the Advisory Landman Connection Task Force surveyed advisors and participants and received positive feedback. 

“For some of the participants it has made a huge difference to know they’ve got someone in their corner — someone they can talk to about things that they don’t necessarily want to visit with their supervisor about,” Feist said. “They may be embarrassed to ask a question or need suggestions to develop their skills.” 

Johnson said she has learned a lot from her mentor, especially about how to handle challenging situations.

“I just started my third year as a landman so Pam has really helped me figure out how to manage my workload and find ways to prioritize tasks so that I’m accomplishing things in a timely manner and communicating well with my team,” she said. “Anytime I’ve been stressed out or overwhelmed, I just talk through it with her. She really helps me to simplify things and be able to work through it so that I can accomplish it in the best way possible.”

Mentors also can help mentees build their network. 

“The advisor who has been in the business for a long time has a lot of connections. Networking is one of the keys to being a successful landman. That relationship gives participants opportunities that they might not have otherwise,” Feist said. “As advisors, we also encourage participants to join their local landman association and develop their own networking group to help them along.” 

The program can create a lasting impact for a minimal amount of time.

“This is not a huge time commitment,” Feist said. “What we’re asking is a minimum of an hour a month for the advisor and the participant to make contact for a six-month period of time. When you think about it, an hour a month is not burdensome to anybody. In just that hour a month, it’s amazing what a difference you can make in somebody’s life.” 

THE IDEAL MENTOR
The Advisory Landman Connection Task Force is seeking additional advisors to meet the growing interest from participants.
 
“We need more AAPL members to volunteer as advisors for this program. They don’t have to be experts in all areas. As a committee, we connect you with a participant so that your knowledge is what that particular participant needs,” Feist said. A key to being a good mentor is being a good listener. 

“Mentors have to think back to what it was like when they were learning,” Feist said. “A good mentor knows the right questions to ask and gives enough pause, allowing the participant to work through and get to the answer themselves. The advisor just guides the participant along.”

“Pam’s willingness to listen is a quality I am very thankful for,” Johnson said. “She’s also so open and honest, and I really respect honesty because I think that it is important to receive constructive feedback. I don’t take offense to anything she tells me to adjust. I can talk to her about anything, and she is more than happy to provide advice and offer any assistance she can. I’ve really enjoyed that aspect of our relationship.” 

In addition, Feist said, good mentors are accessible, ask the right questions, act as a sounding board, empower rather than solve problems for the participant, share their experiences and insight, serve as a positive role model, give honest feedback and acknowledge the participant’s achievements. “You also have to maintain confidentiality and trust and of course treat each other with dignity and respect and behave in an ethical manner,” she said.

THE IDEAL MENTEE 
The best participant is committed to the program and willing to invest in the relationship.
 
“It is what you put into it,” Johnson said. “Come prepared to meetings with your mentor and have something that you can discuss with them or ask what’s going on in their job so that you’re using your time efficiently and not wasting their time. Ask them the important questions — like lessons they’ve learned over their career or what’s a difficult challenge they overcame. There’s so much knowledge and experience that these landmen have that we can learn from.”

And when asking for help with a specific challenge, be honest, she added. “Explain the whole situation so they get the best understanding and are able to offer the best advice. But then also be open to receiving that advice. Don’t take it personally, but understand they want to help you and they have your best interest in mind. Utilize their advice — it’s not good unless you put it to work.”

In return for their investment, participants gain insight from the advisor’s expertise and receive constructive feedback in key 
areas such as communication, interpersonal relationships, technical abilities and leadership skills.
 
“I think it helps them develop a sharper focus on what they need to grow professionally while learning specific skills that are relevant to their goals,” Feist said. “It also benefits them through the networking aspect of it. I think too it’s always nice to have a friendly ear to share frustrations as well as successes.”

TIME WELL INVESTED
Advisors and participants in the program commit to a six-month mentorship. When Feist and Johnson’s session came to an end, they agreed to a second six-month term. And they know their relationship will continue well beyond.

“One of the biggest benefits is knowing you’ve made a difference for somebody. We’ve all had mentors in our life. To be able to share that knowledge and experience is just invaluable to somebody,” Feist said. 

“An advisor has a lot to gain from being in the program. It makes you think. You may have a question and think, ‘Oh gosh, I did that years ago but haven’t thought about that recently.’ It’s energizing for me personally to be an advisor,” she added. 

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity AAPL has provided,” Johnson said. “This has been so instrumental in my growth and my learning as a young landman. It’s been much more than just an advisory program to me. I’ve really found someone I can count on and rely on and come to with anything I have. It’s been an incredible experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is in the early years of their career.”