Perception and what it means as a Process Operator.
This will article is directed towards experienced operators, but everyone else should take note as well. Lets talk about perception. Perception is what others think about you, or what you are doing.
When you are in the control room playing on your phone with your feet propped up, and someone walks in. They perceive that you are not doing anything other than being worthless and lazy. They may not know that you just walked in from getting it done in the field. While you may not be able to always prevent being walked in on at the wrong time. At least fix yourself, and become more engaged.
When I took my second operator job at a large refinery, I decided I was not interested in being a supervisor, because my perception was that their job was worse than mine. I became vocal with my opinions, and did not care about others perception of my attitude. I took pride in doing my job, and knowing how to get a task accomplished. I wouldn’t say I was contrary, but if I didn’t agree with what my lead operators and or supervisors wanted me to do I would make sure to vent my frustration. Well, fast forward 5 years, I was then a lead operator, but had began to desire one of those supervisor jobs. I spoke with my bosses about it, and got the lip service they usually give good operators that they like in the roles that they are currently in, i.e. not becoming a supervisor any time soon. I realized how much I had damaged my perception by having a big mouth. Being good at your job, and being able to handle whatever task that could arise wasn’t good enough. The damage had been done.
Can you change your perception? Could I change mine? Well my story ends with me getting a management job at another company where I put my hard learned knowledge to use. Could I have made changes, and of stayed at my previous job and been promoted. Honestly, I think yes. The question would be then how many other Process Operators would pass me up till then, and how long would that be. For me in my situation, I honestly wasn’t going to roll the dice on that. I felt I was better off taking my lessons learned, and starting over.
Moral of the story, quit complaining and do your job. We are very well paid to deal with the daily frustrations of being a Process Operator. I figured out the best way to look at it is usually I’m paid a little over minimum wage for the job I actually do, the rest of the money I’m paid for is to deal with all the other crap.
Another revelation I had is that deep down. Every Operator knows their faults and weaknesses. You don’t have to admit them to any one else. Just have a little conversation with yourself and own up to them. Then the question becomes do you want to work on them, or to suffer the consequences of those issues.
You never know what the future holds. Yes, being a Process Operator is a great job, but are you sure you want to commit to doing it forever? Your next path doesn’t have to be a supervisor, or management. From being an Operator, you could move into an EHS job, training, procedures, planning, or maintenance job. Don’t automatically rule yourself out by not getting along with other work groups. People move on, but perceptions do not.