Field Report: 8 Mistakes Land Pros Make (and How To Fix Them)

Feb 23, 2022

We recently hosted a conversation with fellow land professionals discussing common career blunders and tips on how to fix them. If you’re in the early stages of your #landman job, switching from one sector to another, or just looking to stay sharp, then this blog’s for you.


On one land agent’s first wind farm job, he was so confident in his knowledge of the process that he felt the need to explain to the landowner exactly how and what he believed was to come. However, once construction began, a very different reality unfolded: the project ended up being twice the size and way more involved than the land agent expected. Understandably, the landowner was upset.

HOW TO FIX IT:  The first (and most obvious) step is to apologize. We all make mistakes; being able to acknowledge them goes a long way towards maintaining relationships. Next, keep explanations high level, and be mindful not to make any promises. If you’re new to the profession, get familiar with the process (including possible edge cases) before offering your opinion on what may or may not come next. As one land pro advised, “Go rub elbows with everybody on-site and ask a lot of questions.”

Being confident in yourself isn’t a bad thing, per se. But be careful not to let overconfidence color your interactions with your employers. After all, when it comes time for your performance review, you don’t want any nasty surprises or reality checks.

HOW TO FIX IT: Find someone experienced you trust to give you real-world feedback. Ideally, this person has seen your work and can give you a down-to-earth overview of your capabilities.

This is a trap many people fall into. The reality is if you don’t know the answer to something, making up an answer or coming to your own conclusions can really hurt your credibility and career. One land pro recounts, “[An agent] printed maps with turbines on them. The problem was, they put them in completely unrealistic places. They placed five turbines onto a property that, if any, would get one or two turbines. This created disappointment and ended up with the agent losing their job.” 

HOW TO FIX IT: If you don’t know something, just say so. Come back with an answer only after you’ve thoroughly done your research. People will always appreciate honesty and authenticity.

Everyone makes mistakes. In the context of landman jobs, this can catch up to you on the title side of things. Clients are often pressed for time –– they want things done and want them done yesterday. As one can imagine, it would be too easy to let something slip in a rush to please a client.

“If you missed a conveyance, then you could end up with totally different ownership,” explains one land pro. “The person going out to lease the property might have the wrong information. There’s a lot of bad oil and gas leases out there, too.”

HOW TO FIX IT: You don’t want your client to buy a bad lease due to a mistake on your part so take your time to double- and even triple-check your work. If you need to sleep on it and revisit it with fresh eyes the next day, so be it.

If you’re transitioning from oil and gas to renewable, this is especially true when interviewing for a new job. While it’s true that the fundamentals and core skills of being a land professional are the same, be careful how you present your experience if you’re shifting between fields. Don’t think or act you know it all. 

HOW TO FIX IT: When discussing the experience you do have, say, “I’m excited and eager to learn this new industry. I know there are many facets that don’t overlap, but there are even more that do.” This will reassure your interviewer that you’re experienced enough to understand where the gaps in your skills are. “[…] Know what you’re talking about, read documents, [and] understand the industry enough that you can speak intelligently about it when asking questions,” added one land agent.

Renewable energy leases are different from oil and gas leases and as a land professional, you need to understand the difference. Renewable agreements are 40+ pages long, while the average oil or gas lease is 2-3 pages long. Additionally, titles vary from state to state. Don’t assume you understand titles in Texas because you know about titles in Nebraska. 

HOW TO FIX IT: Part of a land professional’s job is to build relationships; that includes having necessary conversations, creating trust, and being able to exchange information so that you can deliver the best possible results. “There’s definitely going to be a learning curve [especially if you’re moving from oil and gas to renewables], so do your research,” advises one land pro. “If you aren’t willing to learn, you might not just lose a client –– we know land professionals who have lost their job or not gotten hired over their attitude concerning leases.”

“We’ve known land professionals who have abused company equipment,” recalls another land pro. “HR got involved and fired [the] land professional.”

HOW TO FIX IT: Using your company laptop and/or company time to do non-work-related things is a recipe for disaster. Keep work and personal affairs (and equipment) separate.

Don’t assume something is done just because it’s been verbally stated. “We know one case where a verbal agreement never got put into writing, and a whole project was put on hold as people scrambled for a permit,” explained one land agent. “Direct communication and follow-up would have prevented this issue.”

HOW TO FIX IT: If you’re an agent, remember that if it’s not in writing, then it didn’t happen. If you’re in leadership, remember to follow up and make sure verbal agreements are captured in writing.

In Summary

We all make mistakes, it’s how we handle them that matters. Owning and understanding your limitations –– especially at the early stages of your career or when transitioning to another sector –– will always open you up to more opportunities for growth than trying to hide them will.

Want more expert tips from fellow land pros?

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