By Tracy Laswell Williams, CPRW, President, CAREERMagic
What does the phrase "job security" mean to you? Twenty-five years ago, job security meant finding a position in a good company, showing up on time, and performing one's duties reasonably well. Advancement within the ranks was also fairly predictable.
When I hear people use the phrase "job security," and I think they believe in this career phenomenon of days gone by, I begin to wonder about their views on Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
Most of us know the definitions of terms like downsizing, rightsizing, restructuring, temping, and outplacement... and we have some idea that the buy-outs, mergers, and bellies-up that businesses experience have something to do with a rapidly evolving global economy. Many of us, working hard at "good companies" don't fully grasp what this means to our careers until it's too late.
If you'd like to experience a measure of job security in the new millennium, then I'd like to advocate a proactive rather than reactive approach to career management.
The advice I offer today falls into three categories: 1) surviving and thriving in a constant restructuring company 2) increasing your market value or "employability factor" and 3) keeping a roof over your head.
Part 1. To survive and even prosper in a continually churning corporate structure, keep a positive attitude. Demonstrate your willingness to embrace change. When new management arrives, build rapport rather than mope about the loss of co-workers who became friends. Continually seek ways to add value at your current place of employment - broaden your repertoire of skills. Aggressively pursue your own professional development - take advantage of corporate-sponsored training and tuition reimbursement programs. If those perks aren't offered, design your own professional development path - take advantage of the vast wealth of career-related topics available for the asking at your local library and on the Internet. Join professional associations related to your field and/or industry. Stay abreast of business news - be conversant in the market factors that catalyze change in your company's industry.
Part 2. To keep your employability factor high, build and maintain professional networks. I cannot stress this enough. When you build outstanding relationships with managers, peers, clients, and vendors, don't let it evaporate when the business relationship changes. Get e-mail addresses, postal addresses, and home phone numbers as your contacts permit. Why? So that you can stay in touch with these people... they know your value in the marketplace and will often be willing to help you find your next position - and of course, you will provide them with leads and support too, when the time comes.
Even if you feel like all is just ducky at work, I strongly encourage a preventative maintenance program for your career. Keep your resume updated and your interview skills sharp. Keep an ongoing file of your accomplishments, performance evaluations, and recently completed continuing education, and update that resume twice a year. If you don't have anything to add on a regular basis, refer to Part 1.
Another way to remain gainfully employed is to rethink your present definition of work. Consider temping, contract work, and even moonlighting toward full-fledged self-employment These are increasingly valid ways of being employed. Stay in touch with your talents and aspirations and don't worry that career switching or numerous jobs might "look bad" on your resume. As long as you're learning and making a living, no one will fault you for trying new jobs.
Part 3. To keep a roof over your head, and to keep yourself from conducting a job search in "Titanic Mode," have a solid emergency savings plan. I'm no financial planner, but I definitely know that not having six months worth of household expenses stashed away is financial suicide in today's job market. Conducting a job search is sufficiently demanding of most people's emotional capabilities without adding an element of sheer financial horror to it.
Jobs in corporate America may be shuffling faster than ever as we approach the new millenium, but there's no reason you can't start working now to stack the deck in your favor.
Tracy Laswell Williams is an accredited resume writer and career
consultant who works with a diverse client base nationwide. She built
her company CAREERMagic five years ago on the premise that "great
minds think differently." Visit the company website at