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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > There are no certainties in employment, nor should you expect them

There are no certainties in employment, nor should you expect them

May 14th, 2010

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News arrived recently that a friend had been laid off, downsized, right-sized, fired from the company where he had worked for 22 years. Another friend was laid off after 18 years with the same company. These weren’t static drones doing the same job in the same cubicle year after year. They both held many roles in their companies. They both climbed the career ladder. They both had excellent reviews. They both were gone when business climates, business needs and the world changed.

How many times do we need to hear this story before we begin to understand that there are no certainties in employment or in our career. There are many things outside our control. Businesses go bankrupt. Markets disappear. The entire economy is disrupted. No matter how well we do our work, if the business crashes beneath us, we will fall, too. This is why it is so important to control whatever we can in our own life and careers. It also means divorcing our careers and our self-worth from our companies.

First, no matter where you work, your personal goal should be to acquire as may transferable skills as possible. This is a fancy way of saying — learn everything you can that you might, one day, be able to use somewhere else. It is these skills that are your lifeline to the future. Your knowledge of custom, internal system will be worthless once you leave the company. You need to learn how your business applies tools, knowledge and concepts that are applicable to the outside world. Take note of this information. Learn all you can. Think about how you might apply it in the future. In this way, you are preparing for the inevitable time when change will give you a swift kick in the pants…and you will be ready for it.

Next, especially when times are good, you need to remind yourself that your company is not a friend. They are not family. The company as an entity cannot empathize. It only exists for its own purposes, to “increase shareholder value.” Sure your managers and fellow employees might feel sad when you are let go, but “the company” will feel nothing. You should never forget this. You do so at your peril. If you start to think of the company as an individual or a friend, your career is in danger.

It has been said so much is almost a modern cliché, but no matter where you work, you must think of yourself as an independent contractor. You must believe that the contract, the job, the money could end tomorrow. Even more, you must always be looking for the next job, the next project. Long term jobs are very comforting. You have regular money, regular schedule, regular co-workers. They are also dangerous. It is very hard to think about the future of your career when you are cocooned inside such an environment. It can be very hard to imagine anything different than what you have.

Life is harsh sometimes. In fact, when it comes to the workplace, it can often be harsh. Through no fault of your own, you can find yourself looking for the next step in your career. Prepare for that eventuality now and hopefully you will never need it. Chances are, though, that there will be at least one time in your career where you will be forced to changed jobs long before you would like. You might even find that making plans might open some opportunities you hadn’t really thought of before. There are no certainties in the workplace, beyond those you create yourself.

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