I’m appalled and saddened as many are with the state of the employment market. I have good friends in bad straits. Their fear (along with most of the unemployed) is palpable and often overwhelming.
Many of them have been laid off from a place where they’ve spent 10, 20, 30 years. It’s not a hard and fast correlation, but often the longer the employ, the greater the shock. Add to that outdated job search skills, and the recipe makes for a frightening time in life, especially for those with homes and kids and all the bills that come with them.
Others, more savvy perhaps but out of work nonetheless, are dealing with their 2nd or 3rd or 4th lay-off in as many years. The leg-up they have is that they know the drill and likely suffer less paralysis.
Lost amid all of the finger pointing about job loss and the urgency to find another one is this fact: responsibility for one’s livelihood belongs to the individual. We aren’t guaranteed work, in fact we “apply” for work…meaning we go after it, knowing that we may or may not get it. And, if we don’t get one position, we “apply” for the next. In the process, we’re on our best behavior, boning up on the organization and doing enough homework to sell ourselves as the best person for the job. How is it then that after awhile (a few months? years?), our focus on “apply” is gone and entitlement sets in? We conveniently forget that there’s no guarantee.
Who out there searching for a job hasn’t been seeing signs of a very different workplace–for maybe the last 10 to 20 years? Who in the search hasn’t also been in an industry that has cut back and outsourced jobs over the last 5 to 10 years? Who in the search is part of the 4th or 5th round of cutbacks, rather than the first 3, and has been lying low…until now?
The clues have been there for years, but most people choose to wear blinders. And it’s the blinders to reality that have many job seekers in their current precarious positions.
As I’ve facilitated monthly Execunet meetings over the years, I continue to be amazed at two things that occur over and over again. One, when people say they’re looking for their next position, they often add “preferably a secure one” where they won’t have to “do this again,” i.e. network with people they don’t know. And second, someone will introduce themselves saying they’ve been downsized by XYZ company and are looking for a connection into ABC company, a target in the same industry. Inevitably, another attendee on the other side of the room will stand and say they have been downsized by ABC company and are looking for a connection into XYZ company, and so want to connect with the first attendee! Like the horse, their blinders let them hide from reality.
Job security is possible, all right, but YOU must create it. No one else can do it for you, and an organization is not going to look out for your security. The organization doesn’t have any security, either, and it can’t give what it doesn’t have! Most organizations are reinventing, restructuring, downsizing, rightsizing, and renewing in order to keep up or maybe stay a little ahead of constantly changing markets…so you are responsible for yourself. Get used to it.
So, how? Whether you’re searching for your next position or you’re living with the fantasy, begin to create your own security this way:
1. Upgrade your skills and/or learn new ones. “Lifelong learning” isn’t just for kids; it’s for everyone. If you work, then you must be relevant, and in order to be relevant you have to upgrade. “Maintaining” doesn’t cut it anymore. There will never be a perfect time, so start now. Check out your local community college and your professional association web sites to see what offerings will round out your skill set or give you new ones. Talk to career advisors about what you want to do and get their suggestions on learning and training opportunities.
2. Learn your value. Then increase it. It’s not in your past or current job titles, and it’s not the writing or paper shuffling you do or the meetings you attend. Your value is the results you create for an organization and its customers. Results are measurable, and you must know yours.
Start with your current or most recent position and identify a project you worked as well as the actions you took; then, determine results. There’s a reason for the project: what is it? To improve call center productivity by x%? To increase new client development by y%? To reduce expenses by z%? Whatever the outcome, this is your value to any organization. Going forward, track your contributions and work to increase them…the more valuable you are, the more marketable you are. Period.
So, if you’re wearing them, take off your blinders and create your own security. If you’re not sure, take a look around and be clear about what’s happening in your company. Either way, just do it…and start now.