Job security is highly overrated. Yet, job security is the number one desire for employees according to a recent study. The reasons job security is overrated are pretty straightforward.
The employer makes decisions based on meeting the business goals. You adapt. The more you want security, the more adapting you do and at some point you start making poor choices for your career. It could be taking on a project your skills don’t match up to well because you are told that it will help your performance review. Or helping a coworker instead of doing your own work because you want that coworker to want you on the team and missing your own work deadlines.
Our career is made up from such choices and the need for security will enable poor decision making.
I remember being with a group of former coworkers and — almost universally — the feeling was they hated their job. They were doing stuff they didn’t like to do and were doing work they thought was not matching up to who they were as people.
Yet, every one of them said…”It’s a paycheck.” And that’s true, of course, and having a paycheck in these turbulent times is no small thing. I get that.
There is a cost to the job security and staying in a place because there is a paycheck, though. You compromise your values and pretty soon you start to compromise your life. You start to compromise your relationships for that security (“I need to stay at work for another two hours….”). After a couple of years, will you recognize the person you have become?
This is a little counter-intuitive, but true. When your focus is on security, you do stuff you really don’t like working on. Internally, you fight against working on stuff you don’t like working on; it is natural to do so. Consequently, you procrastinate, you don’t examine your work as carefully as you would doing stuff you love, and your results are simply not as good as if you weren’t so concerned about the security of your job.
The job security will start producing poor performance — which makes your job security even less.
What we need to do is stop focusing so much on what the employer is doing and start focusing on what we are doing with our work. We want to make our work attractive to multiple employers so that we are more easily employed than others. It means you concentrate on making yourself more employable, have standards for what you want your corporate experience to be, and be perfectly willing to leave a poor situation by looking for another job.
Focusing on what you can control — your work, your choices to make your work more attractive to employers, and your results — and combining that with an “I’m my own company” attitude to get to the corporate experience you want flips the traditional “everything to the employer” to “I’m of value to a company trying to meet business goals.”
Companies will use your job skills to help them achieve their business goals. When your job skills are no longer needed, they will lay you off in a heartbeat. And that’s okay — as long as you are about employment security and not job security.