Your career is no longer a comfort zone

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With all the talk of goals, resolutions and great intentions for 2011, I’d like to give you a resolution for 2011 you must keep. Must keep. Here it is:

Invest in your career in a way to give you employment security, not merely job security.

The reasons for this are both obvious and subtle. Let’s take a look.

The obvious reasons to embrace employment security, not job security

This chart, from the Calculated Risk site, which I show as part of my layoff product, tells the story of the percentage of job losses by recession in one frightening graph:

The percentage of job losses in this recession are far worse than any other recession, save the Great Depression.

In addition to the job loss percentages, the sheer volume of continuing first time claims for unemployment insurance continue in the 400,000 per month. And based on current job growth, it will take another six years — years — to get to “full employment” again.

So while hiring is starting to get better, there is a high percentage of people who are still at risk trying to keep their job — and job security. We need to get to employment security because one cannot put all of their employment eggs in one basket.

Not so obvious: Companies are not interested in your career

A company has one major goal: make money for the shareholders, or, more broadly, for the company owners. All the other corporate stuff — our customers count, our employees are our most important asset, those corporate values posters, mission statements — all of that is secondary to the primary aim of making money for the owners.

Now, I don’t have a problem with that — it is very hard to make a company successful from a start-up and just as difficult to continue to make money for the company owners. We can trash the profit motive if it is too aggressive, but I’m not one that says companies should make no money — how are they going to keep employees if they don’t?

But that also means companies are not interested in your career. Companies, at the very core, are interested in how using your job skills and talents will help them reach their business goals and make the owners money. Yes, individual managers and HR departments can tout how important you are to the company and how much they want to develop your career. In good times, keeping your talents because you help reach their business goals makes sense. When times are tough? Not so much. When a strategy change takes place and your skills are not part of the strategy? Not so much.

If you are the highest performing person on the planet and if your skills no longer match what the company needs to continue making money for the owners, you are done. Gone. Wrong place, wrong time. Job security doesn’t cut it because your job can get cut at any time. Or reorganized in a way that no longer is useful to you and your needs.

Investing in your career is the only way to get to employment security

Most people will not invest in their career — either through spending money on products like those sold here or for getting needed job skill certifications. Nor will people practice what needs practicing to keep their skills up — like practicing answering questions for a job interview.

But in this moment — and for the foreseeable future — it is necessary to invest in your career across multiple levels of a hierarchy to make sure you meet employment security.

You will not always be in the right place at the right time. And the one time you are in the wrong place at the wrong time is the very time that your lack of employment security — investing in your career — will hurt you the most.

How do you get to employment security? I have put a lot of thought into it. More to come. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you could get to employment, rather than job, security.

  • Aside from always having a resume ready and growing and cultivating a network, you should always have an idea of what positions and situations in which you would be comfortable. Even better: if you could do something on a part-time basis to grow your skills in that area while you’re working your full-time job.

    • A good point, Rick. Knowing what you like to do and what corporate
      experience makes you feel comfortable doing the work is an important
      component of doing a successfull job search. I’d include that as part of
      Job Search Skills.

      What you like changes over time, but we don’t really understand that well
      if we don’t consistently review what we like about our jobs. An obvious,
      but real, example is that I had no problems 15 years ago doing the “road
      warrior” travel schedule. Now, however, my family life is different, I
      consider flying a nuisance if not downright intimidating and prefer driving
      than flying. If I didn’t fully understand this, I’d take a position that
      was wrong for me.

      Thanks for the great comment.

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