For most people these days, there is no such thing as real job security. Gone are the days of "company men/women," putting in decades of service at the same firm with a celebrated exit, complete with pension, gold watch and retirement party. Sure, these types of jobs do exist for certain sectors and professions, but this has not been the norm for a number of years now.
Business cycles come and go. Technologies change. Entire industries disappear or are able to transform their strategies accordingly to survive in a different environment.
Great. So now what? Well this trend can be both frightening and exciting depending on your outlook. New technologies allow for smaller companies to perform the same work at the same level of productivity with a much smaller workforce than in previous years. Companies can specialize in specific niches, which means you might have a better chance of finding a company that is working on a product or cause that you have been passionate about. It also means starting your own company is much more possible (though most likely operating in a more competitive market). I'm still looking for my passion, but I hope to share that with everyone soon.
To help keep all of this in the right context, here are a few workplace themes to consider:
1. Job security is a myth. You are replaceable. Whether you're an executive assistant, a vice president or the office manager, don't think your boss would hesitate to replace you with someone who is less experienced (and less expensive). Like any good financial adviser will tell you, diversify yourself. Learn new skills that will make you both valuable as a current employee and marketable as a new employee elsewhere.
2. Your job is an investment. I have seen people fighting over salary and other compensation related components for the wrong reasons. Sure, everyone wants to get paid competitively (and they should), but a worker should also weigh the types of long-term growth that they can achieve in any given role. You could gain irreplaceable experience and build your contacts working for a startup or small business at a lower compensation level, but you might miss such an opportunity if your only focus is on salary and not on investing in yourself (sorry if this is starting to sound like a Hallmark made for TV special).
3. Do not confuse experience with expertise. Spending years in any given field is a different metric than having real achievements to show. Try to distinguish between the two and learn from both of them (what to do or not to do to be successful).
4. Mistakes are okay. In fact, admitting fault and learning from criticism is one of the most important ways to grow in your job/life.
5. Criticism is not (usually) personal. As #4 explains, this is a great way to learn from mistakes. If you take criticism too personally, people will be reluctant to give feedback in the future, robbing you of an invaluable resource in your personal growth.
6. Overcome impostor syndrome. A lot of people ask themselves, “Why are they listening to me? Why am I running this project/company?” This one can be hard to overcome regardless of the stage in your career, but most people will find themselves questioning their expertise and integrity; not because their peers are being especially critical (or critical at all), but because most people don’t understand their own value. The opposite of this theme is to be overly arrogant, and I am certainly not advocating for that, but you need to understand your own strengths and expertise (not experience) to help overcome a lot of self-doubt and self-esteem issues in your career.
7. Have fun. Work is work, but finding the right job that suits your interests can make the daily grind an enjoyable experience.
8. Ignore hierarchy. Respect your superiors, of course, but it is also important not to neglect your subordinates. Titles are not related to employees’ expertise or knowledge, and you can often get the best information from people lower on the organizational chart. Also, your assistant may be your boss one day. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, life will be better if you treated your colleagues with respect. Also, don't be a jerk. That should be common sense enough, but that lesson is especially important to learn in a work environment.
9. Business strategy is not an excuse for action. Any good business will have a strategic plan, either a formal document or an informal plan that explains why the company exists, its competition, strengths, etc. Effective strategic management will help companies identify themes/projects that are working or are not effective. Ineffective management will use its strategic plan as an excuse for poor execution or inaction. The more you hear senior management cite a strategic plan as a reason for questionable actions, the more likely you are to find yourself in that “other” class of management. If you do find yourself in the latter group, then great! It means you probably care about the workings of your company, but it also likely means you should look for employment elsewhere rather than face months of frustration.
10. Don’t get comfortable. Having a good job that keeps you happy is great and something that we all strive for, but as this whole post suggests (especially #1), you might not find yourself in the same job a few years from now. To keep your skills sharp and to ensure your marketability for future jobs, don’t get comfortable in your current role. Don’t settle for the status quo.