Ensuring job security is more about developing yourself than the right career.
In October 2018, Verizon laid off about 44,000 employees. This was more than 30% of its workforce.
Verizon targeted long-time employees, in particular those with more than 30 years in the firm, in its bid to cut costs and survive more than US$114 billion of debt.
I am 41. Pretty much mid-life and mid-career.
Reflecting on my own experience working for others and as an employer from time to time, I find that a person’s qualities are more important than his capabilities for job security.
And in today’s world, there is no quality more important than the willingness to learn.
You Live, You Learn
“I hate to hire people who come as experts because there’s no experts of future, they’re always experts of yesterday.”
— Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba
There is an old Chinese saying, “You learn as long as you live”.
In no other time in history is that saying more true.
Because technology has made the value of knowledge and experience decay faster than ever before.
There are two good reasons why this is the case:
One, the Internet has made knowledge highly accessible and democratic compared to the past.
Before the printing press was invented, knowledge and education was privileged to royalty and the wealthy. Before the Internet, if you had to do research you had to physically go to the library and pore over books or microfilms of old newspapers and magazines. Now you pick up your phone and google.
People can learn anything, anywhere, as long as they have the willingness to do so.
Two, artificial intelligence (AI) will replace any job that becomes routine and doesn’t constantly require high levels of creativity, EQ or innovation.
It used to be that rule-based programming can replace any job that had a direct input-output correlation.
Now, with machine learning AI, even tasks that require adaptation and learning can be done by software. How your GPS re-routes based on changing traffic conditions is a good example.
So while in the old days the dividends of a certain set of knowledge and experience may last us a lifetime, technology has shrunk the payoff period of learning curves to much shorter periods.
Your experience is the past. Your capabilities is the present. Your ability to learn is the future.
EQ and optimism makes you a better worker
Jack Ma also believes that EQ is more important than IQ for success, because it gives you the ability to work well with others and be a team player.
Recently I heard two wise celebrities quipped in talk shows that it is foolish to defend your opinions or preferences as an employee.
Being an employee doesn’t mean you’ve sold your soul, but it does mean you have sold your time and commitment to accomplishing what your employer demands of you.
As workers, we must embrace a company’s culture and help it to achieve its objectives. There’s no point asserting our own personality or views too hard.
Nobody likes to be around a downer or wet blanket. That same human nature applies to friendship as much as to colleagues or bosses.
Positive people are also less likely to have interpersonal conflicts, making for better team work.
While it is normal for office politics to exist, the best performers are always those who show empathy but do not partake in the bitching or mud-slinging.
The redundancy checklist
Ironically, Verizon probably targeted their older employees because letting them go will save the company the most money.
Too expensive. Older workers tend to occupy higher positions and higher salaries. Ask yourself honestly if a younger person could do the same thing you do for much less. If yes, your job is in danger. Best upgrade your skills and other valuable contributions to the company such as network and contacts.
Comfort zone. When was the last time your boss patted you on the back for outperforming others or your own record? A company’s performance depends on everyone playing a part, so if a company is doing better but your performance is average or even lower, than you will obviously be the most expendable one come tough times.
Productivity. All companies want to make larger and larger profits (unless you are a social enterprise), which means higher revenues or lower costs. To be highly valued in a job, one needs to be constantly improving on results and productivity.
It’s a rat race, yes, but that’s the reality. Stop running and you’ll fall below the pack.
But what if my company shuts down due to no fault of my own? Don’t I lose my job as well despite meeting all these qualities above?
Well, career developers who maintain the above qualities establish a good reputation professionally and are usually highly sought after.
Once they announce to their network they are on the look out for a new role, offers will stream in.
Job security isn’t about being able to hold on to the same job till you retire. It’s about positioning yourself to be seen as a valuable contributor no matter where you work.