By Peter Weddle
A recent poll of U.S. workers found that what people want the most from their employers is job security. This is understandable given the uncertain economy, but sadly, these days you're more likely to get a visit from your fairy godmother then enjoy guaranteed long-term employment.
The global economy is now more interconnected and interdependent than at any other time in history. If government economic policies change in China, U.S. producers are affected. If consumer tastes change in Europe, American businesses feel the impact. If a South American company goes bankrupt, the people working in its plant in Tennessee will be hurt.
It's a highly turbulent and unpredictable environment. And that uncertainty makes it all but impossible for employers – whether they're American or foreign-based organizations – to know what kinds of talent they'll need tomorrow or the day after, let alone six months from now. As a result, even if they promise their workers job security, they almost certainly can't deliver it.
Don't believe it? Consider this: The average tenure of a CEO in their job is now down to less than four years. If that insecurity can happen in the corner office, it can (and will) happen everywhere else in the organization. Fear not, however, as the news isn't all gloom and doom. In fact, for many employees the end of job security can be a good thing. Think about it. Job security was something only employers could provide, and they did so only when it suited their financial interests. Employees had no control over the situation, so they just kept going to work, hoping they could count on the kindness organizations that were more interested in counting their profits.
But if waiting for job security is a waste of time, what's the alternative?
Simple: Career Security. The ability for workers to stay employed in jobs of their choosing, regardless of the economic situation in any country, or the financial condition of any one employer. Career security is something workers can create for themselves, so they control what happens in the workplace. They become the masters of their careers, rather than victims.
Instead of hoping that a company will avoid layoffs when times get tough, career security means monitoring an employer's status, and if it weakens quickly moving on to a new job opportunity. Instead of wishing upon a star when an employer gets bought, moved to a new location or reorganized, career security means lining up options with other organizations to stay above the fray.
Now, some employers will say that such behavior is disloyal. It's not. There are always two parties in the expression of loyalty, and loyalty only makes sense when there's reciprocity between them. The death of job security, however, has destroyed that reciprocity. Employers can no longer be loyal to employees, so employees need to be loyal to themselves. Career security is the way to do that.
So, how can you achieve career security? There are many factors, but above all it requires three fundamental steps:
What do you love to do – and do the best? This isn't necessarily your specific passion (model trains, for example), but rather your underlying talent (building things, attention to detail) that is often employed by your passions. Everyone is born with a natural capability or talent, but only those who take care of it – those who never stop developing its range and depth -- can achieve career security. However, to make a commitment like that, you have to know exactly what your talent is.
Arrive at the office each morning with all of your talent available, and use it to do your very best work. This may sound obvious, but as employers have been forced to cut staff, they've become desperate for high performing employees. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 70% are now paying bonuses to hire talented contributors, and 65% are paying above market salaries to hang onto them.
You can only feed your talent and use it to do your best work if you're employed by the right organizations and in the right jobs. Career self-management by hoping for the best (or waiting for employers to deliver it) is a one way ticket to unemployment. On the other hand, proactively looking for opportunities where you can excel is the single best way to increase both your paycheck, and your overall job satisfaction.
Job security may be an attractive idea, but it's an idea whose time has passed. Career security, however, is a concept fit for the turbulent times we live in, as well as the global job market of the future. It has the power and the promise to position you for long-term career success. And even better, to get it you only have to rely on one source, the only one you can really count on – yourself.
Formerly the Chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, Peter Weddle is an HR consultant, recruiter, author and commentator with an international reputation. He has authored or edited more than two dozen books, including "Recognizing Richard Rabbit: A Fable About Being True to Yourself", "Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System" and "WEDDLE's 2009/10 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet". In addition, he oversees WEDDLE's, a print publisher specializing in the field of human resources. WEDDLE's annual Guides and Directory to job boards are recognized for their accuracy and helpfulness, leading the American Staffing Association to call Weddle the "Zagat of the online employment industry." Peter Weddle is also CEO of the International Association of Employment Websites.