Five Ways to Build Employment Security

Employment security. What’s that, you say? It doesn’t exist, right? And planning for a career? Well, that’s like herding cats.

Consequently, we can only build employment security — the ability to stay consistently employed in positions — in places where we like to work. Sure, one company may lay you off or go out of business, but you have the job skills and the business results to show other employers you can help them with their goals.

Let’s take a look at five principles you should follow to help build a plan for your work that will give you employment security.

1. Separate your work from your company

This may surprise you. Your company does not care about your work as long as it is contributing to its business goals. Only your family and some friends care about your work and they don’t pay the bills. You need to look at your work as a set of skills you can sell to employers, not the fact that you work for a company.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses

This is obvious advice. But too many people really don’t understand the strengths they bring to their work. Why? Because they are too close to it. If you work on a project, ask your project manager what strengths you bring to the table. Ask your team what unique skills or insights you bring to the team. Maybe even check that performance review and see if there is something non-generic there about your strengths.

Remember, too, that what is easy for you is often a strength — because others find doing what you do hard and are amazed you find it so effortless. We discount “easy” about ourselves. We shouldn’t.

3. Every job ends

You need to decide, right at the outset, how long you think this particular gig will last. Even if you stay at a company for 20 years, you won’t have the same job for that duration.

Set up what you want out of this particular job that will help you find the next one. More job skills? More team skills? Better “rounding off the edges” of your personality?

By focusing on what you want to carry out in this particular job, you start attaining skills and results that you can sell to the next prospective hiring manager, even if that manager is in the same company.

4. Job skills + job performance = opportunities

This is a simplistic — but not simple — formula for building employment security. You need to have the job skills to do the work. Building those skills requires persistence to get past the day-to-day work.

Too often, though, people miss the second part of the equation — job performance. Many people talk about all the great job skills they have and then never show any business results from their work. Unless you have both skills and performance, you won’t be presented with opportunities.

5. Prepare for this phase of your life

What you do on the job in the first part of your employment phase of life is very different from what you want to do in the last part. The end will be very different from the beginning.

Too many people think they will be in this lifelong career when the truth is that people can do many things over the course of their life that are not even related. Prepare for the phase of your life you are in right now.

How you go about building employment security — not job security — starts with having the right mindset about your skills, work and attitude. Following these five principles will go a long way toward getting work right.

16 Responses to “Five Ways to Build Employment Security”

  1. How true, and somewhat sad: “You need to look at your work as a set of skills you can sell to employers”…
    I used to live with the idea that if I do the best at my job, the company would treat me in a fair way, even in terms of job security… for about 5 years! At the end I understood that if I work well, I simply get paid. Forget about promises for the future.

    • I’m very pleased you have gotten the ‘do my best job company will treat me in a fair way’ out of your system. Many have not.

      This is an important sentiment — that we all need to remove from our thinking. This paradigm of “promises of the future” by an employer or that doing our best on a job deserves reward, all of that thinking has to go out the window. We can’t think of it as sad or mourn for its passing; it’s just reality now. We are no longer in a position where the company is obligated to provide for our welfare and we are not obligated to work for them for a lifetime. Hasn’t been for a long time.

      Companies have a lot of say over hiring and firing; we need to ensure that we can take care of our families by building skills and results to counter it. Employment security won’t keep us from getting laid off, but it will help get the next job quickly and with minimal disruption to our families.

      • Very well said, Scot. The last paragraph of your comment captures a very important truth.

        Emilov, I can relate to your experience. I pesistently “slogged” for my company for more than five years. I compromised with my family time, sleep, and opportunities to learn new technologies. I always thought someone will notice my loyalty and that would one day make a big difference to my career growth. Well, I was in dreamland.

        I heard some people saying, “Fall in love with your job, but never with your company.” Probably we should not fall in love with our job either. At the outset of every job, we should be clear about building an arsenal of transferable and marketable skills that will put us ahead of others and will help us win the next job.

        Lesson well learned. It is never too late to start doing the right thing.

  2. James Green

    This article is why Dice career advise sucks.
    A company hired you to use your skills to help there bottom line, not to build up your skill set for the next job. For example if the company you as “Lotus Note Developer” the company will not let you work on .Net projects, Java Projects, etc, etc..

    • Paul King

      I don’t think the article was written for your specific situation or goals, but in general for the majority. It’s not about doing what you want, but looking at the position objectively. How can it help you aside from the pay, location, and other obvious benefits. Think about it as what you want to list on your next resume.

      A: I couldn’t work on Java projects, so I didn’t focus on improving the skills / accomplishments that I did have access to.


      B: I excelled in these opportunities that were given to me to the nth degree.

      Communication skills, and the ability to sell yourself will probably get you more opportunities within your organization than demanding something specific that your employer for whatever reason can’t offer at that time.

      • James Green

        My comments do represent the majority. Companies don’t hire you for skills that might be hot in the future. Nor will they train you in the hot technologies. If you worked at company as a cobol programmer for 20 years and are laid off the likely hood of you you switching to the .net department department even after getting a .net certificate is null. This why dice advise SUCKS. It does not take into account the real world.

      • I have to disagree, James. Companies are looking for people who’ve evolved their skills with the times, and have shown that they’re looking forward as much as the companies themselves are. Folks who don’t do that are putting themselves at risk, especially nowadays. You say they won’t train you in hot technologies — maybe, maybe not. I think that depends on the company. But if all they see on your resume are skills and experience with platforms and technologies they’re not going to use very much longer, they’re not going to bring you in. That’s just the reality.

  3. Scot,

    I believe you “forgot” one principle that I learned the hard way: make certain your boss likes you. If that’s not possible, and your boss can not, or will not, separate his (or her) personal feelings from business, find a different job.


    • Probably just a different way of categorizing what you said here, Mike. This is more strategy to ensure employment security rather than tactics. In larger companies, managers can turn over relatively quickly through org changes and other factors. In eighteen years with one company, I never had the same manager for more than eighteen months.

      Regardless, you bring up an important and related point: your manager is your most important customer. Your manager has the most significant impact on your ability to get promoted, work in a different area, support you in getting new job skills right now, regardless of any strategy for employment security.

      If you don’t have that right relationship, for whatever reason, your flexibility in moving to something different or produce great business results are all hamstrung.

      Spot on.

      • James Green

        Wow, this is why dice advise is really crappy. I believe most people are not in the position to leave there jobs, because there bosses are not allowing them to obtain more skills. Most people have something call a mortgage, kids, school loans and other bills and responsibilities. The type of advise you are giving is for a kid of 22 who graduated from a top school, and had great internships, and landed a job at progressive start-up company. This advise is not for the masses of middle age unemployed IT workers with responsibilities.

        • Well, James, you know just because the advice applies to someone who’s starting out in their career doesn’t make it crappy. And I don’t think it only applies to people who’ve gone to a top school, etc. What Scot’s saying is you have to understand certain things about your work, and plan for certain dynamics of the working world, before you get too far down the road.

          But even with that said, much of this advice can apply to mid- or late-career professionals. Yes, it’s true what you say about mortgages, etc. But you can’t ever stop looking for ways to improve your skills and performance, or trying to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Not every element here will apply to every person. Like all advice, you have to tailor it to your own situation.

      • James Green

        You are right Mark, every element of advise does not fit every person and you have to try to make the advise fit you situation, however the advise Dice give sometimes is so narrow it’s useless for the average job seeker. With a few exceptions the advise Dice give are not for your average middle age IT worker who has worked for a large company for a larger number years and suddenly find themselves unemployed. Much of the advise give is for a narrow ban of people who probably don’t need it. The people who need solid advise are the middle age people have been told that if you keep your skill set up in your field you will never be unemployed. I think Dice job advise should focus on the masses employed the fortunate few.