In my final year in University, one lecturer advised me that if I want to have a good future in the job market, I should make sure that I am irreplaceable. The thing is, I am not there yet, but to be frank, I do not even think it is possible. In my opinion, everyone is replaceable. What I would tell my younger self is sharpen your skills, but more so, learn more than one skill so that if one doesn’t work out you have something else to fall back on. One may argue that having multiple skills makes you a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Unfortunately, I think we are approaching an era where having just one skill might be a huge risk to your source of livelihood. It is important to have options, even if you never have to put them into use.
Corporate has two types of working people:
Those focused on their ambition and those that seek security (as their dominant focus). At times the two blur depending on what you see in front of you, but broadly this is true.
Then if we cut each of those groups down, there are two subsets of each group; in the security focused group, there is a set that focus on “doing their job” and the other set that focus on doing a “great” job. Equally there is a similar breakdown in the ambitious set; those that create enough value in their roles to progress closer to their goals, and those that think they are.
Within these groups, who is truly secure?
The buzz words of today filter across almost every business I work with; transformation; cost reduction; rationalization; restructure; redundancy; new management; offshoring; outsourcing… The list goes on.
Each form of change brings and upside and a down side, depending on the perspective you hold. For example, some will see the upside being cost saving and efficiency, with the downside being time and funds invested to deliver the change. Others see the upside a little thinner, perhaps taking the experience of observing such a change as “new”, while seeing the downside as potentially losing their job in the end.
Of course, no matter where you are positioned within an organisation, your role will face scrutiny in line with a business’ life-cycle and changing market dynamics impacting the business. At times, your role will be crucial in the eyes of leadership. At other times, the contribution of your role to business performance may be challenged. In any case your value to the business is defined by the performance and output it requires to provide to stakeholders at any given time. As the world around your business changes, so will the requirements of your role. Here lies the illusion of job security.
Your job will change . It will never be the same over a long period of time. As such, you must change over time. To be in control of the change, you can position your career in a secure way, but it is impossible to hold a “secure job” for a long period of time.
When we think about security, it is best to think of “career security” not “job security”, as no job is secure. Career security is best developed by proactively managing four key areas; Clarity, Networks, Influence and High Performance.
Unfortunately, playing a defensive game in your career is fraught with danger. This is not to say you can’t sustain periods where you just “do your job”, but this will not last for long. I can guarantee, your role will change.
This is an era of rapid technological advancement, migration will change the dynamics of the job market whether we close the borders or not. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already causing panic especially amongst those whose task revolve around administration and data processing. However, according to Mckinsey & Company Report 2017, only 5% of current occupations are at the risk of being fully automated, but things might change.
Let’s forget about this technological stuff for a moment; Companies shut down, organizations fail, business owners wake up in the morning and decide that the path they had taken is just not for them anymore and they close their businesses, they certainly have the right to do so.
Businesses exist to make profits first before anything else, we are talking about for-profit companies and organizations. In an ideal world, companies would value their employees and treat them as humans first. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. We have to work with what we have and where we are.
So, Now What?
This is an era of rapid social, political, and technological disruption. To survive it, we have to be adaptable, we have to accept that continuous learning is our new way of living.
The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Putting yourself in the employer’s shoes will help you in making difficult decisions when it comes to sticking to a job versus taking risks and investing in your future.
We cannot control outside forces, but we have the power to influence how we want to make a living when we are still in this world. We can do this by being intentional in where we invest our money, time, and energy. It is important to create options for yourself before disaster strikes. “Options” is the key word here.
"The good thing is that, with all these new changes, new opportunities are arising. An article published by World Economic Forum states that: Ten years ago, jobs like App developers, YouTube content creators, Driverless-car engineers, Drone operators, Uber drivers, Social media managers, Cloud computing specialists, Millennial generational experts did not exist."
Who knows what the next 10 years will bring?
All we can do is learn to be adaptable.
The new norm will be learning, unlearning, and relearning.