The first time I lost a job, I was writing for a ball bearing magazine. Yeah, a magazine about ball bearings. It turns out people in the ball bearing scene have no sense of humour. They don’t appreciate jokes comparing the objects of their obsession and certain male parts. It was a learning experience (getting fired, not writing about balls). Since then, I’ve built a list of ways to maximize my job security:
There are seven main sources of job security. In no particular order, these are:
- Not messing around on the net
- Being nosy
- Knowing when to be loud
- Not Whining About Job Description
- Understanding your corporate culture
- Being honest
- Being a SME
With the current economic crises, job prospects are looking bleaker than a North Korean coal mine. But live by this list and you’ll be more of a fixture than the conference room furniture.
1. Not Messing Around on the Net
Don’t mess around on any company workstation. Most companies, especially large corporations, do keep track of your activities and e-mails. Even if they’re not diligent about it, they will be when they need to do a review, or when something goes wrong.
While some companies don’t mind the occasional look at Reddit or MoneySmart, don’t spend more than 10 minutes there. And most websites are now polite enough to attach “not safe for work” (NSFW) tags to images and videos. How about you don’t open them? Or at least use your tablet.
2. Being Nosy
Make it a point to learn what your colleagues are up to. This is invaluable when in meetings. For example, if you drop a line like this:
“I think we should prioritize project Mickey Mouse first, because I know Helen is busy with project AutoHang.”
It sends a message that you’re alert and a team player. And if you have the time, do ask your colleagues if you can help with anything. This is an opportunity for you to learn a bit about their job. It sets the stage for you to slowly take over projects. And while it may mean more work, more work means more security.
3. Knowing When to be Loud
Saw something in a magazine that can help your business? Have a great idea? Accomplished something significant?
Well open your mouth and say it. You want to show that you’re a valuable part of the team, not some pointless drone that needs your buttons pushed. And while you shouldn’t brag, you can make a polite mention of your achievements. For example:
“I’m really glad I finished Project AutoHang this week, that’ll give us time to work out the bugs.”
Sometimes, bosses lose track of who’s doing what.
4. Not Whining About Job Description
If you get told to do something “not in your job description”, think before complaining.
You could say it’s not what you were hired for, and maybe you’ll get away with not doing it. It’s easy to draw that line. But just remember: when the opportunity comes for overseas training, a pay raise, or a promotion, you’ll be remembered as the un-cooperative one. A single “no” can be remembered for years.
And when retrenchment time comes around, you may as well tattoo a bullseye on your forehead.
5. Understanding Your Corporate Culture
In MoneySmart, I can crack jokes about ball bearings (see first paragraph), whereas in that other company I was all but fired for it.
Or so I hope. If my name no longer appears from today, then I’ve misunderstood the corporate culture.
If you work for a company that has a strict dress code, then the most risqué joke you make had better be ordering white wine with your steak at company dinners. But if you work in a more relaxed environment, there’s no need to strut around like an English aristocrat who’s just had an enema. Whatever your school counsellor may have told you, individualism is not always appropriate. Learn to adapt.
When it’s time to downsize, remember that “she just doesn’t fit in” is a perfectly valid reason.
6. Be Honest
Missing deadlines or going over budget is bad for your job security. But you know what’s worse?
Trying to lie about it.
If your boss is already an alarming shade of purple, the last thing you want is to make her even angrier. Just admit when you’ve made a mistake, and propose your solution. Mention your reasons (the real reasons), and never fabricate an excuse.
And if you have an MC, you’d better not bump into your boss while having dinner at the mall. Especially watch what you post on Facebook that day.
7. Being a SME
A subject matter expert (SME) is always the ideal position to be in. Whether you’re looking for a job, or your job provides such an opportunity, fight for it.
A SME is often the sole person qualified to do something. Without a graphic artist, for example, most websites would look like someone was using Microsoft Paint after a five bar binge. But the guy who screws nuts onto bolts at the assembly line? Well his job may not be easier, but there’s a whole line of people who can replace him.
Bosses are loathe to pull the trigger on SMEs, because their loss can stall a project for months. In order to be one, engage in continual development. Keep learning new things, and invest money in your own education.
Keep to these 7 guidelines, and the fear of being fired will be a thing of the past. And even if the company folds, you’ll quickly become indispensable in your next job.
Are you worried about job security? Comment and let us know!
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