How do you survive (and thrive) in an age of no job security?
The answer lies in you.
The most pervasive work myth of the late twentieth century was this:
Get a safe job in corporate America at the highest salary you can get. Show up on time. Do not make waves. Follow your boss’s instructions.
If you do all these things the “right” way (as defined by your company’s culture), then you get your 2-3% raise each year and a new job title and responsibilities every couple years. If you are lucky, you get to retire with a fat pension or 401k at age sixty-five.
It’s a nice idea on paper. Except that it is completely and utterly false. And it always has been.
It’s just that the new transformations in the economy are exposing this myth for what it is.
There’s No Job Security With the Fortune 500
The Fortune 500 is supposed to be a list of the most representative companies in the United States economy. These are the headliners, the best of the best, the blue chip companies.
Do you know how many Fortune 500 companies today were in the Fortune 500 in 1995?
That’s right, more than half of the Fortune 500 disappeared from the list in a mere eighteen years.
If you were an employee of any of the disappeared 280 companies in 1995, you likely had to change your job, got laid off, or got acquired by another company (and then got laid off).
Remember, we’re talking about the Ivy Leagues of companies to work for here. This isn’t the mom-and-pop segment of the economy. These are the companies your parents, professors, and guidance counselors would have pushed you to work for.
We are living in the age of disruption. Remember that Google, Amazon, and Facebook only became the hot places to work in the last decade or so. The rate of turnover of the Fortune 500 will only increase.
Given all that, the “bigger is better” corporations can’t give you security, as much as they try to woo you with health insurance, benefits, and a steady dose of psychologically manipulative paychecks.
Your only security is you in the agile economy of the twenty-first century.
Why you should be future-oriented
Chances are you’re stuck in an organization or industry that is backwards-looking.
Whether for-profit or nonprofit, what your organization makes or does is probably in a field with dozens of competitors who do and make roughly the same things.
For a long time in the middle of the twentieth century, this approach to commerce worked. The consumer did not feel terribly loyal to any one brand. Companies won by outspending each other on advertising or slashing prices. Nothing distinguished one commodity from the other.
I should not have to convince you that the future will not look like this.
These conservative organizations targeting average consumers with decent tactics but questionable strategy will be exposed by the glut of agile companies coming down the pike.
Agile companies will be run by digital natives who seek to differentiate themselves among the crowd by offering something unique.
Instead of trying to please the masses, the agile organizations of the twenty-first century will create and market to niches.
The environmentalists, the hobbyists, the geeks, the single moms, and the location independent.
Standing out from the crowd will be the most important decision any company, product, or service can make in the future.
If your organization or your company is not future-oriented, you better be yourself. Otherwise, your organization’s middle-of-the-road strategies will leave you jobless in the very near future like those 280 companies that fell off the Fortune 500 list in less than two decades.
But then again, maybe that is the wake-up call you need to start living your life intentionally.
Your Only Security is You
Everyone needs to start seeing themselves as entrepreneurs immediately.
Your product? You, of course.
As I talk to my friends, family, and colleagues, I see that many are interested in the ideas of agile lifestyle design, but are not convinced that they need to pursue any other avenues besides their steady drip of biweekly paychecks.
Why should everyone want an additional stream of income, typically from an internet business, if things are looking good in their day job?
1. Wages and salaries are stagnating.
Inflation continues to push the cost of essentials like gas and groceries upward. The cost of healthcare and education are far outpacing inflation. Yet wages in real dollars have been the same since 1980. We are having to swallow pay freezes while shouldering more work. Remember that you need to be getting 3-4% raises every year just to keep pace with inflation.
2. No one is getting promoted.
People are beginning to realize that there are a finite number of management positions in corporate America. Not every one can be making the big bucks. Only 10% of law firm associates make partner. The CEO is making 380 times the average employee. Just because they are tweaking your title and responsibilities every two or three years does not mean you are actually advancing anywhere.
3. We are getting busier.
Corporations are squeezing every last drop of productivity out of every worker. Fifty hour weeks are now the norm, and for many professions the expectation is more like sixty or seventy hours a week. Workers are complying for fear of losing their jobs. That means if you do not do the same, expect to be meeting with your manager or human resources very soon.
4. Job security is a myth.
A globalized work force is allowing corporations to outsource work overseas to cheaper labor countries. The blue collar work has already left American shores. Low-level white collar work (accounting, routine contracts, administrative assistants) are next.
5. Industries are vulnerable to disruption.
I hope you are not a book publisher or working for cable television right now, because technologies like the Kindle and Netflix are nipping at your heels. Your entire industry may be extinct in five years.
In the face of all this, the question is not whether you should want additional income flows in your life. It is how to start working on them immediately.
An unfortunate number of people have been fooled by the security of biweekly paychecks. When the layoffs, pay freezes, and downsizing come, they are all caught off guard. Even though this cycle repeats over and over in the economy.
No Job Security, No Problem
Agile lifestyle design is the recognition that your only security is you.
Treat yourself and your expertise as a business. You are a contract employee whether you like it or not, so treat your time as invaluably as an outside consultant doing your same job would. Consultants do not rely on one client to make them money. Neither should you rely on one employer for your entire livelihood. To do so is asking for financial annihilation.
Thankfully, the future is bright for the entrepreneurial-minded. The Internet Age is making it easier and cheaper to try your business startup ideas on the side. While you may not be ready to completely cut yourself off from the corporate teat, you can start to make extra money in side ventures with little more than a laptop.
How much would $100 a month help you achieve financial freedom? How about $1000? It is possible and many online entrepreneurs are doing it.
It takes an investment in yourself. But it is the most important step you can take towards securing your future in a world with no job security.
Image by soukup.