Job security or career progression.... can we have them both?
“How can I improve my job security?” was a regular question from 2-3 years ago. We are pleased to say that conversations have now turned more positively to “how can I maximise my career progression?” Are the two compatible? If we gained 3 years’ experience in 3 different industry sectors we would have spread our risks and consequently, arguably, have greater job security compared to if we had progressed our career and gained 9 years experience in one sector. Which is better? We know that as you are promoted you typically climb a pyramid with fewer job opportunities. We have also observed a trend where some are promoted to a point where their pay is disproportional to their output and an employer can achieve 90% of the output for perhaps 70% of the salary. We can probably all accept that having a core technical skill makes you more employable compared to a potentially vulnerable leadership role so does “success” in work decrease your job security? How do we manage our career choices to balance career progression with future job security?
Job security is often solely linked to the stability of our current employer but it is far better to consider job security as the demand for your services in the market. In other words how employable are you as opposed to how likely are you to be made redundant? We can’t always control our employer's stability but we can ensure we build our careers in keeping with the market demand for our services.
A wise person once told me that the first step to solving a problem is to see things from the other persons perspective. We are very lucky at CTC as employers regularly share their real thinking on who they let go, who they keep doing the same thing and who they progress. The equation below is so obvious in describing your employment position but how often do we apply it to ourselves?
Your net worth & potential
(output & efficiency, billability, contribution internally & externally, future benefit: business development, leadership, technical specialist)
Your net cost & risk
(salary, cost of training & recruitment, negative contribution internally & externally, others time, technical errors, leaving organisation & associated costs)
Broadly speaking how much more is your total current and future contribution compared to your total cost? Ask yourself whether you are a positive influence on your peers? Clearly this is open to some interpretation, chatting about last night episode of the Bachelor or discussing the Crows latest disappointment could be seen as both a positive and a negative contribution and hence why we talk about cultural fit. People’s “contribution” will vary from company to company and in an ideal world, we will succeed more in an environment that suits our personality. Understanding this equation and how it applies to you will help you understand the trade-off between career progression and job security. For example when you ask for that next pay rise ask yourself whether you really are contributing an extra years worth of experience or are you just repeating the same role again? If the latter, your pay rise is merely increasing your net cost. Clearly you need to stick at roles for a measured period or else the “jumping jobs” will create a perception of increased cost (personality trait) and risk (leaving); but you do also need to regularly ask yourselves whether you are continually building your net worth in the market. People probably need at least 3 years per employer and at least 5 years experience in a role (eg civil highways as opposed to civil land development) to facilitate a return to that same role should circumstances require. This will vary from industry to industry but it is a useful guide. If you take a new role which takes you away from your core skills beware. Yes, you need to take calculated risks in your career but ensure that the risks you take are the ones you want to take not what someone else wants you to take. The clearer you can be on what lifestyle and career you are working towards the easier it is to have control over the best career options. Time and again we see the brightest talents promoted and promoted to a point where they are in a role they no longer want, or worse still they fall off the cliff as their skills can be obtained at a cheaper price. Every 2-3 years we should all stop and think. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What is important to me? What energises and de-energises me? How do I define success? What am I working towards? The more we understand about the lifestyle we want the easier it is to take control of our careers.
Whilst it is of course hard to apply generalist methodologies to a broad audience some common themes are relevant across all industries:
- The more senior you get the more your net worth will be determined by the extent and influence you have with your network.
- Be careful of moving away from your core skill too early, once you are in a “management” world it can be easier to replace you.
- Don’t wait to be given a title before you show true leadership.
- Manage your manager.
- Reach out to career and life mentors.
- Believe in yourself, most “successful” people are constantly operating outside their comfort zone.
Every day on the way to work ask yourself whether you are being the person you want to be and always remember that a positive attitude and a bright smile (no matter how you feel inside) will always improve your net worth and potential.