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Talent Talk: The Illusion of Security — What to Know, What to Do

The era of long-term employment with one company has been over for a while, although we still like to hold on to the belief. For a tiny fraction of people it works, but not for most.

Much has been written about our perceived need for security. If you consider it, though, you quickly realize it is a self-deception. Hellen Keller famously said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.” If you have ever lost anything that you believed brought you security — a parent, marriage, house, or job — you have experienced the shattering of that illusion.

In our professional lives we see companies being acquired, merging, consolidating, closing and relocating facilities, or simply going out of business, especially in the COVID-19 economy. Are you thinking that doesn’t apply to the really great companies? Here is a short list of “really great” companies that laid off a lot of workers in 2020 — Tesla, GE, Boeing, IBM, Chevron, AT&T, and Walgreens.

The era of long-term employment with one company has been over for a while, although we still like to hold on to the belief. And for a tiny fraction of people it works, but not for most. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? A debate perhaps best held over a beer, but the important thing is that it is the reality, so better to move on to what it means and what to do about it:

  • You need to understand how to find a new job, preferably before you need one but definitely when you do need one. Always be networking, especially when times are good.
  • Look at long-term employment as neither good nor bad. It can be great but can also hurt you in a job search, as employers will see you as only knowing one set of systems and processes.
  • Focus on accomplishments, not longevity. If a company hired you to solve a problem, and you did that in two years and moved on, that is fine.
  • Make sure to keep your education and skills up to date. That’s your responsibility, not your company’s.
  • Do look for diversity of experience, whether it’s within your long-time employer or a new opportunity. If the company has a new project and is looking for volunteers, raise your hand.

About the author

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at paul@klaindustries.com.

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