Living With a Lack of Job Security

Coping With Uncertainty

Living With a Lack of Job Security - Coping with Uncertainty

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Coping with uncertainty is a skill that can be learned.

Some of the people you know may have only had a few jobs – or even one job – in their lives. If so, and they're not working for the government, they're likely to be older than 50, having grown up at a time where company loyalty and hard work provided a steady career and a comfortable pension.

They might have spent 20 or 30 years with the same company, never making the break to search for something better, and never having a reason to fear layoffs.

These days, however, the world is much different. As a result of globalization, outsourcing, contracting, downsizing, recession and even natural disaster, "job security" can seem like a thing of the past.

People entering the workforce within the past few years may have more than 10 different jobs before they retire. The lack of job security that goes with this is something that almost everyone must face at one time or another, and learning how to cope is essential to being happy, and keeping stress away. So, how do you deal with this uncertainty?

First, learn how to handle the psychological pressure and stress. It's important to realize that not everyone reacts the same way to job insecurity. Your home life, willingness to adapt to change, and financial situation are much different from those of your colleagues, so don't expect yourself to feel or react like they do: they'll manage stress their own way.

Next, be prepared. It's impossible to know what the future will bring, so preparing in advance can help reduce your worries, because you'll know you've done all you can. We'll show you what you can do now to deal with the feeling of a lack of job security.

Coping With Stress

Living with constant insecurity can be stressful. Some studies suggest that living with job insecurity – the "fear" of losing your job – can be more harmful to your health than actually losing it. Here, keeping a positive attitude can make all the difference!

If you're stressed about your career, try some of these tips:

  • Remember the saying "Whenever one door closes, another one opens." Living with uncertainty can be uncomfortable, but you can control how you look at it. It can be an adventure, and the chance to do something new.
  • If you're a good worker with marketable skills, then you have a lot to offer other potential employers if you get laid off. This is why it's so important to keep your skills relevant and up-to-date.
  • In today's job market, the technical skills you need can change quickly. So, develop your nontechnical skills as well. If your lack of job security is due to a drop in demand for your technical skills, think "outside the box." What else can you do – and how can you prove that you could learn a new line of work? Look at your track record of being adaptable, your organizational skills (time management, team management, and leadership), and your people skills. For more information, read our Book Insight on Career Intelligence by Barbara Moses, and use this site to build solid career skills.
  • Stress can result from a feeling that you don't have control over your situation. Remember, you always have control. It's your life, and it's within your power to change it. If you're afraid that you might get "downsized," then take control and act. Look for lateral transfers within your company, to a different department or even a different branch. Start learning about other departments; perhaps your skills would allow you to do something completely different within the organization. Be PROactive instead of REactive.
  • If you're part of a team (or if you're leading a team), allow everyone to voice their fears. Communicating and expressing frustrations are important, but don't let these fears dominate the group. This can create negativity and hurt morale. So, have an open discussion, but focus on what you can all do to move forward and cope.

Prove Your Worth

If you were your boss, and you were forced to eliminate one position, who would you lay off: the person who leaves at 5:01 pm each day and complains all the time, or the person who's willing to take on extra work and always has something positive to say?

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If you face uncertainty in your field, make sure you give value to your company. You'll have to do more than "just the minimum" if you want to keep your job.

Be willing to stay late to finish a project. Help another team member who's falling behind. Do things to show your boss that you love your job and you'll do what it takes to help the company succeed. This kind of commitment can help to set you apart from the crowd.

Stay Current

Keeping your skills current is essential if you want to offer value to your company. Make sure you're up to date on your industry's certifications and trends. Take outside classes and read trade publications, so that you know what's going on in your field.

Also, think about taking classes that would benefit your role in any company. Skills like effective time management, leadership techniques, and office organization can help you anywhere – no matter what job you're doing.

"Brag" About Yourself

Many people resist talking about their accomplishments because they don't want to boast. But think of it this way: your boss may not know how great you are, or what you're capable of doing, if you don't tell her.

By talking about your accomplishments, you keep him or her informed of your value. For more on how to brag about yourself (without being viewed as arrogant or overconfident), read Getting the Recognition You Deserve.

Keep Your Résumé Up-To-Date

This is smart for everyone to do, not just those who are actively looking for work (or afraid they might be soon).

When your résumé is current, you can be ready at a moment's notice to apply for a new position – even one within your own company. You won't have to rush to make changes (and risk making mistakes), and you can be sure to present yourself in the very best light. If you wait until the last minute, you might forget an important accomplishment that could mean winning – or losing – the job.

Save Your Money

Few things are more stressful than wondering how you'll pay your bills if you suddenly lose your job. This alone can convince people to accept the first job offer they receive, even if it's not the right match.

Save at least three to six months of living expenses – this can help you take the time you need to find the best opportunity, if you are laid off. It can also give you the resources you need to look further afield, if work dries up in your area. This can help you turn a bad situation into a chance to reevaluate your career, and put yourself onto a new, exciting path.

Key Points

In today's business world, living with job insecurity is a reality for many. But it doesn't have to be stressful and negative.

Preparing yourself for change is a great way to feel better about the situation. Take control by ensuring that your company knows how great you are, and invest time in keeping your skills up to date. And save some money, so you don't have to worry about paying your bills if you do lose your job.

If you do get laid off, remember that the world is full of opportunities. Changing your mindset can go a long way toward reducing your stress. Look at this change as an adventure and as the chance to try something new. Focus on the positive, not on doubt and uncertainty. Remember, your life is what you make of it!

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (9)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi collinsma,

    A good way to make sure that you are meeting expectations is to have a conversation with your manager or supervisor. By asking the question, "How am I doing?," you will know for certain if you are meeting their expectations. If you do receive constructive feedback ask, "How can I do better?" Asking these questions shows that you are genuinely interested in doing a good job. And with the answers to these questions, your confidence will increase.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago collinsma wrote
    I have been working in a role that was the wrong for me and made mistakes. I am now in a new role within the same company but feel there is a lot of baggage still and I am afraid to make mistakes. Any mistakes I make is scrutinised and now feeling low on confidence which is impacting my performance.
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi Andie2015,

    Sometimes when companies are under pressure to perform, it brings out the worst behavior in managers and between employees. People may resort to "survival of the fittest" behavior, which you are describing in your comment - micromanaging and blaming. This is not good management practice.

    When in situations like this (and I have been through several restructures), it helps to keep in mind that it is the behavior of others that is creating this environment and not you.

    Mind Tools Team
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