The old advice on how to succeed in life no longer works for everyone. In the past, workers knew they’d always have a job if they showed up and did a decent job. That job provided benefits, offered them some time off each year, gave them yearly raises to keep up with the rising cost of living, and even promoted them from within.
These stable jobs no longer exist.
Job Security a Pipe Dream
Most people carve job security. They’ll sacrifice higher pay and better benefits for peace of mind, knowing they will always have a job.
The desire for job security makes sense on a psychological level. According to Maslow’s hierarchy, security is the second level of our needs pyramid. After our most basic needs (food, shelter, water) are met, our brains seek ways to ensure they stay met.
In today’s world, job security is the best way to ensure you can always cloth, feed, and shelter yourself.
Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to come by.
You Can Lose Your Job in an Instant
The United States has very few worker protections preventing instant job loss. All states except for one have “at-will employment,” which is 1984 double-speak, meaning your boss can fire you anytime for any reason.
You can be fired without notice because you were a minute late, had to call out sick to care for your child, or simply because your boss doesn’t like you.
No warning, no ceremony, just fired without any recourse.
A company can also lay employees off without prior notice. They’re shady about it, too, often waiting until the very last minute to tell people, preventing them from finding stable employment elsewhere.
No policy states they even have to tell you. Some folks find out they’ve been let go when their security badges stop working, or they’re kicked out of Slack.
These companies treat employees like endless cogs in a giant wheel. The people who give their blood, sweat, and tears are nothing but numbers that eat into their profits. The goal isn’t to treat them well; it’s to suck as much work out of them for as little pay as possible.
They’ll scream about loyalty, but know it doesn’t go both ways. These companies want employees loyal to them, but they do not show the same loyalty back to their workers. They’ll fire you instantly if it’s better for their bottom line.
The result for employees is a massive reduction in job security. People are no longer assured of stable employment. No company guarantees you won’t be laid off or fired for no reason. Even companies that seem like they treat employees well are subject to mergers, buyouts, new managers, and the whims of the economy.
And it’s the workers who rely on their paychecks to survive that suffer the most.
What To Do?
Workers aren’t completely powerless, at least not yet. Here’s what they need to do to protect themselves in this new era of job insecurity.
You know a company won’t be loyal to you, so why stay loyal to a company? Keep your eyes open and ears peeled for new opportunities. Switch companies and industries regularly. Look out for yourself first because we all know your boss will do that.
To stay competitive, you must constantly update your skills. Take courses outside your primary line of work to become more well-rounded. Collect certificates and volunteer for tasks and committees that stretch your comfort zone.
It’s vital to focus on in-demand skills of the future that can easily translate to different industries.
You may still face a layoff despite your best efforts to remain competitive and employable. Your best protection is an emergency savings account. Try to save 3-6 months of living expenses so you have a cushion if you lose your job.
Self-employment was too risky for most people who craved the security of a full-time job.
Since full-time jobs no longer offer that security, maybe it’s time to give self-employment a second look. Consider freelancing, consulting, or starting a side hustle that will ensure a little income should you lose your primary job.
Propaganda made you think unions are bad, but they’re the reason we have a forty-hour work week, overtime, and safety requirements. Unions protect workers from companies trying to exploit them. And if you dislike how your union is managed, join the leadership team.
Finally, you must vote for candidates that support unions and worker protections. Stop supporting candidates who favor exploiting workers to enrich the corporate overlords. It will not trickle down to you.
We can change the work culture back to a system that works for everyone, but we need to work together to do it.