This is a guest post by Steve Prentice
One of the biggest fears that people live with day-to-day is of losing their job. We have good reason to fear this. Our job pays the bills. It’s what essentially keeps us alive and, for many of us, it’s a big part of our identity.
If you were to lose that job, what then? Such a question sends shivers down spines. It keeps people awake at 3:00 a.m., and worst of all it keeps us paralyzed from doing anything else.
One major problem that arises when having a full-time job is that our expenses tend to grow with our incomes. As we start to make more money, we start to “need” more and better things, and access to better credit makes it even easier to spend beyond what our income can support. This puts us into our own personal debtors’ prison, as now we have to continue to keep making money to support the lifestyle that we’ve grow accustomed to.
Because of this, work takes even higher priority than before. Soon the pleasure of the paycheck must battle the fear of losing that same paycheck, which makes us willing to do more to stay in the good graces of the boss — returning emails after hours, saying yes to back-to-back meetings, traveling and staying late in order to get even more done. It’s a hamster-wheel scenario that is seemingly impossible to jump off from.
Gainful employment is great. Being afraid of losing it is not. But fear can always be managed through facts. We feel fear first and most profoundly because it always speaks to our most instinctive self — the one whose priority is to keep us alive. Facts and logic are always racing to catch up. But when they do, they make a perfect antidote.
Whatever you fear in life, make it your mission to know what you need to know to conquer it.
In the case of fearing the loss of your job, the response is to get the facts about what else is out there. Explore your alternatives. In this new era, the decade of the 2020s, this situation is better than it’s ever been before.
But you need time for this. When your workday is filled 100 percent with moment-by-moment tasks, you resemble a bird scurrying around on the ground with its head down too busy to fly. You rob yourself of the ability to get a birds-eye view of the world.
So how do you say, “So what?” to the job loss fear? By ensuring you carve out some time every day to do three things:
1. Learn more about your professional skills.
Invest time each day to microlearning. Ten minutes a day on a finely tuned Twitter feed, for example, will teach you something new about your profession and industry, or maybe the one you want to go to next.
2. Learn more about the marketplace outside.
Read about other companies out there — who is hiring, who needs consulting help, where you could go to offer your microlearning-enhanced skills. Not all jobs appear under a “help wanted” ad. Many simply materialize based on the quality of a great pitch. If you can do something that helps a company fare better, the company will create the position.
3. Learn more about the people around you.
Commit time each day to networking, staying in touch with the people you meet, and communicating with them on LinkedIn and on industry-specific Twitter meetups or webinars. Get to know people. Ask how you can help them. These are the people who become referral targets — a quick temporary contract that leads to a project that leads to getting hired.
In business dealings the greatest leverage comes from when you know you can walk away from the table. It also feels great. Make no mistake: your relationship with your current employer is a business deal. They did not altruistically give you a job; you are selling your skills to your company who will in turn profit from them. Somehow, though, when compensation is called a salary, this relationship gets blurred.
Hopefully, you’re happy in your current job. Life is too short to not be happy with something that devours so much of your time. Maybe you’ll choose to never leave. But it feels much better knowing that you can because you’ve invested the time to weave your own career safety net.
Here’s a tip (a microlearning moment): The next time you watch a courtroom drama on TV, remember that trial lawyers never ask a question to which they don’t already know the answer. There’s a good lesson there. Knowing more about your future and the industry you work in makes it much more likely to make that future unfold the way you want — and allow you to live every day of your working life without career fear.
About the guest post author:
Steve Prentice is an expert in the relationship between humans and technology in the workplace. He is the author of books on time management, stress management, and career management. His new book is The Future of Workplace Fear: How Human Reflex Stands in the Way of Digital Transformation. Learn more at steveprentice.com.