Q: I have had to change jobs three times in as many years, and not completely by choice. In this time, I have been passed over for promotion, had my position eliminated and, most recently, replaced while on (unpaid) paternity leave. I was, by the accounts of coworkers, supervisors and clients, more than competent at all three of these positions. Yet, I was still viewed as expendable.
I’m wondering if this lack of employee loyalty is a byproduct of the current economic situation, or is this a new trend that will continue? And what should workers under 35, such as myself, do in the short and longer term under these conditions?
A: I’m not sure it will help you, but you are not alone in feeling you have no job security.
A study conducted for financial services firm Edward Jones found that 38% of Americans rank unemployment as their biggest concern, topping the list for both men and women. In fact, according to the survey, people worried about their job security more than the economic downturn, stock market performance, healthcare costs and saving for retirement.
Fear of unemployment was also higher among Blacks, with 55% of African Americans more concerned about job security compared with 37% for whites and 31% for Hispanics.
It used to be that certain jobs carried almost lifetime employment, and people felt if they were good at their job, they could have job security.
But alas, times change. Employers began to employ the strategy of quickly trimming their payrolls to get a boost in their stock prices. Now they are cutting jobs to simply stay afloat.
My grandmother, Big Mama, worked for the same employer for 25 years and was never late, even one day, during that time. In fact, after working eight years for one newspaper, when I got an offer to work for The Washington Post, she was outraged that I was going to take the job. She believed in loyalty to your employer. Like many workers, I chose to pursue the better opportunity.
Employees are quick to switch jobs if a better offer comes along. Many people feel loyalty to a company is a sucker’s bet.
So what can you do to hold onto your job?
In some cases, there isn’t anything you can do. The unemployed face a miserable March, with employment expectations plunging in the manufacturing sector and weak in the service sector, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The economy is bad, and companies are trimming their workforce, firing good and bad employees.
But here’s what you can control:
- Have an attitude of gratitude. Seriously, when my supervisor asks me to do something, I don’t grouse. I do it, if I can, because frankly I’m grateful to have a job. When employers are looking to cut, they may search around for the complainers or those who fuss about every added job. The fact is a lot of people will have to double up on their duties because of a leaner staff. I’m not saying be a doormat. But don’t be the person in the office who’s always complaining.
- Show your employer how valuable you are to the company. Speak up about your triumphs.
- Work with your supervisor to create realistic goals and then show that you’ve met those goals. The key is to make sure you are doing the job your boss wants you to do and values. And don’t wait for your year-end evaluation to ask for a checkup of how you are doing.
- Create allies in the company. Don’t just hang around your peer co-workers. Find higher-ups to mentor you and who may defend your service or work if layoffs are coming.
- Don’t just do the minimum required. Look for opportunities to show you can do more than asked.
Finally, prepare for the worst, expect the best. In this economy, with unemployment still rising, put aside as much money as you can in the event you are still laid off, even after being a stellar employee.