Disclaimer: This article comes from a place of love—tough love. It is inspired by lessons I learned from my grandfather and the rocky road of our current employment landscape.
My grandfather is one of the biggest influences in my life. He is a car salesman, and he is naturally great at influencing and connecting with people. He has continued to be one of the most in-demand car salesmen in my hometown. I have never witnessed him fear termination from any employer, so I have taken notes over the years.
One of the biggest lessons he taught me in relation to my work and career: “Become such an asset to your company that it would really hurt for you to leave.” This is not a revolutionary concept, but many people don't go into their jobs with this mentality. Ask yourself: Could anyone come in here and do my job as well as me with a little training?
“Become such an asset to your company that it would really hurt for you to leave.”
Almost every day, I hear about layoffs. I see it in the news. I work with clients who have been laid off. And I have seen it in my own organizations.
From the recent graduates who just started their jobs to the veteran employees with only a few years from retirement, it seems that nobody is safe. However, I have found several things in common between those who are often laid off and those who aren’t.
TOUGH LOVE WARNING ⚠️: For those professionals who are a little bit older or dealing with difficult personal lives, you cannot get comfortable! Older professionals are getting laid off more often now because hungry, young professionals are ready to grind and take their place. They are usually much cheaper too. This is especially important for older professionals because it can be very difficult for you to find meaningful, decent-paying work with only a few years until retirement. It can also pose challenges for those with families and stressful lives at home. Losing a job in the midst of an already stressful life can be detrimental. I empathize, but money does not. Employers don’t have the time to constantly motivate unproductive and tired employees.
WHEW! That was a lot of negativity, but that’s just the world we live in. I don’t see that changing anytime soon either.
So, are you getting too comfortable? Let’s get to the list. Some of you probably skipped to it anyways. :)
- You haven’t taken on a new project in a while. Everyone has ideas, but not everyone takes the time and energy to execute them. If you see a constant problem within your organization that you can improve, go for it! Conduct a cost/benefit analysis, seek out resources, develop a plan to solve the problem, and present it to your supervisor. Be sure to track, document, and assess your progress with data. This is something you can keep in your back pocket in case questions about your employ-ability become a concern. You can help your company and be selfish at the same time. You have to protect yourself!
- You often find yourself at work wasting time on distractions. It can be very easy to wander on social media or internet sites, especially if you work at a computer. If you are bored, it means you aren’t doing enough or, even worse, your job is not that necessary. Even if there is no work to be done, try finding a good book/article or online course related to your work. Learning is work too! If you work at a large company try venturing out to build new connections with colleagues. You never know what it could lead to or when you might need a favor.
- You haven’t taken on any new skills. This one is notably dangerous. Not taking on opportunities for professional development is a death sentence for your career, especially if you find yourself unemployed. You can’t expect to be marketable in the workplace today without knowledge of certain new skills, especially those related to technology. Do you know how to use social media for anything other than posting pictures of your pets and political rants? Could you make a flyer if you were asked? This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but employers are struggling to find talent with relevant skills. That’s how you will continue to stand out from the competition.
- You find yourself saying, “We have always done it this way.” This is the kryptonite to innovation and positive change. One of the hardest things to do in the workplace is start from scratch on a process or system that you have grown accustomed to and actually enjoy. It can be even more difficult if it was your initiative. However, sometimes you have to “kill your darlings.” Tell yourself that they were great while they lasted, but now it’s time for something new. Remain open-minded to ideas, even the ones that may sound a little crazy at first. Just because you prefer something, does not mean it is good for the business anymore.
- You haven’t brushed up on your job searching skills. This is not optional. You never know what can happen. Sometimes, even the best employees get laid off. You always need to be ready to pivot. Do you know what an ATS is and how it works? Are you attending networking events or actively engaging on LinkedIn? Do you know how to do well in a virtual interview? One of the biggest problems I see with job seekers is that employers have kept up with the times and job seekers have not. That old objective statement and regurgitated job descriptions resume format is for the birds. It’s dead. Your cover letter is all about you. It needs to be about the employer and appealing to their needs. You log into LinkedIn once a month (or not at all), congratulate people on their work anniversaries, and log off. This is often the case with most of the people I work with. I hate to be this blunt, but this is your wake up call.
If any of these sound like you, it’s time to step it up. This is that fire under your butt! While it is understandable that these things require a lot of energy and often go unappreciated, doing nothing is likely to get you on that layoffs list.