Career Security: It means not having to settle

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It?s not a big surprise that most workers today worry about job security much more than they did in previous years. Every month it seems another company announces plans to cut jobs. Eastman Kodak Co. and Hewlett-Packard are among the most recent: Eastman Kodak announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs and Hewlett-Packard will lay off 14,500 workers, or nearly 10 percent of its staff, over the next 18 months. Some workplace experts expect the job losses to continue. ?The pace of job cutting in the second half of 2005 is expected to stay ahead of last year, as employers continue to close facilities and consolidate in order to achieve maximum efficiency,? says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer for outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

With job security on the decline, it is important for people to be vigilant about career security, says David Madison, director of the National Guild of Five O?Clock Club career coaches. The Five O?Clock Club is a career coaching and outplacement service based in New York. ?It used to be the employers who were concerned about hiring people who would stay put for years, but now candidates are eager to find the companies that won?t shuffle them out of a job in two or three years,? says Madison.

People know that job security has almost become a fiction, he says. ?Who is surprised when the next merger, corporate takeover, relocation or outsourcing is announced followed by headlines about how many jobs will be eliminated?? Madison asks.

Career security, he says, means being able to keep your career goals on track even if your next job lasts two years instead of 10, even if you?re out of a job suddenly when your company is sold, or even if your new boss turns out to be toxic and blocks your advancement. In other words, it?s important to have strategies to help navigate the unforeseen. It also means minimizing the time you spend in the job market or reducing your ?in-between-jobs? status during a 20- to 25-year period, he says. If you can put things together in such a way that periods of employment are brief, you?re more likely not to be diverted from your goals. Long periods of unemployment often prompt job hunters to settle for jobs that are off-strategy.

Career security means not having to settle. Madison suggests the following ways to make career security, not just job security, a top priority:

u Nurture the network. In the process of your job hunt you?ve told at least a few dozen people about your skills and accomplishments. These are people to maintain relationships with forever, and some of them could play a key role in helping you stay on track years from now.

u Get out of the office. Take a starring role in your professional organization. Attending meetings can give a boost to networking. Volunteering for projects and committees can be part of your career security strategy because it will help others in your industry see your value and the quality of your work.

u Be the expert you are. Build your reputation by public speaking. Present yourself as an expert in your field to enhance your reputation as a specialist and an expert. This will help you develop a wide network of professionals in your field. Also build your reputation by writing for publications such as newsletters, bulletins and digests.