Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different organizations. With only two stints as a staff employee, most of my experience was gained as a contract employee. I have worked at Fortune 500 companies, mid-sized businesses and small start-ups. I’ve had the privilege to work with, learn from and be a mentor to a variety of other professionals along the way. Each company had its unique culture, and the employees were a big part of that culture: good and bad. As a contract employee, I’ve been able to detach myself emotionally from a lot of B.S. and observe what was going around me very objectively.
For most of my professional career I’ve tried to be a sponge by watching, learning and applying what I’ve learned. Today, I find myself in a peculiar position of being a mentor to my kids, especially my eldest daughter, Kailey. Lately, it seems that I’ve been sharing a lot of my personal thoughts and views on work, life and happiness because she has recently embarked on her professional career. As a parent, you want the best for your kids. My goal for my kids is not perfection, rather to just do things better than the previous generation and pass that same mantra on to their kids. It is my hope that over time, Great-Great-Great Grandpa Vezeau might have known a thing or two. I’ll be smiling down from above.
As I’ve started to share these things, I’ve also been sharing certain areas of advice that I’ve given my daughter with friends and coworkers. The more I discuss it and hear their feedback, the more I feel validated by the legitimacy of these views and how I could potentially be “spot-on.” I am sharing these things here because I think it might be of interest to others outside of the family.
I do not claim to be the Czar of Professional Career Development, but these are the things that my experience in life have taught me….for what that is worth. I hope you enjoy them.
Here’s the first….
Tip #1 – You, my dear, are not entitled to anything!
One of the most important things that I have come to realize over the course of my career is that “job security” is an absolute utter myth. I do not care if you are self-employed, work for the government or large company, are a proud card-holding union member or whatever. Business is business. The natural laws of supply and demand drive much of business. Much like the law of physics, you can only influence – not control – the laws of supply and demand. There are natural cycles in every business. Nothing is guaranteed…especially your job.
When a company is forced to cut costs in a down-cycle, it cut costs whatever way it can. Cost cutting measures usually involve staff reductions among other things. I’ve had my position “eliminated” working as a staff employee. Not because of performance, but because of budget constraints, the perceived value in the type of work I was doing and a willingness of three executive directors to agree on sharing the cost of my position. It took three to agree, and that didn’t happen. Consequently, the reality is that most organizations do an extremely poor job of cutting out the dead wood when times are good. So, job eliminations are often amplified when times get tough. Often, many good people lose their jobs due to the cost overruns created by poor performers.
As a contract employee, your job is temporary by nature. You are not viewed as a long-term asset to the company. Ironically, I’ve seen more job security in a contract position than I have as a staff employee. As a contractor, I’ve witnessed teary-eyed staff employees walk out the front door like a zombie: they were in complete disbelief that they had just lost their job. Meanwhile, me and the other contractors are heads-down in our work spaces working away trying not to get attention drawn to the fact that we still held a job.
In a self-employed capacity, I’ve learned that you must earn the respect of your clients. They simply owe you nothing. Work is never a guarantee. And even when you do legitimately earn the business of your clients, sometimes you don’t get paid for your work. I’ve had a client go bankrupt on me, resulting in a write-off of lost income. Not fun. The truth is that – in a free market – your clients have complete freedom to choose with whom they wish to do business. Supply and demand.
So, my advice to you is to avoid getting caught up in “job security” at a particular company – even if that company is your own. Instead, focus on the quality of your work. View your position as temporary in a larger career: just one chapter. Value the work you do and be good at it. Your current position may end up accounting for only 1%, or it could end up accounting for 99% of your overall career. Either way, do not take your current position for granted. And if you ever lose your job, don’t be blind-sided by it. Don’t be a victim. Hold your head up tall, close that chapter of your life and move on to the next one with more confidence and experience gained.