Job Security: One Pillar at a Time
Job security is hard to come by these days. In an age where our culture has come to the conclusion that no job is 100% safe, I believe that there are still four ‘pillar’s’ that lead to more job security. If you go into work on a daily basis with the looming fear that you might be the next one to go, you may want to consider looking for a job that has at least one of these four things going for it. One pillar, on its own, may not be enough to guarantee security.
Find a job with two pillars, even better. Find a job with three? Better yet. Find a job with all four? There’s no such thing as an ‘untouchable’ or ‘recession proof‘ job, but yours may be as close to it as possible. At the same time, you can bet that those with more pillars are making more money than those with fewer.
What are these ‘pillars of job security’ that I speak of? Let’s take a look. If you’re looking to change careers, use this mental framework when pondering which career direction you want to head in if you want more job stability. And if you know someone who is just entering college or the workforce and is unsure about what they want to do, please send along!
Jobs that truly require you to physically be present on-site can, at the very least, protect you from outsourcing overseas. It’s not just hard, it’s absolutely impossible to outsource a fireman, electrician, realtor, or chef job to a mother of 5 in the Philippines. For now, at least.
However, locale alone, will not guarantee job security for you. The biggest threats to this pillar are actually two of the other pillars that we’ll go in to. If you are working in a factory and could easily be replaced by someone for half of your wages, you probably will be (unless you have a very specialized skill set that takes years to train, or you’re a member of a union). That’s where developing a scarce skill set can play to your benefit.
Additionally, if a particular economic trend is working against you and your job niche becomes obsolete, it’s going to be tough to keep your job, despite locale.
The key is not only to find a job that you are physically needed in-person for, but that also can stand the test of time and requires significant training.
Communication, in respect to job security, is more than just speaking the language. How many phone centers have been shipped overseas? Many ‘speak the language’, but those who are very good communicators can develop scarcity. When the communication itself is key to the business activity – i.e. a sales pitch to executives, lead an organization, communicating with a board of directors, responding gracefully to public scrutiny, speaking in front of a large crowd at a conference – then you have job security.
The level of communication skills needed to succeed at these levels is very high and hard to replace. At the same time, there is a huge pool of talent in the mid-tier just below these high-performing communicators, marketing and sales representatives for example, that are easily replaceable in that you can train just about anyone with a college or even high school education to fill that role. If you sell to American consumers proactively, your job may not be shipped overseas, but when companies are in trouble, they don’t get rid of top-notch communicators, they get rid of the mid-tier. I have seen this happen in multiple jobs.
3. Scarce Skill Set
Job security can also be gained by those who have a very difficult to attain skill-set. In other words, it takes years, maybe even decades of training and on-the-job experience to reach the level of competence and performance that these workers have reached in their jobs. These are the people that we refer to as ‘the pros’. Here are some examples:
- Doctors, Dentists, Surgeons & Other High-Level Medical Professionals: Years of intense education and practice.
- Top-Notch Auto Mechanic: There are auto mechanics, and there are AUTO MECHANICS – the guys who you wouldn’t relocate because they wouldn’t move shop also.
- Other High-Skill Blue Collar: Electricians, plumbers, machinists, heavy machinery operators.
- Army Generals: You have to be tough and last decades in a very demanding environment (and not get on the President’s bad side). Rare example, but you get the point.
- Elite White Collar: When CEO’s get fired, they make more than I will in my lifetime. And they quickly pick up their next gig. Whether these guys/gals are worth the paycheck is up for debate, and by our armchairs we all think we could do better, but I don’t envy the responsibility and work it takes to get to that level, and very few reach that level.
- Premium Craft: If you’ve reached an elite level in a challenging artistic craft – acting, musician, artist – you work when you want to work and there will always be a demand for your work.
These are just some examples, but the bottom line here is that it would take much more money to pull in someone off the street and train them to perform at the levels that these pros perform at – and even then there is no guarantee that person would be able to reach it. It takes a unique combination of education, dedication, experience, and will to reach these levels of performance. I’d argue that this is the quintessential pillar of the four. If you have it, you can almost guarantee your job security, despite a lack of the other three pillars. It’s also the hardest pillar to achieve, and most of us don’t.
4. Trends & Economic Forces
There are certain market trends and economic forces that all but guarantee you can get employed and boost your income in that niche. Here are some examples that come to mind:
- Nursing: With the baby-boomer generation aging, there is a need for more nurses than are available in the market. This is one example of a micro-economic trend that trumps any macro-economic circumstances. In fact, there is an entire industry around travel nursing to fill nursing jobs where demand can not be met. These nurses typically receive greatly increased wages, free housing, tax benefits, and even food allowances. That’s a trend at work! Recently my wife decided to pursue a nursing career.
- Construction: If it were not for large-scale infrastructure projects through the economic stimulus package, what would our nation’s unemployment rate be at right now?
- Good Economic Times: We aren’t in them right now, but when the economy is zooming along and everyone is happy and profitable, very few business are cutting jobs. This is a macroeconomic trend that we haven’t seen in a while, but they do happen.
On the flip-side, you don’t want to be on the other end of economic force and trend. Here are some examples to illustrate:
- Anyone in the Print Industry: With a shift to online media intake vs. print, ad dollars have followed. This has caused print publications to lay-off staff or close shop altogether.
- Teaching: There is trend towards shutting down schools and consolidating school-districts at the moment. Because of this, teaching is not a great niche to be in at the moment. I’ve heard examples of a number of people who got a teaching degree and are now working minimum wage somewhere because they could not find a job anywhere.
- Call Center: If you’re in a call center, I’m willing to bet that a little bit of concern about the stability of your job has crossed your mind in recent years with the trend being to ship those jobs overseas.
Job Security Discussion:
- Are there any other pillars that lead to job security that I may have missed?
- What professions do you think have the strongest/weakest job security?
A lot of this I had not thought about in this way, but when you do, it is very intuitive and paints a clear picture. I noticed that you didn’t include ‘performance’ on here as a key pillar, and I am wondering why? Great post! Everyone entering college or thinking of changing careers would be wise to think of their prospects in this way.
Communication plus third semester calculus (both salesman and engineer) isn’t bad.