Job Security: A Career Killer?

Last Updated Sep 7, 2010 6:43 AM EDT

Statistics show that the idea of long-term job security is pretty much dead. Forget jobs for life, Baby Boomers have had on average more than 10 jobs each according int the BLS and for younger generations the trend towards job hopping looks set to accelerate.

Of course, not everyone thinks this is a terrible development (some have even celebrated the passing of the traditional idea of trading loyalty for security at work), but the fading of this ideal can have negative consequences for those who still cling to the concept. A post on blog Cube Rules by Scot Herrick argues that chasing job security can be deadly for your career. He lays out three reasons the concept is over-rated:

  • Job security forces you to make poor career choices -- The employer makes decisions based on meeting the business goals. You adapt. The more you want security, the more adapting you do and at some point you start making poor choices for your career. It could be taking on a project your skills don't match up to well because you are told that it will help your performance review. Or helping a coworker instead of doing your own work because you want that coworker to want you on the team and missing your own work deadlines.
  • Job security will compromise your values -- I remember being with a group of former coworkers and -- almost universally -- the feeling was they hated their job. They were doing stuff they didn't like to do and were doing work they thought was not matching up to who they were as people. Yet, every one of them said--"It's a paycheck." And that's true, of course, and having a paycheck in these turbulent times is no small thing. I get that. There is a cost to the job security and staying in a place because there is a paycheck, though. You compromise your values and pretty soon you start to compromise your life. After a couple of years, will you recognize the person you have become?
  • Job security will hurt your performance -- This is a little counter-intuitive, but true. When your focus is on security, you do stuff you really don't like working on. Internally, you fight against working on stuff you don't like working on; it is natural to do so. Consequently, you procrastinate, you don't examine your work as carefully as you would doing stuff you love, and your results are simply not as good.
So what does Herrick suggest you focus on instead? Employee security. He explains,
What we need to do is stop focusing so much on what the employer is doing and start focusing on what we are doing with our work. We want to make our work attractive to multiple employers so that we are more easily employed than others. It means you concentrate on making yourself more employable, have standards for what you want your corporate experience to be, and be perfectly willing to leave a poor situation by looking for another job.
How much time do you spend worrying about job security? Could that time be better spent?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user ToOb, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.