The idea of job stability first hit me hard a few years ago, when I was on my way to a live speaking engagement in Washington, D.C. (back in the day when we did such things. We will again, I know! )
While in my cab from the airport, I got a text from the hotel I’d be staying at that night.
The text welcomed me, told me the check-in time, and invited me to ask other questions.
It was signed “Luis.”
When I arrived at the front desk an hour later, I met a smiling Hugo, who was behind the counter ready to check me in. I told Hugo that I appreciated Luis’ text, and to please tell him thanks for me.
His eyes went wide—just for a second. He glanced side-to-side to see who might be listening. And then, he leaned over the counter and whispered:
“Luis isn’t real.”
He quietly explained that this national hotel chain and most of their competitors use an automated text service programed to respond to the most basic of requests, such as “wi-fi password,” “checkout,” or “toothbrush.” The more complex requests kick to a staff member.
I probably should have known that. But it all seemed so . . . human.
“But,” he said, “you can text me directly during your stay if you like. I’d like to make sure Luis doesn’t take my job.”
Then he gave me his number (and not in a creepy way.)
Job stability? Yes, Hugo’s worried.
Because the robots aren’t coming–they’re here.
They may not look like R2D2 or Optimus Prime or even the Jetson’s Rosie.
In fact, you likely won’t see them at all.
But right now, you need to open your eyes and see them coming. No matter what your industry or profession, they’re coming.
And, unless you’re paying attention to your life at work like Hugo is, Luis and his magic texts (or your job’s equivalent) might eventually make you a commodity: replaceable, downsizable, outsourcable.
How do you create your own job stability when the world keeps moving forward?
Here’s the most honest, loving answer I can give you: you can’t.
But don’t despair. Because “stability” should never be your goal.
Stability is a myth.
Desiring it is only our brain’s way of protecting us.
Our brain is biologically built to send messages of warning and to want to keep us safe–even when we’re ready for expansion and growth. It’s what keeps us playing small and hiding when we should be soaring.
We have to constantly fight–and win–the battle of the brain if we want to continue to grow and not be left behind. (For more on the science behind the battle of the brain, read or listen to my article here.)
Your already know that your job’s not stable. Because even if you’ve been in the same role for the past five years, there’s been something about your job–and/or YOU–has already changed, like:
- Who you work with: customers, clients, colleagues, vendors, and other teams physically based both in and outside of your office.
- Where you work: at home, in a co-working space, on the road, at a client or vendor’s location, or even (gasp!) in a traditional office.
- What tools you use: systems, processes, technology; whether in the cloud or in your pocket.
- When you do what you do: faster, across time zones, seven days a week.
When you look at it that way, can you accept that nothing’s stayed the same, even long before the pandemic that shook up the world? There really hasn’t been job stability after all-—and yes, you’re still standing.
But now’s not the time to rest.
I’ve listed three actions here you can take today. They’ll increase the odds that you’ll always be in demand tomorrow.
Three Actions to Accelerate Your Job Stability
1. Redefine “Your Job”
What is a job, anyway?
Is it really just a set of work defined by an employer?
Let’s not kid ourselves. If you wrote down the work you do all day, would it look anything like your published job description, assuming you have one?
My bet is that there may be one or two generic lines in your job description that kinda sorta maybe match what you do all day. If at all.
So why not define your own job?
Take a hard look at what you really do, and who you really are at work.
- What problems do you solve?
- Where do you make things simpler?
- What happens for the better when you do what you do?
- Where do you make a difference? For whom?
- What would happen if you’re not there?
Stop thinking about yourself with a label or language of the company you work for. Start thinking –and talking–about yourself based on the results you create and the need you fill.
Struggling to redefine your job? Try creating your who & do what statement.
This isn’t an elevator speech. It’s a format to help you think differently about what exactly you do, for who, and what the bigger thing is that you help make happen.
Just fill in the blanks:
I ________________[ACTION I take in my superpower space]
________________ [with/for PEOPLE/PROCESS/THINGS] so that
______________________[BIGGER RESULT YOU HELP MAKE HAPPEN].
Here’s a before & after example from a recent workshop I taught:
A bot might be able to serve as a “communication manager,” trafficking various pieces of information here and there. But could a bot lead a strategy that made a difference for all those team members? Bring it on–I’ll bet on the human every time.
The best jobs are not dependent on any one company or business. They depend on your unique insights, gifts and talents– and how you’re bringing your superpowers to work.
2. Expand Your Universe
Great opportunities will never fall from your living room ceiling.
(Unless maybe you’re a roofer.)
And they aren’t popping out from behind your keyboard, either, no matter how much googling and searching you do. (Read my article here on job search traps.)
Your next opportunity to solve a problem–and create job stability– will be created by people.
So the work here is simple. Meet more people.
And even easier and more powerful: seek to help the ones you know.
You already know how to do this. It’s built-in standard equipment for you as a human. You were created to have relationships, interact with people, and not go it alone.
The word “networking” sucks for something that’s so vital to our lives and careers. So stop thinking about it as networking and start thinking about it as expanding your universe–getting to know more people out there in our world that you can help, inspire, or just be human with, too.
3. Invest in yourself
You can’t control whether there’ll be an advancement that changes your life at work. In fact, you oughta expect it.
But what you can control is you. Everything you say, think, and do.
So do something good for you.
Attend an online conference and actively participate. Volunteer for your professional association. Talk to a coach to help you strengthen a skill, map out a tough conversation, or to get honest about what you really want to do next.
Over time, our careers become a part of what we’re known for in our life. They’re important and valuable not only to our financial health, but to our sense of meaning and self-esteem. Why wouldn’t you invest in that?
But most of us haven’t invested significantly in ourselves since college.
The path to job stability tomorrow is to invest in yourself today.
Right now, if you’re concerned about job stability, you’ve got two choices.
- Worry and be afraid, or
- Get honest about the future, and take control of your life at work.
So will you fear Luis or become Hugo? Which will you decide?
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