“This is a business, not a charity.”
This is a phrase I hear a lot. It is usually spoken by someone who is secure in their own job (or,so they think) about someone who is losing their job. It’s funny how you keep hearing the same phrases repeated by different people throughout your career.
I believe job security is a myth. Recruiters and managers have tried to lure me into permanent positions with the promise of this myth– but I will never be a victim to it again. Never.
I’ve been burned by employers who took advantage of my belief in the secure job myth. I left my last permanent position in 2003- it has been 10 years now. I will never go back. And, despite what people think, it is not about the money. It is purely about independence and freedom.
When you think your job is secure, you stop preparing yourself for the job market. When you are unprepared, the threat of losing your job is terrifying.
It is easy to manipulate someone with fear. Just hint that their job is at risk and you can get them to do any menial task you want them to.
The best way to scare someone is ask them to tell you their exact plans for the uncertain period ahead. You ask questions like “What will you do with no income?” or “Do you think you can find a job that pays the same?” or (and I love this one) “What will your wife say if you lose this job?” Can you really afford to lose this job? Army recruiters use this technique when trying to get you to re-enlist. Employers do this when you act out or rebel.
The job market is a battle. You can plan your actions to a certain extent, but you cannot know what will happen next. All you can do is be prepared.
Think of Bruce Lee walking into a warehouse full of thugs waiting to attack him. Then, imagine someone asking him what moves he will use to defeat them. It can’t be done. He has a loose plan, but not an exact plan. He is prepared for what’s coming but he doesn’t know what’s coming.
To be prepared, you must always be watching the enemy. You must know what skills the job market is looking for. And, you must spend some of your own time (outside of work) getting ready for it.
If only you knew how bad this sounds . . . “I wanted to use that skill at my last place, but they wouldn’t let me.” I hear it all the time. Never let someone else be in charge of your own training.
You also must be ready to let go of a skill you’ve invested years in to learn a new one. If no one is paying for it, there is no reason to keep it.
As a contractor, you are a not part of the company you are working for so people confide in you with things. I remember years ago hearing someone talk about one of his subordinates getting a raise. He called the raise “golden handcuffs”. The meaning was that this employee could not leave the company now because they would not be able to find somewhere that would pay the same. Handcuffs. I am not exaggerating.
Most contractors I know would never go back into permanent employment. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve met a few, but they were swayed by the money and usually spend as much as they make. They have the same panicked look on their face after their contract is not renewed as permanent employees do when they lose their job.
Good contractors are always preparing for being out of work. Unlike permanent employees, they know for certain it will happen. Most of the time, they have a date of when they will be out of work. The difference between them and permanent employees is that they don’t believe the job security myth.