We’d all like to be the sort of “untouchable” workers that Tom Friedman described in his bestseller, The World Is Flat.
We’d be indispensable to employers because we’re so adaptable and steeped in cutting-edge knowledge. But even if such an exalted status does exist, it’s not so easy to reach it. Or stay there. Technology is changing the workplace day-by-day. Many professional jobs that once seemed like they couldn’t be automated or outsourced have been, despite the brains, agility and skill of the people who once did them.
“’Absolutely secure’ jobs can disappear. That can happen in any industry,” says Julian Stubbs, author of e-ployment, which looks at how cloud-based technologies are changing the workplace.
But even if you can’t make yourself indispensable, you can make yourself less vulnerable to rapid changes in the employment market.
4 Strategies to Stay Employed
Think skill security, not job security. There’s no bucket list of skills every professional needs to stay valuable, so do your own on-the-ground research, every day at your current job. “Think very carefully about what skills companies are going to require,” Stubbs advises. Don’t overlook the skills you’ll need if you end up launching your own business someday. Creative types, for instance, might learn some valuable strategies by observing their colleagues in sales. “Become a one-man band, a mini-CEO,” Stubbs suggests.
Think internationally. With developing economies growing faster than developed ones, Stubbs advises, “you’ve got to have the ability to think and work globally. That’s safer.” If you’re not in a role where you travel internationally, step up for meetings where you have a chance to connect with distant clients and colleagues by Skype and broaden your network. As more American companies realize that distant markets are where the growth is, you’ll be more valuable if you understand how to do business there.
Glance up from your desk. More companies are looking for employees who are a cultural fit, and therefore turning to current employees to recruit new hires. Stubbs is co-founder of a global advertising agency, Up There Everywhere, and says most of his employees have come from referrals. “Ninety-nine percent of the people we’ve recruited were recommended by someone on the inside,” notes Stubbs. Your future job opportunities likely depend on your current colleagues—so make time to grab lunch or coffee with them, no matter how buried with work you are. And keep in touch with key colleagues from previous jobs.
Develop multiple income streams. Don’t get caught by surprise if your primary employment blows up overnight. Stubbs gets most of his income from his agency, but he’s developed several other revenue streams, including lecturing and writing. It’s a smart idea to devote some time to a sideline business that you can ramp up quickly if you do lose your job. And having a sidegig can also help you develop new skills and expand your network–making you a little less replaceable.