Position for the Right Kind of Security

As another academic year begins for college students across the country (including beginning of the fall semester at my university this week), my thoughts are focused in two directions. One direction is to be expected- the here and now- meeting classes for the first time and orienting students to the courses they will be studying this semester. At the same time, I am looking in another direction: Forward. The here and now is important, but that is not why students are pursuing a college degree. They are laying the foundation for their future. It is my responsibility to not only impart subject matter expertise, but I must guide and mentor students to transition from being marketing students to marketing professionals. My task to complete the latter was clarified recently in a blog post by executive career consultant Richard Kirby.

Strive for Positive Security
The career model that my generation subscribed to when in college was to strive to land a job at a large corporation, move up the ladder, and stay there indefinitely. In the past 15 years, this model has imploded through downsizing, increased appeal of working for start-ups, and negative connotations attached to being "corporate." As Richard Kirby says, job security, or the idea of finding long term employment with one organization, has been fading in America for several years. Kirby suggests that this trend calls for workers to rethink the approach to their careers, shifting from "job security" to "employment security." I could not agree more. While the notion of security has appeal to virtually all of us, job security can be perceived negatively. "Maintaining status quo," "avoiding risk," and "path of least resistance" could be associations people hold with staying put at a single employer. The inference is that if we crave job security, we could miss out on growth opportunities.

What is Employment Security?
In contrast to job security, employment security does not define success as being able to keep a job at the same employer. In today's environment in which professionals may be contractors, "free agents" moving from one project to another, expecting to work long term for the same employer can be unrealistic. Thus, the mindset and skill set of workers must adapt to the fact that we may not work at the same company forever, but the value we offer is so great that we will be working for someone... if not ourselves. Richard Kirby identifies two skills in particular that are vital in the age of employment security: 1) commitment to build industry and professional knowledge and 2) self-marketing and self-selling skills. No one else is going to give these to us, not even employers that still invest in employee training and development.

In today's "free agent nation," workers should be loyal to their personal brands first and foremost. I am not suggesting forget about loyalty to employer, but blind loyalty can be hazardous to one's career trajectory. When employment security is the positioning basis for your personal brand, job security is more likely to be an option if desired. But, when winds of change lead to the end of one job, a personal brand built on marketable skills and communicated to the marketplace will serve you well to provide the security that is a fundamental motivation in our lives.