Survive the Employment Churn

Things you can do to keep yourself marketable.

If you sometimes feel as if your work life – and everything else – is racing by faster and faster, maybe you’re right. Tight labor markets in many industries and geographic areas are leading employers to hire at a faster pace. And now a prominent Chicago-based outplacement firm has found that companies are firing employees more quickly than ever, too.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas has tracked firings since 1986. Its most recent survey of 3,000 discharged workers reveals a significant shift. In the first quarter of the year, 21 percent of the sample discharged group had been with their employer less than two years. In the first quarter of 1999, by comparison, 13 percent of discharged workers had been with their companies less than two years.

What gives? The firm’s John A. Challenger said the figures – which are the highest percentage of early-job loss since his firm began tracking data – indicate that companies are taking a harder look at their work force to determine which employees most likely will boost productivity.

The truth of the matter is that the ties binding employees to employer are frayed. Both sides have contributed to today’s much shorter time horizon regarding work commitment. The waves of downsizing, right-sizing and corporate reorganizations, accompanied by the abandonment of conventional pensions, have taught employees at all ranks what much of Corporate America really considers them: Disposable Labor Units. If an employer believes you are not doing your job well, or if your job description changes and they feel you are incapable of making the shift, you’re out. Never before have so many workers been given “packages” to get lost.

At the same time, employees have come to see that the fractured employer-employee compact has its upside. If a job really is intolerable, there’s little stigma attached to quitting and getting another. You can temp to find out what a company is like from the inside before making a greater commitment, or work part-time. Crazy bosses now have less power to ruin careers or damage lives. In fact, poorly managed companies face greater competition in the battle for good employees because workers have more choice.

How do you prosper in this short-term environment? Stop thinking of yourself as a DLU (disposable labor unit) and start thinking of yourself as You, Inc. You are in business for yourself and you are its chief product. To make that product the most desirable on the market:

  • Keep your skills and knowledge up to date.
  • Network with others in your field to increase your visibility. Join groups, keep in touch with peers, help others find jobs.
  • Offer to do more at work than what is required. Earn a can-do reputation and you may get ahead at your current employer or find employers coming to you.
  • Be pleasant, friendly and helpful. No one wants to help or promote a grump, no matter how smart.
  • Be there. Show up for work a little earlier. Stay a little later. And don’t call in sick once a month. You’ll be amazed how much that means.

Article – Copyright 2000 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA

Like this? Share it with your network:

I need help with:

Got a Question?

Get personalized expert answers to your business questions – free.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you decide to purchase something using one of our links at no extra cost to you.