I get a lot of questions about job security, as more anxiety stems from economic disruption due to trade wars or technology disruption due to AI (artificial intelligence) and other innovations. In my latest Forbes post, I tackle the AI question and share five strategies to thrive in the AI workplace. But whether it is AI, trade wars, or some other disruption that changes your job, the best job security comes from being more valuable to your company by being there than by leaving.
In a simple example, if your job can be duplicated by a cheaper resource (say, a junior employee or a robot!), then the cost savings make you more valuable to the company by leaving. If your expertise is unique or your contribution is higher than another resource can replace, then you are more valuable by being there. Do you know how valuable you are to your company?
Here is job security checklist: 10 questions that can help you gauge if you are worth more to your company by staying or leaving:
1. Do you contribute to the bottom line?
Does your work directly generate revenue, lower costs, or improve profits? Many roles do not but are still indispensable because they enable others to generate revenue, lower costs, or improve profits. Either directly or indirectly, job security comes from having bottom line impact.
2. Are you productive?
Are you efficient and effective at your job? Efficient means you get your work done on time (or early) and on budget (keeping mind all resources, not just money, but also including other people's time). Effective means your work is of a high quality. Effective workers keep their skills and expertise up to date. Job security comes from productivity.
3. Do you have, support, or adopt ideas?
Creativity is not an innate talent for the select few, but rather a skill you can develop and a philosophy for how you approach work. Be curious about areas outside your own. Stay open-minded to new and different ideas, processes, and styles. Prioritize learning and be flexible enough to do things differently than you may have done in the past. Job security comes, not just from initiating ideas (though this is an excellent habit to cultivate!) but also from supporting or adopting other people's ideas.
4. Do people like working with you?
Likability matters. You do not have to be best friends with all of your colleagues, but we all know people others dread collaborating with, and these people do not get too far. On the flip side, we all know colleagues people love to work with. If they asked you for a favor, you would likely oblige. You want to be that likable colleague. Job security is having a strong and supportive network within your company.
5. Can people rely on you?
We also know colleagues who are nice people but not good at what they do. You do not dread seeing them, but you dread being assigned to a project with them. Maybe they commit to doing something but do not deliver. Maybe they are consistently late with their output. Maybe they make careless mistakes with their numbers or presentations. Review your own work product, and make sure you are not making any of these mistakes. Job security comes from the company relying on you to deliver.
6. Can you work with different people?
Dictionary.com defines diplomacy in part as "the skill in handling people so that there is little or no ill will." Are you diplomatic in your workplace relationships? In addition to being generally likable, you want to cultivate the ability to work with all types of people, management styles, and communication styles, so you can get things done, even when there is no official reporting relationship. Job security comes from having a diverse set of supporters, not just one group of people or type of person.
7. Are you valuable to other companies outside your own?
You might be valuable to your company, but then your company gets acquired, runs itself aground financially, or bets on a strategy that doesn't pay off. Job security comes from having options. Job security comes from building skills that are valuable in the broader market, honing expertise that is relevant for today's market, and knowing how to job search successfully if you do have to make a move.
8. Are you knowledgeable of the broader market?
You might be doing everything right to manage your career for today, but markets change and technology disrupts. It might not be your day-to-day role to stay abreast of the general economy or technology innovation, but these areas impact you whether you follow them or not. Job security comes from vigilance, so that you can get in front of changes before they affect you, and you can take advantage of changes that can benefit you.
9. Are you knowledgeable of your company?
In addition to following broad market news, you want to follow company news. This means you pay attention to company announcements, read the internal newsletter, watch out for press releases, and follow any other news that clues you in on how your company is doing and what, if anything, is changing in the strategy, priorities, or staff organization. Job security is about being relevant to what your company is currently doing—things have changed since you were hired!
10. Do you know yourself?
I have seen talented professionals cling to jobs they do not like or that wreak havoc on their personal life because their sense of self is wrapped up in their title, income, and scope of responsibility. This might make your immediate job secure—you prioritize it so much that you would not easily lose it—but if the job no longer suits you, then that job security comes at a very high price. True job security is being able to land the job you want, nurture your career to fit your professional goals, and live a life that matches your values and priorities.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine coaches executives and entrepreneurs and is a member of the Columbia Career Coaches Network. She is a career columnist for Forbes and wrote for Money.com, Time.com, CNBC, and Portfolio. She is the author of: "Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career" (2015, Forbes), "Six Steps To Job Search Success" (2011, Flat World Knowledge), and "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" (2010, Two Harbors Press). She teaches Professional Development and Negotiation courses at Columbia University and received a grant from the Jones New York Empowerment Fund for her work with the mid-career professional. A classically trained pianist at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, Ceniza-Levine stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy. Contact her here.