Career Resources and Coaching for Smart Women

Your Career Safety Net Is A Myth: It’s Time To Change Your Thinking

If you’re staying in your current job or career because you think that’s the safe move, you just might be doing the least safe thing for your career.

Job security is a thing of the past. Downsizing, economic woes — rumor has it you should be glad you have a job. Right? (Right?) It seems craziness to leave a perfectly good biweekly paycheck unless another one were already lined up.

Yet, though we know standard job security is less safe than ever, we still cling to that equally crazy myth of the career safety net —  even though it may be hurting the very safety we crave.

What does the safety net look like today?

“I was terrified of moving from a stable industry where I had a decade of experience, to a new field, despite an amazing opportunity to expand my horizons.  Moving from the public sector to the telecom industry in 2007 seemed crazy at the onset of the recession, and I almost didn’t make the jump.  But I did, and ended up in a great place that has helped redefine my career.”

-Suhaib Abdali, 38, Oakland, CA

The safety net for many of us these days is not the lure of an employer pension or 401K. It’s the idea that we should stay in a job (or our career field) because otherwise, we will end up on the street.

It’s thinking that your skills and expertise are only good in one career field or area, and that as long as you stay in that field, you will be okay.

It’s the belief that our current fields are stable, and that moving away from the devil you know to the devil you don’t is a completely unnerving thought.

It’s having seniority in your current job and worrying that everything you’ve built in will vanish if you decide to make  a change.

Why is the safety net so seductive?

“The lure of the safety net keeps you complacent. I was caught in the cycle of complacency and comfort. It was completely terrifying to leave a high stress job for something that would make me happy because I really didn’t know how things were going to pan out.”

-Aliza Stein McDill, 31, Mobile Alabama

For many of us, the safety net is so seductive because it IS what we know.  We operate in our day-to-day work from a place of competence and comfort.  We know the job, we know the industry, we know the players, and we know exactly what is expected.

We also know how much we will get paid, and what our opportunities for growth will be moving forward.

So, we often focus in on the money and the benefits, things like the golden handcuffs or the flexible work hours or great healthcare package.  Because these things are at least stable, we feel assume that we are safe.

It’s hard to pull away from what we know and focus in on the unknown.  Especially if you feel like your strengths, talents, or skills that you know are only valued in your current industry.

But things have been changing, and are continuing to change. With technology improving so quickly, new ideas and industries springing up all the time, and companies starting, growing, downsizing and re-starting as the new normal, employing a strategy of relying on the same skill set or set of experiences is becoming out-dated.  Having a thirst for learning, the ability to adapt, make changes, and grow, and some good transferrable skills may be your best bet to stay relevant and in the game.

Enter Career Adventure

Having diverse skills, being able to adapt and grow, AND translate your skills into new areas is an effective approach to always being in demand (and creating a new safety net).  One of the best ways to do this is to take your career on an adventure.  Try new things, take a different job, ask for new responsibilities that are outside of your comfort zone.  Or even take a bigger risk and change industries or start your own business.

Have a job in sales but your company is downsizing? It’s great that you diversified by taking classes in accounting or shadowing the customer service division.  Worried that your customer service job is going away? Good thing you’ve been buddying up to the social media and marketing team, and learning about the next great way to find engaged customers.  You can transfer over, find a new job in that area, or start something on your own!

The point here is that skills you learn by stretching yourself, from a new program skills or expertise, to handling new situations and new people are all incredibly invaluable. The experiences you have, the information you gain, and the level of comfort you have with change and growth only serves you well. Most importantly, the myth of the safety net that is keeping you stuck could be exactly what is holding you back from career happiness.

“Once I got rid of my safety net, my career began to soar. It’s hard to leap when you’ve got one foot stuck in cement”

   -Erika Napoletano, 41 yrs old, Chicago Illinois

Here’s where you start

Start your career adventure off in your current organization.  What new skills or experiences do you think would benefit your overall career?  What task could you push yourself to tackle as a good first step?  Spend a few minutes with yourself and a sheet of paper and make a list.  Brainstorm, free write, or verbally throw up on paper.  What comes up for you?

Don’t know where to start? Begin by talking to people in other realms of your company.  Finance, sales, graphics, whatever floats your boat! Get an understanding of their work and see if any of it might make sense for you to try, or if it sparks an idea for you, even if unrelated to where the conversation began.

Next up, talk to friends, family and your greater network and see what ideas you get or connections you make.  What opportunities are out there for you? Spend some time investigating, and when a job offer or interesting suggestion comes your way and you find yourself turning it down, ask yourself: “Am I saying no to this because I’m playing it safe?” (Note: chances are, you may be!).

And this important: nothing is certain but death and taxes.  So, rest-assured that whatever next step you take with your career is just the next step, not the end of the story.

Are you ready? Your career is waiting. Saddle up!

If you don’t know where to begin and want some help finding your passion – sign yourself up for this fun and free workbook right here.  It’s more fun than death and taxes, but less fun than ice cream for dinner :).