Unsurprisingly, individuals crave career stability—especially with economic uncertainty and a higher cost of living dominating the headlines. One group, Gen-Z, is especially concerned about job security. In a survey by Handshake, a recruiting platform, members of Gen-Z were asked about their employment priorities. It turns out that 85% of 2023 grads said job stability would make them more likely to apply for a position. Yet stability doesn’t usually rank at the top of the list for zoomers. Historically, pay and brand names would take precedence over job security. But today, the circumstances are different.
Gen-Z first had to endure a global pandemic, which wreaked havoc on their entire college experience. Then now, just as they cross the finish line with cap and gown in hand, companies globally decide to slash tens of thousands of jobs. But is career stability still overrated? Many Millennials think so. Those who felt they may have missed out on opportunities in their twenties engaged on TikTok to share their views with the Gen Z audience. Many Millennials feel they missed opportunities because they played it safe early in their career.
How many people do you know whose company loyalty was rewarded with a sudden termination email or phone call? While that’s only one example, there are additional reasons that career stability may be overrated in today’s world.
You can’t count on career stability
Only a few weeks into the new year, we see companies like Google, YouTube and Wayfair laying off chunks of their workforce. And given the recent Sports Illustrated announcement, terminations aren’t limited to tech or retail companies. Yet, layoffs have been around for over thirty years. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the term “downsizing” became popular. That was also when movies like Wall Street professed “greed is good,” and Newsweek published its famous (or some would say infamous) “Corporate Killers” cover story in 1996. Around this timeframe, mutual loyalty between company and employee all but disappeared, and job or career stability became a faint memory.
Non-linear careers are becoming the norm
Years ago, it was common to stay at the same company and climb the corporate ladder for 30 years or more until you retired (sometimes with a pension and a gold watch). Now that employee engagement and loyalty are waning, non-linear careers are the future. Also, individuals are living and working longer. If you intend to work into your 70s, you’re unlikely to want to stay in the same job for that long—not to mention that values and priorities change over time. Plus, with a rapidly evolving workplace and skills-based hiring taking center stage, companies want flexible workers who can adapt quickly. This confluence of circumstances gives nontraditional candidates an edge over the competition.
Calculated risks can lead to greater rewards
In the stock market, increased volatility can lead to greater profits. The same can be said for embracing risk in your professional career. By stepping outside your comfort zone, you can open yourself up to personal growth and new professional opportunities. In fact, the current job market tends to reward more mobile workers. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Wage Growth Tracker has followed this phenomenon since 1998. Almost consistently for the past 25 years, job switchers have higher wage growth than people who stay in the same role. Over time, changing jobs can increase an individual’s lifetime income significantly.
Soft skills like adaptability are in demand
Soft skills (I prefer the term “power skills”) like empathy, communication, creative thinking and resilience are no longer optional. While technical skills are essential, soft skills improve productivity and retention and make candidates more marketable. They are necessary to go from being a manager to a leader. And given that AI tools can’t replicate essential soft skills like empathy or critical thinking, they are growing in demand. So, in the future, it’s no longer simply what you get done but also how you go about it that sets you apart.
Ultimately, change is the only constant in life. Layoffs, reorgs and hiring freezes are here for the foreseeable future. To create career security, invest in yourself. That means managing your personal brand, committing to lifelong learning and developing your network. You are the CEO of your career. Once you take control of your destiny, you’ll feel empowered enough to accomplish even the most challenging goals.
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