Living With a Lack of Job Security

Coping With Job Uncertainty

The days of the "job for life" are pretty much over. Not many people currently aged under 50 will go through their working lives with only one employer, or even just two or three.

Continuous, secure employment with one organization is increasingly difficult to find, particularly if you're new to the job market.

In fact, people entering the workforce since the global recession of 2008 may have more than 10 different jobs before they retire, and will likely have more than one at the same time.

Many factors threaten job security: globalization, outsourcing, downsizing, recession, and new technology, to name a few.

Increasingly, we live in a "gig economy" in which people are accustomed to working two or more jobs at the same time, or sharing their expertise with a range of organizations. And the COVID-19 pandemic has created an even greater sense of job insecurity for many people around the world.

How you respond to uncertainty is within your power!

Most of us will face a lack of job security at one time or another. In this article, we explore how you can deal with this uncertainty, and keep stress at bay.

Stay Positive

First, learn how to handle the psychological pressure and stress of living with constant insecurity. Research suggests that living with job insecurity – the fear of losing your job – can be more harmful to your health than actually losing it. But staying positive can make all the difference.

Not everyone reacts the same way to job insecurity. Your home life, your willingness to adapt to change, and your financial situation are different from those of your colleagues, so don't expect to feel or react like they do: they'll manage stress in their own way.

If you're stressed about your career, remember the saying, "Whenever one door closes, another one opens." Living in uncertain times can be uncomfortable, but you can control how you respond to it.

Stress can result from a feeling that you don't have control over your situation. For example, many people fear that the advance of new technology mean that their jobs will simply disappear.

But remember: it's your life, and it's within your power to change it. If you're afraid that you might get "downsized," then take control and act. Look for lateral transfers within your company, to a different department or even a different branch. Start learning about other departments; perhaps your skills would allow you to do something completely different within the organization. Be proactive instead of reactive.

Keep an eye out for opportunities with other organizations in your industry, too. It does no harm to know what's available, and it's not disloyal to make contingency plans for possible shifts in your career.

If you're part of a team (or if you're leading a team), allow everyone to voice their fears. Communicating and expressing frustrations are important, but don't let these fears dominate the group. This can create negativity and hurt morale. So, have an open discussion, but focus on what you can all do to move forward.

Show Your Value

If you face uncertainty in your field, make sure you give value to your company. When times are tough you'll have to do more than "just the minimum."

Be willing to stay late to finish a project. Help another team member who's falling behind. Do things to show your boss that you'll do what it takes to help the company succeed. This kind of commitment can help to set you apart from the crowd.

However, it can also be abused by unscrupulous managers. Make sure you set strong personal boundaries, and don't be afraid to assert yourself.

Stay Current

Keeping your skills current is essential if you want to offer value, either to your current organization or to a range of possible clients. Make sure you're up to date on your industry's certifications and trends, using professional websites and social media outlets, so that you know what's going on in your field. Our article, 9 Ways to Future Proof Your Career, has more on this.

Also, think about learning new skills that would benefit your role in any company. Skills such as effective time management, leadership techniques, and personal organization can help you anywhere – no matter what job you're doing.

If you have marketable skills, then you have a lot to offer other potential employers if you get laid off. So keep your skills relevant and up-to-date. Your current organization may invest in your development, but if you want to broaden your skill set to appeal to a range of other employers, learn new skills in your own time as well.

In today's job market, the technical skills you need can change quickly. So, develop your interpersonal skills (or "soft" skills), too. If your lack of job security is due to a drop in demand for your technical skills, adopt a different approach. What else can you do – and how can you prove that you could learn a new line of work?


For more information, read our Book Insight on Career Intelligence by Barbara Moses, and browse the Career Skills area of the Mind Tools site.

Market Yourself

Many of us resist talking about our accomplishments because we don't want to boast. But think of it this way: your boss may not know how great you are, or what you're capable of doing, if you don't tell them.

By talking about your achievements, you keep them informed of your value. For more on how to do this without being viewed as arrogant or overconfident, read our article, Getting the Recognition You Deserve.

You can also make sure that potential new employers or clients know what you can do. When you’re updating your LinkedIn profile (see below), make sure you flag up your achievements.

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Keep Your Profile Up-To-Date

This is a smart thing for anyone to do, not just those who are actively seeking work (or are afraid they might be soon).

Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and eye-catching. Use it to show interest in areas of your industry where you could grow your skills and experience. If you can, post news and original content that will interest others in your sector.

The same goes for your résumé. If it’s current, businesslike and engaging, you can be ready at a moment's notice to apply for a new position – even one within your own company. You won't have to rush to make changes (and risk making mistakes), and you can be sure to present yourself in the very best light. If you wait until the last minute, you might forget to mention an important accomplishment that could make all the difference to your chances of success.

Save Your Money

Few things are more stressful than wondering how you'll pay your bills if you suddenly lose your job. This alone can convince people to accept the first job offer they receive, even if it's not the right match.

If possible, aim to save at least three to six months' worth of living expenses – this can help you to take the time you need to find the best opportunity, if you are laid off. It can also give you the resources to look farther afield, if work dries up in your area. See our article on boosting your personal financial well-being for more great tips on how to ease personal money worries.

This can help you turn a bad situation into a chance to reevaluate your career, and to put yourself onto a new, exciting path.

Key Points

For many people, living with job insecurity is the new reality. But that insecurity doesn't have to be stressful and negative. It can offer opportunities for growth and development.

Safeguard your position by "going the extra mile" and demonstrating your worth. And take control by ensuring that your achievements are visible to your organization – and to potential future employers.

Reduce stress by preparing yourself for change. Invest time in keeping your skills up-to-date, and in learning new ones.

And, if you can, save some money, so you don't have to worry about paying your bills straight away if you do lose your job. That way, you can focus on the positive, not on doubt and uncertainty.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (9)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi collinsma,

    A good way to make sure that you are meeting expectations is to have a conversation with your manager or supervisor. By asking the question, "How am I doing?," you will know for certain if you are meeting their expectations. If you do receive constructive feedback ask, "How can I do better?" Asking these questions shows that you are genuinely interested in doing a good job. And with the answers to these questions, your confidence will increase.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago collinsma wrote
    I have been working in a role that was the wrong for me and made mistakes. I am now in a new role within the same company but feel there is a lot of baggage still and I am afraid to make mistakes. Any mistakes I make is scrutinised and now feeling low on confidence which is impacting my performance.
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi Andie2015,

    Sometimes when companies are under pressure to perform, it brings out the worst behavior in managers and between employees. People may resort to "survival of the fittest" behavior, which you are describing in your comment - micromanaging and blaming. This is not good management practice.

    When in situations like this (and I have been through several restructures), it helps to keep in mind that it is the behavior of others that is creating this environment and not you.

    Mind Tools Team
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