It’s been coined the “Great Apprehension”—the concept that a majority of U.S. workers are terrified of losing their jobs. Not surprisingly, with inflation, recession fears and mass layoffs, job security is on everyone’s minds these days. According to a national survey by Insight Global, nearly 80% of employees expressed fear over losing their jobs, with almost a quarter of American workers indicating they are extremely worried about job loss. In addition, in a recent survey conducted by ProfessionalResumeWriters.com, worry about job security increased by 49%, with those early in their careers experiencing an increase of 91% over last year.
The anxiety surrounding perceived job insecurity can lead to a decline in employee mental health and physical well-being. Over time, the prolonged stress eventually results in burnout. But while a lack of job security can be damaging to employees, it’s also detrimental to the organization. Survey results published in Harvard Business Review confirmed that “when workers are worried about losing their jobs, their performance doesn’t improve, they break more rules, and they focus on selling themselves, often to the detriment of their teams and their organizations.”
Given the current economic outlook, job security isn’t something we can count on. Fortunately, there are ways to make yourself a more valuable employee. Here are some things you can do to feel more confident and secure in your current role.
Commit to lifelong learning
Learning new skills at work keeps you engaged, confident and motivated. Technology is always changing, and by staying ahead of the curve, you make yourself indispensable. One way to do this is to teach yourself a new coding language or seek a professional certification. Stay on top of industry trends by reading blogs, watching videos and listening to podcasts. And don’t forget to take advantage of company-sponsored training opportunities. It’s also a good idea to engage with professional organizations. In doing so, you’ll show your commitment to the industry while growing your network. By conveying your willingness to learn, you’ll more easily advance your career.
Volunteer for visible assignments
Another way to increase job security is to look for opportunities to sign up for high-profile projects. Invest in assignments that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership and commitment. For example, let’s say you are interested in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), but it’s not part of your current responsibilities. Work with your manager to find ways to get involved in a DEI project sponsored by senior management so you can put those skills to use. These initiatives also allow you to work cross-functionally, which will increase your visibility at work.
Focus on soft skills
With companies shifting to hybrid or remote work models, soft skills like leadership, adaptability and collaboration have become just as important as technical knowledge. While most people are hired for their hard skills, their soft skills give them “career durability,” says Alexandra Levit, author of Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future. Levit defines that term as the ability to acquire the knowledge and mindset needed to be an engaged and productive employee. To improve your soft skills at work, be open to constructive criticism. Take the opportunity to practice effective communication, whether face to-face, through email or by delivering a team presentation. By asking your manager for responsibilities outside your comfort zone, you’ll demonstrate flexibility, adaptability and a willingness to advance.
Work on your personal brand
Having a strong personal brand gives you job security and leverage. It involves intentionally positioning and promoting yourself in a creative way that makes you stand out from the pack. Branding yourself is essential in today’s world, where careers are fluid and increasingly non-linear. While you might have several jobs over the course of your lifetime, your personal brand is something you have control over. Not only does it make you a more desirable employee, but it can also help you land on your feet if you need to change jobs. It’s also a great way to build a following and later branch out into other areas of interest like book writing or public speaking.
Given that job security is a thing of the past, taking control of your career is more critical than ever. In the end, it is about becoming invaluable to your employer. Take these steps, and you’ll benefit in two ways—securing your current role and making it easier to land your next gig.