For most of us, hearing these words would be our worst nightmare. That’s why we work hard to perform well at our jobs, be good colleagues, and help our companies meet their business objectives. However, while being fired is usually associated with having somehow failed or done something wrong, there are also a number of other causes that can cost you your job.
First, recessions trigger layoffs. Between the start of the Great Recession in 2007 and early 2010, 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs—and according to the Chart Book: The Legacy of the Great Recession by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the unemployment rate was almost as high as after World War II. While most people don’t experience more than one or two recessions in their lifetime, economic downturn can easily throw a monkey wrench at your career.
Second, while technological advancements create jobs, they can also reduce the number of available positions for specific occupations. Just think about how digital publishing has affected the world of printing or how online shopping on platforms like Amazon and eBay has impacted the retail industry.
And third, if you fail to keep up with the changing context of your job, you’ll inevitably render yourself unemployable. The Kelly® ebook “Do it yourself career resilience: A guide for employers” states that job cycles have shrunk to between five and seven years. This means that the context of a specific job, as well as the required skills and knowledge, change after five to seven years—or even faster. Look at marketing, for example. A decade years ago, email newsletters were an important aspect of any marketing campaign. Due to advancements in technology, as well as how people get their information and make purchasing decisions, social media marketing—using visual assets such as photos, illustrations, and videos—has become much more important.
It’s clear that ensuring career longevity isn’t simply a matter of showing up and doing your best every day. And while you can’t do anything about a recession, you can absolutely prepare for technological advancements and changing job contexts to ensure your knowledge and skills not only remain relevant, but are actually in demand.
The single most important thing to keep in mind is that you have to be informed about developments in your industry and profession on an ongoing basis. This will allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of the changing context of your professional world so you know what knowledge, as well as what technical and soft skills you need to acquire. Make a point of reading trade literature, attending professional events, and studying what industry leaders are doing in order to get the best possible information.
It’s also critical to be willing to change your expectations regarding employment if necessary. With the rise of the gig economy, employers will increasingly be looking to engage top talent on a project-by-project basis instead of with a regular employment contract. If you’re a highly skilled professional, you might want to or even have to consider working as a free agent in order to land interesting work that allows you to advance your career.
Develop your personal brand. Regardless of your age or field of expertise, how you present yourself and how you work with others is key to career longevity. You need to be enthusiastic regarding change and innovation. You should also clearly demonstrate that you have the technical proficiency to keep up with advancing technology and the mental agility to adapt to a changing world and work environment. Finally, you should also consistently work on building and maintaining your network. The more people you know, the more career opportunities you can create.
Don’t let technological advancements and innovation intimidate you. And whatever disruption does come along, remember: your career longevity is always at its best when you remain both nimble and up-to-date in your professional skills, as well as your creative thinking.
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