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A job is more than just a job.
For some people, work offers a sense of purpose and meaning. We can often tie our identities, our passions, and who we are as people to our work. Beyond a sense of identity, job security matters for many reasons.
For most (if not, all) people, it’s how we provide for ourselves and our families. The paycheck allows us to put food on the table. The monthly deduction from our bank account for rent or mortgage. The ability to cover unforeseen healthcare bills. The funds that allow us to send our kids to tutoring, ballet practice, or piano lessons.
Economic mobility is unlocked when opportunities are available to talented people. When job security is threatened, you’re immediately unstabilized. This can lead to feelings of stress, depression, and a lack of mental fitness.
You can feel like you’re living on a bedrock of anxiety, plates shifting underneath you. Your free time might be swallowed with late-night job searching and resume updates, just in case you need to find something else. You might show up every day with extreme stress and pressure to perform at your best.
Early in my career, I worked as a teacher in a public school system that went through mass layoffs. More than 2,000 teachers were laid off in this particular district, yet somehow I was spared.
Part of me was relieved. But the other part of me felt a sense of survivor’s guilt. I questioned whether or not I deserved to have my job. I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have kids, and I didn’t have anyone to provide for other than just me. Why was I spared?
Our global economy fluctuates. It’s an up-and-down wave weathering politics, recessions, global pandemics, and other crises. It reacts as it should: it tries to protect and salvage whatever might be left to save.
While the economy is strong today, unfortunately, history tells us that the economy is never consistently stable. For us humans, it can cause significant stress around job security and stability.
In a January 2022 survey, 27% of Americans report worrying about job security. That’s still a significant number in an economy that’s just reached a record low unemployment rate amid a global pandemic. Even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports strong numbers, things can (and do) change. And while the unemployment rate is low, frictional unemployment is rising.
So, how do you find job security? What’s the difference between job security and job stability? And if you’re an employer, what are ways you can increase job security for your employees?
What is job security and why is it important?
Feeling like you could lose your job creates a real fear around job insecurity. So, what does it mean to have job security?
What is job security?
Job security is a sense of knowing that your job is safe from being cut. It’s an assurance that you will be able to work in your current employment for the foreseeable future.
Job security comes with a feeling of protection against things like layoffs, economic downfalls, and other factors that could impact employment. Here are five reasons why job security is so important for both employees and employers.
Makes employees feel valued
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that employees feel valued when they feel secure in their jobs. If an employer can create a sense of security, employees feel recognized as humans first, employees second.
Lessened employee stress and anxiety
When there’s a looming fear of job insecurity, your employees’ well-being is likely to take a hit. Job insecurity can significantly impact your employees’ mental well-being and physical health. Job insecurity can lead to prolonged anxiety, anger, and burnout. Those impacts can show up in both physical and mental health manifestations. This includes sleep problems, substance misuse, weight gain, depression, and more.
Increases employee engagement (and less turnover)
A recent study looked at job insecurity and employee engagement. The study found that job insecurity negatively impacts employee engagement. Gallup found some interesting data that backs up this stat. Employees who are insecure about their job are 37% more likely to be disengaged in the workplace.
But when employees feel secure, safe, and valued, employee engagement increases. An engaged workforce has a positive ripple effect. This includes better employee retention, less turnover, and even better overall business performance. And job security plays a key role in how connected employees feel to their organization.
Improves employees’ productivity
The positive ripple effect of job security results in increased employee productivity. Increased employee engagement — along with an exceptional employee experience — leads to more productive employees.
Is job security the same as job stability?
Short answer: not exactly. But here’s why.
Job security vs. job stability
While similar, job security and job stability aren’t the same things. Here’s why.
Job security. Job security essentially means employees feel secure and are unlikely to be fired, laid off, or dismissed. Job security eliminates that risk and fear that a job would simply cease to exist or disappear.
It’s focused on the here and now but it doesn’t necessarily nod to any future growth and development. It’s a reassurance that a job is there waiting for you every morning without the threat of disappearing.
Job stability. Job stability is an evolving beast. Traditionally, especially with earlier generations like baby boomers, stability and consistency was a must-have. Job stability is the duration for which an employee stays with their current job without disruption.
It’s essential for employers to foster a sense of job stability. But these last few years have changed the way the world approaches what we know to be job stability. We have a gig economy. We have workers who want to learn, grow, and be mobile more than ever before. We have employees who aren’t sticking in their same jobs for extended periods of time.
None of this is a bad thing. It can mean people are finding purpose, clarity, and passion in their work. It can also mean people are re-examining what they want to do with their lives and their careers.
And we’re seeing this disruption in what we’ve known to be “stability” in the numbers. Record numbers of employees are leaving their jobs. And the pandemic has challenged more employees than ever to find meaning and purpose in their work.
Perhaps this means that as a global workforce, we’re becoming more and more comfortable with what we may call “instability.” Because this instability and change often lead to growth and development.
But it’s important to differentiate stability from security. Job security is imperative for any organization and almost a non-negotiable for any business. On the other hand, job stability is going through its own evolution. When people change the way they work, it’s disruptive. But is disruption always a bad thing?
8 of the most secure careers right now
When it comes to job security, there are some professions that are more bulletproof to external factors than others. We looked to US News for its analysis and rankings for careers with the best job security.
- Physician’s assistant
- Software developer
- Nurse practitioner
- Speech-language pathologist
- IT manager
- Physical therapy assistant
When is it a good time to accept a less stable job?
This is a tough question. It’s not necessarily one that anyone else can answer for you. Your personal situation is just that: highly personal.
You might be in a financial position where you can take a risk. You might feel like you have some wiggle room to make a leap. You might have to accept that you’ll feel more insecure in your role. But maybe that’s OK.
Or you might be in a position where your ends meet but you need more economic freedom. Perhaps another higher-paying position presents itself. But this new role isn’t secure. What do you do?
Because every situation is personal, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But there is a way to get support.
Consider working with a coach to help evaluate job opportunities. A coach is someone who can listen, assess, and ask questions about your personal situation. They’ll be able to help serve as your career and personal guide. With coaching, you can help come to the right decision that works for you.
3 ways managers can increase employee job security
As a manager, you have an incredible influence on your employees’ experience. Managers can be the “make it or break it” for employees. So, as a manager, how can you help your employees feel secure in their jobs?
1. Encourage learning and development opportunities
Skills are the new currency. As a manager, encourage your employees to stay on their edge with upskilling.
By empowering your employees’ learning journeys, you’re helping to grow their skill set. Should anything like layoffs happen, you’ve hopefully helped to build skills. In doing so, they may be better prepared to weather a tough job market.
2. Be a future-minded leader
One of the key tenants of future-mindedness is preparing for the road ahead. Future-minded leadership is about being prepared for roadblocks and setbacks that may occur along the way. A combination of optimism and pragmatism can help you build the skills necessary.
And in doing so, you’ll see results in your team: increased innovation, performance, resiliency, and agility. Adopting a future-minded mindset is critical to increasing job security. If you can think ahead far enough and be prepared for the unexpected, you might be better positioned to create career paths for your team.
3. Encourage career mobility
Long are the days where employees stay in a position for extended periods of time. We know internal and career mobility is critical for employee growth.
As a manager, encourage career mobility. It might mean you have employees who don’t stay on your specific team for as long as is ideal. But your employees will learn new skill sets and grow in their careers. By doing so, you’re helping to increase their job security — and your businesses’ bottom line will benefit.
3 ways employees can impact their own job security
Job security can feel entirely out of your control.
But in reality, as an employee, you are in the driver seat of your career. And there are things that you do have control over to help impact your own job security.
1. Seek out learning opportunities
Learning new skills can do no harm to your career. In fact, quite the opposite. Consider ways you can create learning pathways in your current role.
For example, you might volunteer for projects out of your comfort zone. Or you might attend a training or class to build a new skill. Whatever the learning opportunity looks like, keep an open mind. You never know how learning opportunities might benefit your career journey.
2. Build and nurture relationships
Social capital and networks play a larger role than you may think in your career. Try expanding your network and building new relationships.
3. Work with a coach
If you’re fearful about job security, it can help to have an outside perspective. A personal guide in the form of a coach can help you build your career roadmap. If you’re worried about what to do next with your career, lean on your coach. If you’re not sure how your skill set transfers, your coach can help you figure out where to go next.
Job security and employee boundaries
We’ve long been conditioned to think that our worth and value are tied to our outer work. How many hours we’re putting into the day. How many meetings we attend. How many projects we manage to get done on a quarterly basis.
You might’ve noticed that “work harder” isn’t one of the ways to improve your job security. There’s a fine line between hard work and burnout — and we know employees everywhere are struggling to draw boundaries. With 55% of employees languishing and burnout rates on the rise, it’s simply just not healthy to work yourself to the bone.
I’ve personally experienced this out of fear of job security. I thought that if I put in enough hours, showed up to work at 6 a.m., churned on projects and lesson plans and everything I needed to “be successful,” I’d be set.
But what I found was rock bottom. My mental health and well-being suffered dramatically. And as one would predict, I burned out fast.
With strong mental fitness, you’re more resilient, creative, innovative, and productive. But if you neglect boundaries and neglect your mental health, you’ll suffer in your work, too.
As an employer, an overwhelming workload isn’t going to empower a thriving workforce. Employees need space for Inner Work®. They need harmony between work and life. They need to feel valued as whole people and humans first. Be cognizant of the boundary lines and clear in your expectations.
How to handle a living without job security
Living with job insecurity is taxing mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. Forbes has cited the impact of job security on mental health. If you’re living with job insecurity, consider these tips to help cope.
- Maintain work-life balance. Don’t sacrifice too much for the sake of your work. It might feel like you have to work 24/7 to keep the lights on. But the reality is, you’ll likely burn out. Try to keep work-life balance a priority as much as possible.
- Practice Inner Work®. Inner Work® is for everyone. It can be as simple as taking a 10-minute walk every morning. Or doing a 30-second meditation before a big meeting. Make the space for Inner Work® in your mental fitness plan. By doing so, you’ll reap the well-being benefits and be better prepared to weather the rough patches.
- Create a positive work environment. If you’re a hybrid worker or work remotely, think of ways you can make your work environment more positive. Even something as simple as a plant or a candle can help brighten your space — and it makes a difference in your mental health.
No matter what your work environment looks like physically, consider ways you can create social connections at work. This may look like a coffee with someone new every week. Or maybe you join an employee resource group (ERG) or club. Seek out ways to bring more positivity into your workplace.
- Control your expenses. If you’re living with job insecurity, finances can be a huge stressor. You might need to re-examine your budget and evaluate priorities. Consider ways you can cut down your expenses without too much impact on your overall well-being.
- Try to build a financial wellness plan. Financial wellness is like any other facet of well-being. It requires a holistic view into what makes you financially well: debt, retirement, savings, budgets, and more. Even if you’re in a place where you might not think financial wellness is possible, you can still create a plan that’s catered to your needs.
- Explore unemployment benefits. You might be experiencing job loss and searching for a new job. If that's the case, there are resources that could potentially help in the short term. Do your research on unemployment benefits to help get you through this tough time.
Build your own path to job security
You might've just started a new job or are in the job search. You might be experiencing job loss and are wondering where your career should go next.
With economic expansion often comes job security and stability. But it's never a bad idea to adopt a future-minded mindset.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.