Trust Networks One, Job Security Nil

Rick Carlile's picture

Job security has always been a tricky thing to deal with, and to write about. On the one hand, traditional job security gives us the knowledge that, as breadwinners, we can feed our families today, tomorrow and five years from now. On the other hand, anyone who has moved from a "secure" job to running their own business knows that a steady paycheck can stifle creativity, adventurism, and risk-taking. Progress comes from risks taken by energetic, dissatisfied people, whereas the steady paycheck is awfully appealing to the sedentary, negative side of human nature.

In other words, at least part of our lives should be spent in aggressive striving, pushing boundaries, expansion and conquest of the unknown. It is when we are most dynamic that we are most alive. Job security has a tendency to deaden the urgency that spurs us to action - to let us forget that we are mortal.

Of course, these days it's largely a moot point. The reality of the world we live in is that job security, traditionally-defined, is unavailable to most of us even if we wanted it. So, the old paradigm has collapsed; where do we go from here?

I was thrilled to find this article "How to Achieve True Job Security" by Geoffrey James; his analysis is apt and he hits the nail on the head. He writes:

In the past, job security came from working for a company that rewarded employee loyalty.  No longer.  Today, job security comes from two, and only two, sources: Who you are, and who trusts you.

In today's outsourced and globalized business world, if you're just a cog, you're nobody.

Sooner or later (and probably sooner), you'll be replaced, if indeed you're even still employed. I don't care how much seniority or experience you've got.  If all you are is what you do, you have no job security. Nada. Zilch.

If you really want job security, there must be something about you that's different, that makes you more relevant than everybody else who does what you do.  More importantly, other people must perceive that difference and see it as valuable.

Maybe it's a set of skills that goes beyond the norm. Maybe it's the way you present yourself.  Maybe it's the way you approach problems and solve them.  It can be anything of value, anything that makes you unique.

Or in one word, differentiation. Identifying areas in which you are different from your competitors (superior, ideally!) and making sure your clients, colleagues and customers know about it.

If you aren't able to differentiate yourself and your service offerings, two very bad things happen:

  • You are overtaken by competitors who are able to identify and communicate their unique selling points effectively.
  • You run the risk of your specialized services becoming commoditized. This is just about the worst thing that can happen to a professional. Becoming commoditized is like being subsumed into the Borg; there is nothing to distinguish your services from anyone else's and the only way to compete is on price.

James continues:

The other half of the job security equation is the people who trust you.  Notice that I'm not talking about "who you know" or even "who knows you." [...] The only business contacts that are truly important are the ones that really trust you. Here's a quick test.

Sit down in a quiet place and list out everyone you know. Include friends, family, colleagues, co-workers. Take about 20 minutes.  Once you've built your list, rate those contacts according to the following numerical scale:

How much does this person trust me?

  • 1 = Completely. He/she will always me call back, will always meet with me.
  • 2 = Moderately. He/she will probably me call back, probably meet with me.
  • 3 = Vaguely.  He/she might call me back, might meet with me.

[...] Rule of thumb: If you've got 20 or more people who trust you (i.e. you gave them a "1″) you have true job security.  Provided you've passed the "who are you?" test, of course.

Your challenge is now to expand the network of people who trust you. [...] This is exactly how small companies grow into big ones, how top sales performers build up their customer bases, and how successful companies remain on top.  It's a rule of life.

Note that James explicitly points out that he's talking not only about number but quality of contacts. Contact quality is a hard thing to pin down. Trust is a large part of the equation, but far from the whole story.

For example, you may have a contact who trusts you implicitly but has few contacts of his own. It's great that you have a trust relationship of such quality, but that doesn't make the contact relationship itself particularly useful when locating your next client. A contact with a stellar network, who trusts you moderately and is willing to grant you access to that network, is of higher quality (in this sense).

James is correct; number of contacts means little, by itself. If everybody's equally connected, nobody's connected. Trust networks are a filtering mechanism and filling ones' network with low-quality contacts reduces that filter's effectiveness.

So - if you can differentiate yourself and your services, and if you can build a strong network of numerous, quality contacts, job security is not so far away even in times of turmoil. Luckily, this is actionable intelligence!

  • Differentiation: Join Aegora if you haven't already. Create a stunning profile in minutes with 100% custom content that lets you present "the real you" to prospective clients, and stand head and shoulders above the competition. Promote your profile via social networks, your email signature, your business cards, etc.
  • Networking: join groups on Aegora (such as the Assembly), engage in discussion, join other members' networks, find people with similar interests, bring your offline friends and colleagues onto Aegora, build proximity and trust with the people who matter.