We used to live in a world where our lives were governed by the learn-earn-retire model. We got an education, secured a job and worked till we retired. That model is fast disappearing. Today, shifts in political, economic and social norms have driven far-reaching changes. The biggest of these have been driven by technology, which has altered the way we work. Anyone, anywhere, anytime is the new approach to work. Work can be sliced, diced and distributed across the globe based on skill and cost. Work can be done by people any time, across time zones. The workspace is anywhere.
Fluctuating demands in business cycle are making it hard for companies to predict the demand for manpower. Keeping a team on the bench without assigning it a billable project burns cash. So, employers are regularly shedding jobs. New companies are leveraging automation to the hilt. They are low on employment. Airbnb, valued at $30 billion, runs a global operation with less than 3,000 employees. Cost pressures are also forcing employers to weed out people who are no longer critical to the business. Almost one in 10 public companies fails each year, which is a four-fold increase since 1965. Companies now face a roughly one in three chance of not surviving five years, up from about one in 20 a half-century ago. If the employers are dying early, it may be a warning sign to rethink your career strategy.
Having the right skills makes a person valuable to the employer. Our skills can be represented by a pyramid. At the base are commoditised skills, which do not create a differentiator in the marketplace (like knowing Word, Excel and PowerPoint). In the middle, lie the marketable skills, which are obtained through a certificate or degree that assures the employer that the skills are up to par. Technological shifts continuously chip away at the shelf life of marketable skills turning them worthless commoditised skills. The skills that make employers queue up are niche skills. People with niche skills are self-taught. The market is slowly tilting in favour of the handful of people who possess niche skills and the masses will continue to be vulnerable.
Employers will frequently have to make choices about who they want to retain and who to let go. These things rarely happen overnight. Here are a few signals that should alert you that your job may be at risk.
Boss doesn’t respond to your mails promptly: When you buttonhole your boss he makes a lame excuse about being busy. You know that your peers have had no such complaint.
You have been by-passed for a hike: This is usually meant to be a hint, and not a very subtle one. The best projects go to people like you, but not to you. Those who have got hikes are all the people who are working on the projects that matter to the company.
Nobody reviews your work: If your work is critical to the organisation, several leaders will be keen to know what you have been up to. If your work is not reviewed at least once a quarter, you should be worried.
Company is not investing in updating your skills: It is in the interest of the organisation to have employees who possess cutting-edge skills. If you are not being sent to attend training programs and conferences, it could be an ominous sign. Better invest in updating your skills and network.
Head hunters don’t return your calls: Those who possess cutting-edge skills are constantly wooed by head hunters. If they do not return your calls, find out what skills are in demand.
What other warning signs should tell someone that their job is at risk? What is the first thing the person should do? What is your advice? Do leave your ideas in the comments section.