FACT: "Job security" is a myth. Learning to thrive in an insecure world…

by Evans Mehew

An interesting article dropped last week on

Job Security a Top Concern Among New Grads, Reports

SUNNYVALE, Calif., May 02, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) —, the world’s largest job search engine, today announced insights from a survey of job seekers from the college graduating class of 2012. Students’ concerns about job security outweighed those for salary and benefits, and new grads were least likely to select a startup as a future employer.

Well … duh. Job security should be a “top concern,” but they’ll have better luck hunting unicorns.

In these uncertain days, when we embrace risk and realize there is no such thing as security (such as working in a seemingly stable job), we are, in fact, more secure. If we aren’t seduced into thinking that we’re ever safe, we’ll be better equipped to survive. Accepting the fact that job security is a myth translates into the need for us to continually evolve, to adapt, and to continually form ourselves into well-rounded Renaissance thinkers and doers. Yeah, yeah … the Barcalounger beckons, I know. We want to rest. I get it, believe me … but rest isn’t the point, or at least it shouldn’t be.

One of the few books that changed my life is Creating the Good Life, by James O’Toole, in which he vividly recounts the life and worldview of Aristotle. One of the key points that O’Toole makes is regarding the relationship between work and rest. O’Toole makes the case that Aristotle eschewed the idea of working for rest’s sake … y’know, like in Loverboy’s “Workin’ for the Weekend.” It’s the mindset of working for a lifetime with an eye on retirement, hoping to begin life once the toil of work and the rat race is behind you. Feh, says Aristotle. R&R is not the goal … sure, one has to have it, but only in small doses. Rest should simply be taken in between vigorous, evolutionary activity. We should rest so that we can work at a higher ability. We must rest or we can’t engage to our fullest potential … but too much rest leads to one thing: atrophy.

Aristotle believed that we should always be working toward bettering ourselves, constantly striving to evolve into the best person we can possibly be … while at the same time acknowledging that this is a final state we will never reach. Working hard and smart to keep growing and getting stronger, knowing full well that we will never cross the finish line. Evolution for its own sake. For many, this is far too tall an order to take on as a worldview as it represents way, way too much work. After all, if one were to adopt this mindset, that would mean that one could never fully relax, never finally hang up one’s spurs and head for the fishin’ hole until they throw a shovel of dirt in your face. Yup. That’s right. It means that instead of this (perhaps) tempting future of rest, relaxation and atrophy, it means that you are constantly trying to get ever better at the things about which you are passionate. It means that you are ceaselessly searching for new things about which to be passionate. It means that you are always scanning the horizon, looking at the way the world is shimmying and shaking and trying to see where she’s going on the dance floor … and then trying to identify where your interests and passions might play well in the space into which she’s sliding. Then taking actions that put you there. This is not something that one does once and then “calls ‘er good.” No. If we follow Aristotle’s example and philosophy, this will be an endeavor that will take us to our final resting place. But once we’re planted there, we can rest assured that when we went down we were fully engaged, heartily utilizing the skill sets we’d developed in life and seeking to expand them and make them more powerful. No dust on us.

Once we fully accept the concept that constant personal change and evolution are going to be required for survival in this ever-shifting and morphing world in which we find ourselves, the better off we will be. This acceptance has got to be far deeper than simply grasping the ideas laid down here. “Getting” something in one’s head is a far cry from “getting” it in one’s guts. When it’s visceral, it becomes a part of one’s emotional gearbox and it’s far easier to grasp a concept, get engaged and get moving.

Case in point: we all know that we’re going to die but we understand it as a concept for the most part. Yes, we may have lost someone close to us, or know others who have had friends and/or family die, but it doesn’t become an immediate, first-person event until it almost happens to us. It isn’t really a shared experience … we have to have a terrifyng brush with death before it can become real to us (and sometimes, even then, the effect wears off over time). To that end, we should all try to move the concept that we must continually evolve in order to survive from the attic to the basement … get it closer to the “foundation” of who were are, who we want to be and what we’re willing to do and pursue in order to become that person.

We now have more reason and incentive to become the utmost, best version of who we can possibly be, but we’re going to have to overcome some extremely severe, barbed-wire-topped hurdles before we can begin getting down to this earnest and truly worthwhile work. We have to realize that the path we’ve been told is the best and most respectable way to go about being sucessful is perhaps not the best way to go anymore. We have to be willing to entertain other options, and fast. We also have to believe that we can do it. If you don’t truly buy into the idea that you can strike out on your own, it simply ain’t gonna happen. I’m not trying to sell you on the idea that this can all be done with bags of magic pixie-believe dust. Nope. Rather, I’m trying to get across that this endeavor is paid for with buckets of sweat, blood and some tears.

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to work for a company, so long as their vales are in accordance with yours. But don’t kid yourself that you’re ever safe or that your job is secure. It would be wise to identify what it is you really want to be doing and spend your spare time working on that. Find ways to leverage it as a second stream of income. Yes, working on something about which you are passionate when you aren’t “at work” really cuts into your “downtime” … but the sweat is worth it, and rest is overrated. You’ll get plenty of rest when you’re dead, but before you go you may just turn into everything you wanted to become.

Evans Mehew is a Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of Some.

Evans has served as an adjunct professor for 11+ years, teaching such courses as Global Technology Transfer; Disruptive Technologies; Science, Technology & Markets; Leadership Development and Organizational Behavior. Within that capacity, he has remained continually apprised of the “big picture.”

Evans has also managed competitive intelligence initiatives for two Fortune 500 companies for a total of seven years, leading research and strategic activities across 200+ countries.

Evans’s professional foundation has been largely with technology-centric businesses, within several of which he has also served as a senior business analyst. His experience has included requirements gathering across multiple projects (some international), managing teams of business analysts, as well as providing training on business analysis tools, processes and methodologies.

Additionally, his overarching technology strategy background allowed him to lead a skunk works Research & Development team that focused on creating novel technological solutions to money transfer industry challenges. While in that role, he was a lead inventor on nine inventions for which patent applications were filed between 2009-2010.

Read more from Evans Mehew at his blog, Guerillassance.

1 reply »

  1. This continues to be a psychological challenge for me, even though I fully get the issue intellectually. I grew up in a very traditional environment – father was with the company for 30+ years, his father the same company for 25 years, etc. So psychologically I can’t help making those connections to security and success.

    Of course, my own experience proves your point. On at least a couple of occasions I have been plugging along in a company, doing great work all around, and then been thrown out the window. Objectively, I’m MORE secure now, on my own. If I gave up my clients and went to work full-time I’d not only be at the mercy of the company, but if they hosed me I’d be back on the streets WITHOUT my current clients.

    I guess the one thing that still makes a difference is the real company benefits. If we ever get to the point where I can get, on my own, anything remotely like the benefit packages I used to have at a price like I used to pay then there’s zero reason to ever worry about a “real” job again.

    Great piece.