The perpetual anxiety of never knowing if my job will be abolished: How I deal with job insecurity

May 18 | Guest post by SonyaG
Thumbs up glasses holder by Etsy seller RedwoodStoneworks

Guys, I'm currently working my dream job. It's awesome; the work is stimulating and really allowing me to develop professionally, the team is amazing, the hours are perfect and it is ten minutes from my home. I would happily stay in this post forever.

But the very existence of my job is dependent on outside factors — number of patients at the clinic — and is re-evaluated every six months. I've been there five years. The last year in particular has been really really uncertain; I've kept my job, but just barely. The next evaluation is looking very grim indeed.

I've found ways of dealing with the perpetual anxiety of never knowing if my job will be abolished. Maybe these tips can help others with job uncertainty, like me…

Don't think too much about the future

Obviously, this is easier said than done. But if I focus on what might or might not happen, I stop concentrating on actually doing my current work right. It all amounts to the old saying about crossing bridges once you get there.

Learn some anxiety managing techniques

I recommend general anxiety managing techniques before bed to stop the endless cycling of "what-ifs" that end in sleepless nights. Breathing techniques, wind-down pilates or yoga, meditation, cardiac coherence, guided relaxation; whatever helps turn your brain off.

Know your worth, professionally

I love my job. The skills I have learned there can be used in another one, if need be. I don't expect to find the exact same job else-where. But I know I can adapt. Be confident in yourself; take every experience and add it to your bag of tricks. You can draw lessons from even the worst jobs ever.

Don't over-evaluate your worth, professionally

No-one is indispensable. No-one. Not even you, not even if it seems everything would stop without your priceless input. News flash; it won't. Teams adapt. Even CEO's can be replaced.

Don't take losing your job as a personal failure

You gave it your best effort. It didn't work out. Professionally, it might feel like the end. But it should not affect your self-worth. You are still a good person. There should be other areas in your life where you cand find accomplishment and a sense of pride. You are not your job, even if it is a large part of your identity.

Don't take other people's decisions personally

My job is directly dependent on career decisions made by others. It's natural to be mad when someone's decision to reduce their hours means you will end up unemployed. It's important to keep perspective here: no-one's career choices revolve around you. The person who is making you lose your job is not doing it purposely to spite you. It does not make them "evil" or a bad person, even if initially you will want to blame them and direct all your anger towards them.

It's okay to keep an eye out for other opportunities

For some reason, I always feel guilty doing this — as if I am cheating on the current job I have. However, it's not a lover, it's a job. And no matter how awesome it is, it is still unreliable.

Have your resume ready at all times

I missed out on a job opportunity because, when I learned of it in the middle of the work-week, I realized I needed to update my resume. By the time I had done that and sent it out, it was too late, and another candidate had already been selected. Man did I kick myself in the butt for that one!

Save a bit, or pay down debt a bit

I struggle to find the right balance here. I know I need a nest egg in case things go south. But I have phenomenal student debt too. Maybe see a financial counsellor to establish your particular priorities.

Find a "happy middle" lifestyle

From past experience, I know that a large part of the misery of being between jobs is caused by lifestyle changes due to budget constraints. If you are used to eating out, traveling, and getting yourself pampered, having to suddenly stop all "fun" things will really affect your morale in the event of job loss. However, when you are employed and you feel like everyone else is vacationing in the Carribbean and going out to lunch every day, you will be miserable if you are too frugal out of fear for the future. Try to find the right balance and stick to it — whether employed or not. That way a change in situation will not completely turn your life upside down and you will feel more in control during the transition.

Set long-term goals, yet be flexible

Planning to buy a house? Have a kid? Specific goals can help you steer straight, financially. And know that it's okay to put some of them on hold if it doesn't feel like the right time.

Stay up-to-date in your skill-set

Is there a class you can take to perfect your skills? Complementary work-shops to increase your employability? (And yes, I know it sucks to do this while you are already working. You won't feel like spending your evenings studying. But I guarantee it is worth it in the long run.)

Network

If you are currently working in a certain field, chances are you will meet others in the same line of work. Treat every contact as though they might lead you to your future job. Don't ask outright if they are hiring, but be friendly and competent. Chances are they will remember you if you later apply at their company.

So, those are my personal tips. Working an unsecured job is tough, stress-wise. Do you have any tricks to share for job insecurity?

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  1. This is amazing career advice, for everyone! No one is beyond a down-sizing, in our current economy. Keeping a smart balance in all parts of your life is so crucial.

    2 agree
  2. There's only one way of dealing with job insecurity – constant self-improvement. One should always stay in touch with job and economy trends and if necessary re-qualify. Many people make one big mistake – they stop learning the minute they graduate from university. They think they know enough to help them go through a life span career. Wrong. In order to stay if not on top, at least close to it, we should re-educate ourselves every single year. Extra classes, internships, etc. With today's information-based economy, constant learning is a MUST.

    1 agrees
  3. I agree, this is all great career advice for anyone in any situation. However, I would add one more thing to think about – Try and take control of your job destiny. I don't necessarily mean starting your own business, though I intensely admire people who do that. But in your case in particular, what is it about the organization that makes your job so unstable? Is there something you can do to help stabilize it? For example, when I worked in a tiny poor non-profit I wanted a raise, so I learned to write grants. It not only helped me accomplish my personal goals, it eventually helped me understand the inner working of the organization and bolster its overall health. It also helped me develop an incredibly marketable new skill that is now what I do full-time. I like that my job security is directly tied to my personal work. Finally, if the industry you are in is that uncertain or the company that irresponsible that they cannot budget plan AT LEAST a year out, that is not a good thing and you should be planning an exit strategy. I know its hard when you love your job but you deserve stability and security and a place that appreciates you enough to work towards it. I once left a job and people that I LOVED because it wasn't healthy and I had to decide that I deserved more. It was a really hard choice and a tough transition but years down the road I don't regret it for a second. Good luck!

    1 agrees
  4. In terms of save or pay down debt, remember to include your debt payments in your emergency fund planning. Depending on your industry and how long you are likely to go between jobs, it's good to have 3 – 12 months worth of essential expenditure saved up. That's rent, bills, food, clothes, health, and priority debts. If your debt payments are on high interest loans, explore overpaying them – it's possible that overpaying them while you're in work could work out saving you more money once you're out of work than you spent overpaying. For example, it makes more sense of me to overpay my mortgage by £100 a month than it does to put that £100 in a savings account, because my mortgage interest is higher than any savings account, and if I found myself out of work I could negotiate reducing my mortgage payments (or even taking a mortgage holiday) as a result of the overpayments.

  5. This is all such great advice. I work as a secretary in a public school. I do worry sometimes about the future of public schools, especially considering the current political climate. When I consider the worst case scenario it involves my school closing, not being able to find a job that pays the same amount, not being able to pay our mortgage, and losing our house. It actually helps me to consider this worst case scenario because then I'm able to rationally build a response plan. We lived for over 4 years in a less than 500SF apartment. Would we like to go back to that? Of course not. But if we have to, could we? Sure! I love my job and I fully intend to stay until I can retire. But at the end of the day it's a job. It is a means to an end and if someday I should no longer have it … life will go on and it's not the end of the world. It's just the beginning of a new adventure.

    1 agrees
    • This is exactly how I deal with anxiety over my current position where my bosses have already requested that I cut my hours/days. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that should I be out of work tomorrow (NB: My husband is currently studying and I am pregnant!) then the worst case scenario is that we'd have to move in with his Mum for a bit. Ideal? No. But there are so many people less fortunate than us who would perhaps not even have that option so I try to remind myself how lucky I am.

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