I see a lot of people who become overly dependent upon their job. This isn’t surprising and it’s very easy to do–particularly with highly motivated performance oriented individuals. However, if your entire identity, self-worth and financial resources are tied up in your job, you are setting yourself up for catastrophe.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be proud of your work or enjoy your job, but I am saying that you shouldn’t let yourself get blinded to all these economic realities. No matter how good you think you are, you can be replaced. This is true now more than ever. In fact, if you are an extremely high performer and are being paid commensurate with your capabilities, your salary may be viewed as a large expense and make you an even more likely candidate for downsizing.
Although it didn’t hurt them financially, Steve Jobs was once fired from Apple — a company he founded. If you ever start feeling like your position is secure, think about Steve.
Here are some suggestions for keeping your identity separate from your work:
- Diversify your friends. Make sure you have close friends outside of work. You don’t want your entire social life to crumble if you get fired from your job. Also, having friends at other companies increases your chances of finding another job through an acquaintance.
- Volunteer. Volunteering your services for good causes can help you develop relationships outside of work. It also gives other people a chance to experience working with you. These interactions can be very beneficial in a job search.
- Social groups. Getting involved in community groups, church groups and even the local bowling league are great ways to expand your world beyond what you experience 9 to 5.
- Keep in contact. Make sure you take the time to invest in relationships with people you’ve known from the past. Former coworkers and fellow students are good examples. Make a purposeful effort to keep your interactions from only converging on a small set of people centered around your job.
Here are some suggestions for keeping a bit of financial independence from your job:
- Have 6 to 12 months of savings. If you get laid off, you want to know it won’t financially devastate you while you look for another job.
- Max out your health accounts. If you have any type of tax deferred health savings accounts offered at your employer, try to max those out. That gives you some flexibility for healthcare if your work dries up.
- Stay in demand. Volunteer for assignments that will give you experience with new technology or business methods. You don’t want to become stagnant where your skills are only relevant to your current employer. Keep up with what’s going on in your area of work even if it’s not happening at your company.
- Live below your means. Don’t stretch yourself to your financial limit. Buy a house less expensive than what you can afford. If you need a new car, make sure you consider low mileage used options.
- Educate yourself. Take full advantage of any educational programs for your company offers. Get a copy of the employee handbook and find out what type of educational reimbursement is available. Many companies have some type of educational reimbursement policy that isn’t common knowledge because so few people take advantage of it. Staying educated is a great way to make sure you have skills that are marketable. If your company pays for it, so much the better.
We are always going to be dependent on our employment to a certain extent, but a conscious effort today can help minimize the fallout from an unexpected job loss in the future.