Dont Get Caught In The Security Trap

The day you begin to think of your job in terms of the security versus the opportunities it provides is the day you start to put the brakes on building your career.

Time was when a young person entering the workforce could reasonably assume he was signing a lifetime security covenant with his employer. If he worked hard and kept its nose clean he could expect to be taken care of with a job for as long as he could show up for work. Promotions would come along as openings occurred. There'd be a pension at retirement. It was a womb to tomb deal. Loyalty was a two- way street.

The Rules Have Changed

Today's headlines make it clear that's no longer the case, says Ramon Greenwood, senior career counselor at Common Sense At Work.

Sears Roebuck, known for 119 years as a company that kept its employees' loyalty with compensation and benefits has recently announced the firing of 500 employees at its headquarters. Another 1,000 are expected to get pink slips within a few months. Workers who hang on can expect reduced levels of compensation and benefits, the company says. Going forward, employment will be tied closely to performance and company profits.

Changing the very nature of its business, IBM, a name synonymous with lifetime security, has dismissed thousands of employees.

Stalwarts such as GM, United Airlines and Delta Airlines make news regularly with announcements of reductions or outright eliminations of jobs and pensions.

And there are Enron and WorldCom where employees have seen their employee stock plans and pensions go in the trashcan when their employers' violated the terms of their relationship.

Employers Cannot Provide Security!

"The only one source of real, lasting security is when you have the know-what-to- do and how-to-get-it-done abilities that employers will buy. It's in your mind and heart," Greenwood declares.

When you begin to crave security and search for it from outside sources is the time you restrict your range of options to take your skills and training to their limits in search of personal satisfaction.

Your security is your responsibility.

If you succumb to its lure, security will eventually prove to be a debilitating, habit- forming drug. It will rob you of the will and the ability to act in your own self- interest.

This is when you begin to make career decisions based on security rather than opportunity to grow.

The organization offers you an opportunity to move to another location to become manager of a new facility. You decline because you are afraid you might fail in the new responsibilities, and besides, you like the security of staying put and playing it safe until you are vested in your pension.

You come up with an idea that will improve the output of your department. Your boss doesn't think it is workable. You drop the idea because you are afraid if you push it, the boss might penalize you. Besides you are comfortable with things the way they are. Why rock the boat?

You have a good record as a salesman. You are offered a promotion to regional sales manager. You decline because you don't want to take on the responsibility and the increased travel.

A Frog In Hot Water

When you begin to get comfortable remember the frog. Put him in a pot of cool water over a flame. The frog will frolic about happy in the security of the environment even as the water goes from cool to warm. How good it feels. He will continue to adapt, swimming about contentedly, even as the water reaches a slow boil. It is not until the water reaches the boiling point that the frog recognizes he is in serious trouble and tries to get out. By that time, his strength has been sapped and it is too late.

A Lesson From Ancient Rome

In explaining the fall of the ancient city of Rome, the historian Edward Gibbon wrote: "In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life. And in their quest for it all-security, comfort and freedom-they lost it all." It's Your Choice

Seizing every opportunity to be all you can be and security are mutually exclusive. If you want security more than opportunity that's fine, but remember there's a price to pay.

Ramon Greenwood is former senior vice president of American Express; a professional director for various businesses; a consultant; a published author of career related books and a syndicated column. Senior career counselor for

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