Feel Secure In Your Job? Then You’re Just Waiting to Be Ambushed

I worked all those years, coming to work every day, doing a great job. Each year there was a raise and eventually more responsibility.

I went home at the end of the day and came back the following day. I repeated that cycle all those years until one day, I came in and was let go.

During all those years I received numerous inquiries from outside headhunters, but each call was kindly rebuffed because I loved what I was doing. My resume had never been updated in all those years, and I had not interviewed in 24 years.

Blinded by success! And then it happens.

As I listened to this call this week, I felt sad and angry at the same time.

I was sad because this had happened, and I was also livid as to how people can become so blinded. This was a C-level person, sitting on numerous boards with major players throughout the industry. He knew everyone in his field, but never had even a cup of coffee with them, let alone lunch or dinner.

Now he was out of a job, and like a deer in the headlights, he sadly does not have a clue.

Resume coach — check. Interview coach — check. Mindset – well that is another story. That will stay unchecked for a while, and to be honest, it may never be checked.

Be alert to the ‘ambush’

If there is one thing that I want to pass on to anyone working today it’s that you should never be lulled into a sense of security.

These times are so different that you never want to be “ambushed.” That is my term for walking in to work one day and being called in and let go. If that happens to you, and you are surprised, don’t get mad at the company, be mad with yourself for allowing it to happen.

You should always be aware of what is going on around you. You cannot afford not to. Eye contact is always a giveaway. When your boss looks away and will not connect, and this continues over time, be aware. When your comments and recommendations are basically passed over as not important, be aware.

We all have that inner sense when we know something is not right. My friend, on thinking back, noticed that a few months prior to being let go things just did not seem right. He just kind of brushed if off; he paid the price.

‘Always Be Looking’

My code phrase is “Always Be Looking” (ABL). This may seem strange, especially coming from an HR person, but one thing I have always advised people is that they should never allow themselves to be lulled into such a mindset that they don’t keep their antennae up to see what is out there.

If someone calls, take the interview because you never know where it will lead. If you have not interviewed in a while, by all means go. Think of the interview as a career workout.

The more you take, the better you will become. It is like working out in a gym and getting in shape. My buddy has not interviewed in over 20 years, and I hate to think about the first one that he will walk into.

Only you are in charge of your career

Here’s the bottom line: You are the one in charge of your career. Not the company you work for; not your friends or family, because in the end, it is your career. Your master plan, if you have one, should constantly be reviewed and updated.

Many people don’t have career investment plans because they rely on the organization they serve to provide them. Only a select few recognize that the investment your employer makes in your career is no longer enough. In today’s global market, you can no longer afford to wait for your employer to invest in your professional growth, development, and career. You must know yourself and your career ambitions well enough to recognize the necessary investments you must make and determine your wisest career path.

Riding it out is not an option

Some may say, “I will just want to ride this out.” My friend thought the same. He figured as long as he had been there, all those years, that this would be it. It was “it” in a way. It was the end of his career as he knew it.

You can’t wait till you are fired or laid off to try to revitalize your career. At this point of the ambush, you are not in the right mental shape to put a plan together. The process must be ongoing, especially when things are going good. The juices flow better when you are in that state of mind.

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You have to use every business encounter and conversation as an interview. Make the connections mean something. My friend had access to numerous boards and their influential members, but never once did he have a career conversation. Never once did he do coffee, lunch or dinner.

Be ‘on point’ all the time

Self-awareness and self-management are all part of career awareness. We must all be “on point” at all times.

It is said that snakes, when they flick their tongues, are getting a sense of what is going on around them. We should all adopt that mindset and always try to keep in focus where we are headed. This could be the same job, but in a different location. It does not matter.

Ongoing career management is going to be the new normal, whether you are just out of college, mid-career or whatever.

This morning I read about another friend who got a big job six months ago for a major brand. What I read was that with a new strategic focus at my friend’s company, she would be out. Yes, only six months in her post and she will be out. Add the 20-plus years of my friend in the other scenario and you can now see that you have to be in charge.

Nobody knows you like you, so manage you before the ambush.

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.