What Is Job Security?

Fear. It's the Number One reason people stay in jobs they don't like. Fear of moving onto something "less secure." Fear of trading today's "steady" paycheck for an opportunity that looks a bit more risky. Ironically, standing still could be the biggest risk of all.

Consider the following reality check: Of the jobs you've held since starting your professional career -- how many of those jobs still exist?

Here's a quick rundown of my own path...

1992-1995: InformationWeek Senior Editor: I was a rising editor on the print magazine. If I had stuck around, I wonder if I would have developed the required digital media skills to retain that position as InformationWeek shifted to the web? Does My Position Still Exist?: Not really.

1996: Cheyenne Software Marketing Manager: Acquired by CA Technologies in 1996. I left before the deal happened. I suspect that job no longer exists. Cheyenne's assets languished under CA's ownership, and were finally spun out as Arcserve in 2014. Does My Position Still Exist: No.

1996-1998: Windows Magazine: A massive print publication that competed with PC Magazine. Ziff Davis recruited me away in 1998. Windows Magazine died around 2000. Does My Position Still Exist?: No.

1998-2001: Ziff Davis Media (Smart Reseller/Smart Partner): I rose to editor at a weekly print magazine -- but I overlooked the rising web media market. The magazine folded in 2001 and I was out of a job. The silver lining? Amy Katz and I met here, and we went on to launch multiple businesses together. Does My Position Still Exist? No.

2002-2004: NYIT Editorial Director: I developed web platforms and an alumni magazine for the college. I left when Ziff recruited me for an event-related position. Does My Position Still Exist?: Yes.

2004-2006: Ziff Davis Editorial Director: I ran custom media content (events, multimedia, etc.) but left in 2006 when I was recruited to a startup. After hitting financial turbulence, Ziff Davis Enterprise was acquired a few years ago and I'm not sure the events team still exists. Does My Position Still Exist?: Highly unlikely.

2006-2007: Microcast Communications Editorial Director: I ran content for a highly targeted media startup. A great time with great friends. Amy Katz and I reconnected here, and we decided to exit and start a business in late 2007. The Microcast team ultimately disbanded but stays in touch -- sort of like a classic rock band reconnecting from jams from time to time. Does My Position Still Exist?: No.

2008-2014: Executive VP and Co-founder, Nine Lives Media: Amy and I co-launched the company, sold it in 2011 to Penton, then exited in 2014. Does My Position Still Exist?: Yes.

2014-Present: Content Czar, After Nines: We're hard at work on a few things. Does My Position Still Exist? Absolutely.

Keeping Score

So, my personal tally:

  • Six of the positions I've previously held certainly don't exist -- or likely don't exist.
  • Three of the positions I've previously held still exist.

The obvious math: Two-thirds of my previous career stops involve jobs that ultimately went away -- mostly because of the shift from print to digital media.

In most cases, I remained ahead of the curve, developed new skills and moved on before doomsday arrived for the position. But in one case (Ziff Davis, 2001), I stuck around too long because I was in love with the brand. I didn't pay attention to the financial numbers and market shifts around me.

So, What Is Job Security?

For me, job security is easily defined. If I'm passionate about my work, that means I'm likely developing new skills daily. Even if the job goes away, I'm still secure and confident in my skill set -- and that I'll move forward to find or create something new elsewhere.

The old definition of job security, in stark contrast, is dead. A job for life no longer exists. Even fast-growth IT companies swap out their talent to reflect different needs at each stage of the business lifecycle. 

Now, the ultimate irony: So many of us hold onto jobs simply because we feel some sort of unspoken "job security." But perhaps the bigger risk is keeping your job longer than its practical lifespan...

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