Living With a Lack of Job Security

Coping with Uncertainty

As most of you are aware, it is a very stressful time to be a government worker.  Where working for the government once felt like a sure thing – pension, salary, benefits – it is now a place of uncertainty, layoffs and short term contracts.

So how do you deal with this uncertainty?

First, you need to learn how to handle the pressure and stress.  It’s important to realise that not everyone reacts the same way to job insecurity.  Each and every one of us responds differently to stress and each of us manages stress in our own way. Our home life, willingness to adapt to change, and financial situation are also factors that can affect stress levels and can differ greatly between colleagues.

Next, be prepared.  It’s impossible to know what the future will bring, so preparing in advance can help reduce your worries, because you’ll know that you’ve done all you can.

Coping with Stress

Living with constant insecurity can be stressful.  Some studies suggest that living with job insecurity – the “fear” of losing your job – can be more harmful to your health than actually losing it.  Keeping a positive attitude can make all the difference.

If you’re stressed about your career, try some of these tips:

  • Remember the saying “Whenever one door closes, another opens.”  Living with uncertainty can be uncomfortable, but you can control how you look at it.  It can be an adventure and the chance to do something new.
  • Now is the time to market yourself.  If you’re a good worker with marketable skills, then you have a lot to offer potential employers.  This is the time to make sure your skills are relevant and up-to-date.
  • Now is the time to think outside the box. What else can you do? How can you prove that you could learn a new line of work?  Look at your track record of being adaptable.  Think about your organisational skills (time management, team management and leadership) and your people skills.  Focus on your work ethic – show up every day, on time, with energy, and get ready to roll up your sleeves. Leave pettiness and emotional drama at home and show how you are a valuable member of the team.  Employers will notice when it comes time for performance appraisals and considering their options during organizational review.

  • Stress can result from a feeling that you don’t have control over your situation.  Remember, you ALWAYS have control.  It’s your life, and it’s within your power to change it.  If you’re afraid that you might get “downsized” then take control and act.  Look for transfers within your organization, elsewhere within the government, the private sector, or other workplaces entirely.  Start learning about other departments. Perhaps your skills would allow you to do something completely different within the organization or in the private sector.  Be PROactive instead of Reactive.

  • If you’re part of a team (or if you’re leading a team), allow everyone to voice their fears.  Communicating and expressing frustrations are important, but don’t let these fears dominate.  This can create negativity and hurt morale.  Have open discussions with co-workers, but focus on what you can all do to move forward and cope.

Prove Your Worth

If you were management, and you were forced to eliminate one position, who would you lay off?  Would it be the person who is just putting in time and complains all the time? Or, would it be the person who’s willing to boost morale and always has something positive to say?

Now is the time to highlight your skills, to show you are valuable and flexible to the organization.  This kind of commitment can help to set you apart from the crowd.

Stay Current

Keeping your skills current is essential if you want to offer value to your organization.  Make sure you are up-to-date on the latest trends in your field.  Now is the time to take the classes that would benefit your role in any workplace.  Communication and leadership skills can take you anywhere, no matter what job you’re doing.

“Brag” About Yourself

Many people resist talking about their accomplishments because they don’t want to boast.  But think of it this way; your manager may not know how great you are, or what you are capable of doing if you’ve never told them.

By talking about your accomplishments, you keep him/her informed of your value.  Use your yearly reviews to outline your accomplishments.

Keep Your Resume Up–To-Date

This is smart for everyone to do, not just those who are actively looking for work (or afraid they might be soon).  When your resume is current, you can be ready at a moment’s notice to apply for a new position – even one within your own organization.  You won’t have to rush to make changes and you can be sure to present yourself in the very best light.  If you wait until the last minute, you might forget an important accomplishment that could mean winning – or losing – the job.

Save Your Money

Few things are more stressful than wondering how you’ll pay your bills if you suddenly lose your job.

Now is the time to start saving and be PROactive about it. Save at least three to six months of living expenses, or have all your options open.  Is there room to consolidate?  Have you spoken with a bank to see if there is room to move on mortgage?  What kind of employment insurance rate will you get?  What can you cut out to make finances better?  Now is the time to put the credit cards away and use CASH only!  All these things can help you turn a bad situation into a chance to re-evaluate your career, and put yourself onto a new and exciting path.

Key Points

In today’s world, living with job insecurity is a reality for many.  But it doesn’t have to be stressful and negative.

Preparing yourself for change is a great way to feel better about the situation.  Take control by ensuring your skills are up-to-date and the people that matter (management) know how great you are.  Switch to cash and start saving so you don’t have to worry about paying your bills if you do lose your job.

If you do get laid off, remember that the world is full of opportunities.  Changing your mindset and being proactive can go a long way toward reducing your stress.  Look at this change as an adventure and as the chance to try something new.  Focus on the positive, not on doubt and uncertainty.  Remember, your life is what you make of it!

Jackie-Lee Agnew


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