How to build job security

Jobs have changed a lot over the years. You used to show up to your job, do just as you’re instructed, and go home after working at your desk for 8 hours. If you do that for two weeks, you collect your paycheck. You and your company were all square and didn’t owe each other anything until your next paycheck. If you kept showing up to work and following instructions over the years, your company would promote you and you’d get a gold watch when you retired. You put in your time so now they were giving it back to you.

But the job market has changed. Attendance based compensation is over and you can’t show up to work looking to follow instructions. You’ll get automated out of your job by a robot.

Today, the people who get promoted go above and beyond their job description and use their own decision making to add value to the company. They don’t follow an instruction manual and an instruction manual can’t be written for they way they do their jobs.

Your job description should say “do whatever you need to do to help the company achieve its mission.” That doesn’t mean work 80 hours a week or never take a vacation day, but it does mean going beyond your written job description.


One great way to do more than your job description is to answer questions before they’re asked

If you’re the company’s accountant (or finance manager) your job description will have certain written tasks: handle payroll, create financial statements for management to review, work with the company’s auditors, etc. Those tasks are easy to write down, easy to describe, and easy to train someone to do. How could you go above and beyond to benefit the company more?

For creating financial statements, the most basic step is to create a balance sheet, income statement, and statements of cash flow. That’s just what the job description asks for and it’s easy to teach someone how to do that in school. But you can go above and beyond. You can study what other companies in your industry are spending and then provide an additional report to management, that breaks down your company’s spending in each category and compare it to the rest of the industry. You can predict the questions management will ask when they look at the financial statements, and you can provide the answers to those questions in the footnotes to those financial statements.

Yes it’s difficult to find that sort of information about other companies, but that is why it is so valuable. You went above and beyond the way another accountant might have which will give management confidence in your ability to do the job better than someone else could.

Pay attention to what’s important to the company

Another way to go above and beyond is to pay attention to what’s important for the company and to make it one of your priorities. In technology, keeping servers and software running is extremely important. If the servers aren’t running, customers can’t use the products and that will hurt the business.

As a software engineer, my job description doesn’t include making sure the servers are running properly. My job is to build software. But it’s extremely important to the company to keep our servers running 100% of the time so I help out the operations team. That is one of the best ways for me to add value to the company and it demonstrates that I’m a team player. Over the years, keeping the company’s goals in mind even when it’s not part of my job description has helped me get raises and promotions.

There are a few ways you can learn what’s important to the company and your coworkers. The first is to look at where your boss and your boss’s boss spend their time. Are they focused mostly on customer research? Then pleasing customers could be a priority. Are they focused on putting in a ton of hours at the office? Then they might equate lots of hours in the office with doing good work. Are they focused on leaving right at 5pm to get to their kids’ soccer games? Then they value work-life balance, and you should do what you can to help them get out of the office for family time.

Along a similar line of reasoning, look where management is spending their time and the company’s money. If the company is building out a new larger office anticipating new hires, then growth and expansion is important. You could try to recruit new employees from your network to help the growth effort or volunteer to interview candidates. If the company is outsourcing some departments, the company is likely focused on cutting costs. You could write down several ways you can help your department cut costs and then propose those ideas to your boss.

Also, look at press releases. Management’s public goals will come out in press releases and the company’s social media pages. Look for statements that describe the company’s goals and priorities. For instance, look at this blog post by Basecamp’s CTO David Heinemeier Hansson: Trickle-down workaholism in startups. It’s pretty clear from that article that Basecamp’s priorities are to give employee’s work-life balance, to differentiate Basecamp from its startup competitors, and to sell copies of their upcoming book RECONSIDER. Your company’s press releases won’t be as emotional, but you can still find company priorities and goals in them.

Doing more than what your job description says is one of the best ways to improve job security. If you have a job that can’t be written down in an instruction manual and you take on work outside of your job title, you won’t be replaceable. You will also get noticed for raises and promotions since your skillset will be one of a kind.

Write down your normal job tasks. Then write down a what priorities your boss, your boss’s boss, and the company executives have. Then you’ll know how to go above and beyond to benefit your company and coworkers even more.

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