Our working life is increasingly going to resemble a relationship, or a marriage, with the odd separation thrown in for good measure; and this is going to happen, whether we like it or not. The world is changing, and our working lives will change in step with it. A few years ago, the management consulting firm, McKinsey, said that in 1990 a person would work on average for two companies throughout his/her working life, but that by 2010 the figure would rise to ten. This estimate now seems excessive in the light of the current economic crisis which has put a brake on people changing jobs (which makes the life of many human resources departments easier, and has conversely made life more difficult for the many people seeking new pastures). That being said, the pace of change is such that no manager can feel confident that he will hold down the same job all his working life. This has profound consequences both for companies and for employees.

As regards companies, the fact that they cannot guarantee a job for life is not a justification for playing on people’s fear of being dismissed. We all need a minimum degree of security to give the best of ourselves, and the constant threat of losing one’s job is harmful both to the company and to its staff. If a company cannot guarantee long-term job stability, it will need to implement strategies which increase its employees’ emotional commitment to the company, such as a good atmosphere at work, and innovation at all levels of leadership. I wonder how many companies are actually doing this…

As far as employees are concerned, they have no alternative but to manage their own careers. Sitting with our arms folded, waiting for the company to decide what is best for us, no longer cuts the ice. We have to take responsibility for our own training, and make ourselves as employable as possible. If you’re currently in a dead-end job, you have to take measures to get out by studying, looking for alternatives, etc., etc. You mustn’t lose sight of your ultimate professional goal: if you happen to be fired (or your job is excess to requirements, as the current euphemism goes), you must be employable elsewhere. Unfortunately, the current crisis has caught many people unawares, and they keep on blaming the system when for years they’ve been doing exactly the same job. Let’s hope that the difficult circumstances which pertain at the moment will help us all to realise that our future in the end lies in our own hands, and that we should only commit ourselves to things which are beneficial for our development, both personal and professional. The rules of the game have changed, and our way of understanding work will need to adapt to this new context.

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