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In Today's Work Environment, There's No Such Thing as a Safe, Permanent Job

June 26, 1988

David Heller, the pseudonym for the banking executive whose job was eliminated after 15 years (Viewpoints, "The Bitter Taste of a Job Lost," May 29), offered invaluable advice at the end of his story: There is no such thing as a safe job. Yet Heller himself suffered needlessly because he didn't notice as the world presented him with that very same advice.

At some time early on, Heller learned his job "eventually would be eliminated." Then, when his "two weeks' notice finally arrived," he "launched the arduous search for a new job." Prudent career strategy dictates an entirely different approach based on:

- Knowing that any job may be eliminated at any time because that is the way of today's world of work.

- Knowing that news of an impending termination is a clear and compelling signal to immediately begin preparations for the end.

- Knowing that the best time to look for a job is when you already have a job and, presumably, have higher self-esteem and a better attitude in general.

- Knowing that the very best time to look for your next job is always now.

As a career development specialist with 20 years of experience in career management issues, I noticed Heller related his experience in the voice of "victim" rather than "manager" of his own work life. This week I expect that hundreds more "newly unemployed" will face our radically shifting world of work just as ill-prepared to cope as Heller was. It is a commentary on our information-loaded society that managers are often too busy managing their jobs to manage their own careers.

Career counseling and outplacement services are increasingly offered to exiting employees, especially executives, and most likely where Heller worked "at one of the nation's largest financial institutions." Curiously, Heller made no mention of such services.

Competent career counselors help ease the transition into the next job. When outplacement and career counseling services are not offered, they can be requested and negotiated into severance packages.

Heller's experience with job loss may have been his first, but likely not his last. It's time for everyone to learn the facts of work life, and to develop strategies to manage their own careers.


San Diego

The writer is a career development specialist.

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