There is no job security.
It’s always been an illusion. Even if you’ve been a captive somewhere for 15 years, you love your job, your boss loves you, and all seems well, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a job tomorrow. The company may outsource everything, get sold, close down, or simply decide to do something else and ~poof~ you’re unemployed.
This happened at my last captive job when the company needed cash to do something-or-other and about 40 people, including Yours Truly, were laid off. (I may have been the only one who was ecstatic about getting laid off. The company gave a really good layoff package and I knew I had more work waiting for me. Nobody else seemed particularly happy, especially the people who’d been there for a decade.)
Right now the competition for any captive job is fierce. When I say “fierce,” I mean fierce. A typical job in a major metro area posted on Monster or Dice can easily generate several hundred resumes in response. It is not unheard of for a particularly sweet job at a sought-after employer to generate as many as a thousand responses. At that rate, you’re not likely to ever hear back from the employer even to acknowledge that they got your resume. As for scoring an interview, forget it.
Whatever the job, you can assume that everyone’s resume will show experience, education, training, relevant jobs, and the like. But what makes you special in the eyes of the person doing the screening? Yes, you’re unique, just like everybody else, so you need to do something to buff your own halo so that your resume stands out above the crowd. That’s where self-promotion comes in.
You need to promote yourself before you need to promote yourself
If you find yourself suddenly unemployed, it’s hard to suddenly have that secret sauce to make your resume special. That work starts before you’re looking for that next job.
Most freelance writers, consultants, and independents are used to promoting themselves in varying ways and with varying degrees of success, and why not? It’s their bread and butter: if no-one knows about them, they don’t get hired. But most captive employees tend towards the “steady as she goes” state, figuring that they’re employed and that if they need to get another job, they’ll apply for it and get it. Self-promotion and marketing, most captives figure, is something they can leave to the independents. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t true these days. (I’m not even completely sure how true it’s ever been, even in times of relative prosperity.)
Promoting yourself can be almost anything that gets you noticed in a positive way. You can network at conferences and through professional organizations, use social media to raise your visibility, write magazine articles, blog, send out a free newsletter, do speeches, teach classes, and dozens of other things. You don’t have to do it every waking moment, but you should put in some time promoting yourself in some way a few hours every week.
Whether you work captive or contract, you need to stand out from the crowd. Good self-promotion gets your name out there and gives you resume credits that add to your prominence. Even in a field as small as a dozen resumes, good self-promotion can easily knock out half your competition right from the start.
(As I add posts about self-promotion, I’ll add links here, just to make your life easier.)