Ways to distinguish yourself – #30 Watch the shelf-life of your skills

The era of job security is over.

There are very few organizations that can actually guarantee your job over a long period of time. Most people know this but very few people really do something about this. I would like to say that this is not a trend or a fad. The circumstances in the job scene have changed forever. In the last four days, I have seen at least ten companies announcing job cuts – some in the range of 100s and some in the range of 1000s of jobs.

One of my acquaintances called me and said that his company is closing their engineering division and all the people in the division were asked to leave by the end of the day. He told me that none of the team members that he was working with had a clue that this was coming – ok, that this was coming on that particular day. A person who was gainfully employed until yesterday was a job seeker today.

The million dollar question is NOT

what should you do in order to be employed?


what should you to in order to remain employable?

[Inspiration – Jim Rohn]

Here is a gut check for you. “If in the next one hour you are supposed to give a talk to a group of people, what are the three topics that you will pick where you think you are most comfortable?” Remember that there is only one hour between now and the time you will be on stage. Once you identify these topics think for a few minutes about the shelf-life of these topics. If the shelf-life is less than a few months you know that you are in trouble.

Here is a real-life example: When I asked this question to a person recently, without a second of hesitation he said his favorite topic would be “Performance tuning”. When I asked him to elaborate, he said “Topic 1 – Performance Tuning for <software package 1>, Topic 2 – Performance Tuning for <software package 2>, Topic 3 – Performance Tuning for <software package 3>” It was very clear that he loved to troubleshoot performance issues but the shelf-life for the topics that he chose was very slim. When we talked about the “shelf-life” concept, the person understood where the problem was and he is working towards getting out of the shell.

Working in the tech industry has its rewards but the shelf-life of many skills that you acquire and use is very small. While you these “short term” may be absolutely necessary, they are not sufficient.