How safe is your career?

Boxing girl

One of the first rules of self defense I learned from my mixed martial arts teacher Kelly Fiori was the importance of training and repetition.

“If someone attacks you in the street, you will not have time to think about how to respond. It must be absolute instinct. You must continually train so that self defense becomes second nature.”

This led to many hours of drills, and more times that I can count feeling the discomfort of closing my eyes as a fellow student grabbed me from behind, or put his hands around my neck while I desperately tried to get away.

It freaked me out each time.

But I kept at it, because I learned that I got slightly less freaked out the more that I practiced. Then I started to feel more powerful, even with my eyes closed.

I almost clocked my teacher once when he jokingly grabbed my arms from behind when I was in line at Starbucks. I like to think he was proud of my reflexes. He was glad I didn’t have my coffee yet 🙂

This mantra of training for the worst, so you can enjoy the best, became a key part of my philosophy in career development.

How safe is your career?

In today’s world, we need to take a proactive stance toward career security.

Markets are unstable. Organizations change. Businesses go through booms and busts.

It is dangerous to think that if you just close your eyes and get through your day, that things will just work out. They may not.

You cannot control the stability of your career. But you can train yourself to be as safe and prepared as possible.

Here are 5 ways you can practice career self defense:

1. Always have a backup plan.
Know at least one way you could earn an income if your current situation changed. If you work for yourself and your business goes through difficulty, do you know how to interview for a job? If you work for a company and you get laid off, do you know how to freelance for awhile until you find another position? Spend some time thinking about a backup plan, and you will rest easier.

2. Know your deliverables.
Whether you work for yourself or someone else, you receive money to deliver specific results. Revisit these priorities and expectations. Get clarity on any part that is murky. Then deliver what you promised.

3. Build your network now.
The worst time to reach out to someone new and influential for the first time is when you need something. The best time is when you are simply interested in connecting with smart, interesting and hard working people. Build your connections before you need them. Help others before you ask for help. Then when you need help, they will be there for you.

4. Have proactive conversations about your role.
Don’t wait for your annual performance review to find out how you are doing in your job. Check in with your boss, or your client, at least on a quarterly basis. Ask how things are going. Ask if there is anything you can be doing better to solve their problems. Ask what things are keeping them up at night, so you can understand the challenges they are facing. Most people avoid conflict, and will be thrilled if you initiate a safe way for them to let you know how you can improve your performance.

5. Check your current online profiles.
How current is your “About” page on your website? Has your LinkedIn profile been updated since 2011? When was the last time you took a new headshot? What do you find online if you google your name? Take some time to update and refresh your online profiles so that you tell an updated and coherent story about who you are, what you specialize in, and why people would want to connect with you.

Stay safe out there! 🙂


Reader Interactions


  1. Carol Ross says

    Great post, Pam. I especially like the points about building your network before you need it and keeping your online profiles current. I had a networking call to get to know someone recently and his LinkedIn profile was completely different from what he was doing now. When he started to talk about his current work, there was a huge disconnect for me.

    One thing I would add, related to having a backup plan and knowing your deliverables: Know Yourself. Do the inner work it takes to understand your talents, values, purpose as well as what gets in your way (those nasty Gremlins that keep recirculating negative thoughts in one’s head!) All of this falls under the category of *building confidence*. I’ve found that as I do more internal work, I’m better able to cope with whatever happens externally, especially when “things don’t go my way”.


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