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Time and again, clients land in my e-mail inbox or are on the phone talking to me, painfully recounting how the job they thought was secure was suddenly wiped out in the blink of an eye. What they thought was a bullet-proof company career is suddenly gone, and the employee is now left with dangling, unresolved questions:

  • “I did everything right, and I was a top performer... How could this happen?”
  • “The boss and I were best pals… What went wrong?”
  • "Why me?”
But the truth is: There is no such thing as job security any more. It's all about employability. And the biggest secret obstacle to your career rests on one thing and one thing only: How complacent are you? The people who suffer the most from being "caught with their pants down" in their career are usually the ones who have not taken an active role in managing their career. Sure, they have contributed a lot of good things, but something gave management pause and made them zero in on the unlucky employee. That leads to the next question: What have you done to prove that you are not "dead wood?" That you are an active contributor in addition to being a top performer? No method is entirely bullet proof, but when it comes down to paring down staff, it boils down to a business decision where an employer will look at who might be transferable to another department or have demonstrated leadership or untapped career assets that might be of use to the company. Complacency has no place in this business model. The concept of "upgrading" is becoming more and more practiced as companies who have trimmed their staff down to the core group are now evaluating who is left to figure out how to move the company forward. But never fear. There is a way to overcome the perception of a person's complacency. This is a brand-new year and what better time to actively roadmap out three areas that can shift an employer's opinion about you. Here are the three major focuses you need to zero in on to boost your employability quotient with your current employer:

1. Professional Development

What kinds of classes, workshops, trainings, etc. can you take that will hone your ability to do your job, and bring back new ideas to the company? A well-trained workforce is important to bosses making staff reduction decisions.

2. Affiliations

How are you building your connectedness within the industry? What kinds of organizations can you join to build up your company’s profile, and keep tabs on your industry peers (and competition)?

3. Involvement

Where are you demonstrating your leadership by volunteering? This is a touchy area as you have to strike the right balance between contributing on a volunteer basis versus not impacting your ability to do your job. But by stepping up, you keep your abilities and name in the limelight, versus dropping off into obscurity. Showing traction in your career by integrating these three career drivers, and then keeping your boss informed about them is critical to demonstrating how indispensable you are to the organization. They might lay off others, but if you are valuable to the organization by being an active contributor, you’ll have a better chance of surviving being trimmed out of the company payroll by being placed into another area of the organization. And if the unthinkable ever does happen, you can be more confident in your job search by not being complacent about your career and engaging in active career management. As a result, the opportunities of another employer recognizing you as top talent and snapping you up are exponentially increased. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Learn how to land a career you love

Everyone needs to feel their voice is heard and their contributions are important. Something as simple as sharing a drink the last hour of the day on a Friday with the team to recap wins and give praise can build camaraderie within the team.

All of the above are fairly simple to implement but can make a huge difference in morale and motivation. Have any of these tips worked well for young the past? Do you have other tips to motivate your creative team? If so, please share them with me!

Encourage curiosity. Spark debate. Stimulate creativity and your team will be better at handling challenges with flexibility and resourcefulness. Create a safe space for ideas, all ideas, to be heard. In ideation, we need the weird and off-the-wall ideas to spur us on to push through to the great ideas.

Sure, there are a ton of studies done on this, but here is my very unscientific personal take. When team members can make decisions about how they work on projects, they are more engaged and connected to the project outcome. When they see how potentially dropping the ball would affect the entire team, they step up. When they feel like what they are doing is impactful and valued, they are naturally motivated to learn more, and be even better team members.

Rarely does a one-size-fits-all style work when it comes to team motivation. I have found that aligning employee goals with organization goals works well. Taking time to get to know everyone on your team is invaluable. What parts of their job do they love? What do they not enjoy? What skills do they want to learn? Even going so far as to where they see themselves in five years career-wise. These questions help you right-fit projects, and help your team see you are committed to creating a career path for them within the company.

Most designers I know love a good challenge. We are problem solvers by nature. Consistently give yourself and your team small challenges, both design-related and not. It will promote openness within the team to collaborate, and it will help generate ideas faster in the long run. Whether the challenge is to find a more exciting way to present an idea to stakeholders or fitting a new tool into the budget, make it a challenge just to shake things up.