The only constant in life is change…image life as a voyage on the ocean and everything that happens in
your life as the waves. You are going to ride them out whether you like it or not. The question is simply;
“Are you going to get used to it and be able to function or are you going to give up and just be sick all of
I worked with this nice Indian girl once. She had two young children and had recently become a
naturalized citizen. She was always pleasant. Even when she was upset she seemed pleasant. She was
the only database administrator in a company with multiple, varied, and complicated data networks. She
was always busy. It was not that she looked, seemed, or acted busy like most people. She actually was
busy. She was being over worked all the time and the company was fine with that. Why pay for another
person if you could just work the ones you have harder. (Note: Increased worker productivity sounds good
when you hear it on the news; it just means more work for the same pay for the workers. Wow that almost
Things had been getting tuff at the company. They were adjusting to the ever changing real estate market
and decided to close one of the three or four companies they held. In the process they decided to trim the
fat so to speak. They would let go whole groups of people, hire a few new ones, and then drop one or two
more. No notice, no reason, apparently no pattern to who or when they got fired people. It was so
convoluted that most of the staff worked in the ever present fear that today could be their last. An email or
call from HR would send chills through everyone.
Everyone that is except me and the foolish few who believed that they were safe for whatever reason. I
had long ago realized that there was no such thing as a permanent employee and in fact most companies
now refer to their employees as regular rather then permanent. The only permanent employees are the
owners and they don’t like to think of themselves as employees. Unless you have an employment contract
which is not the same as new hire paperwork. You can be let go at anytime for almost any reason. Keep
that in mind when you head out to get a new car or purchase a house. In light of this, I am consistently
searching for my next job. I am always looking for something better. That is not to say that I am actively
interviewing but it does mean I keep my resume up to date. I review the internet and occasionally the help
wanted section of the paper even though that has all but gone the way of the dinosaur. I keep in touch
with a network of recruiters and contacts. I respond to inquiries with some interest and weigh the offers
with my current situation. And most importantly, I try not to let myself get too comfortable at any one
place. Comfort equals complacency which leads to some unpleasant surprises as you return from lunch to
find a box sitting on your desk.
One day after a particularly difficult week for the emotional well being of the company, I had just got a new
cup of coffee and was returning to my cube hidden in the back corner of the IT section when I came across
the Indian girl and a couple of others quietly discussing or complaining, as it seemed, about the current
days drama. More people had been let go and there duties were being shifted on to some of the members
of this group. I asked what was up and I got the whole story told with details and speculation and all
wrapped in a blanket of concern. All of this at the hurried and hushed pace of a whisper. It was interesting
to hear the details most of which I was already aware of, the others I could have guessed, and all of which
made little difference to me. In truth, what did I care if Bill; or Bob; or Suzy got fired? Yes, I played the cool
customer. So much so that the Indian girl chided me.
She said, “Aren’t you worried?”
To which I replied, “No.”
She retorted with, “Oh, Joel. You think you so cool.”
I broke from my image for a minute and simply explained that I didn’t worry because worrying wouldn’t
help… it wouldn’t make anything better. I accepted that this was a very unstable work environment and
took steps to secure my self if and when they decide to fire me.
She was somewhat shocked and asked in a whisper, “Are you looking for another job?” As if it was a
dangerous thing to say. As if the company police might hear and fire me on the spot.
I looked back at her and said in a matter of fact way, “Of course, I’m always looking for the next job.”
She didn’t seem to understand that.
She said, “Don’t you like your job?”
I said, “The job is fine but it was just a job.”
We were on completely different planets as far as our concepts of workers and employment. Her
understanding based on the few positions she had worked up till then was that a job was a privilege. You
had to earn it and be grateful to have it. You kept your head down and worked hard. You did not
complain at least not out loud. You stayed there until they let you go because there might not be another
job out there. I came from the mindset that a job is just a job you get hired to do a task for an amount of
money. If things work out then great. If not or if the job does not meet your needs you leave. It might
seem like a lack of loyalty but that’s because it is.
Loyalty is earned not bought. Loyalty is what happens when two individuals go out of there way to do,
care for, or help each other without personal benefit. Work for a company is a mutually beneficial
relationship of convenience. The employer has a need. This task needs to be done. They are willing to
pay x for it. The worker has a need. Money for bills, food, housing, etc… They are willing to do x for it.
That is the beginning and end of the employer employee relationship. Cold and hard but true.
Employment is a transaction. Like going to the store and buying a loaf of bread. You get the bread and
take it to the cashier. She rings it up and says that will be three dollars. You give her the three dollars
and leave. Do you have to feel grateful to the store or the cashier for the bread, no? You paid for it. In a
similar way, do you have to be grateful for your paycheck? No, you paid for it with your time and effort. Do
you have to feel a sense of gratitude or loyalty for your job? No, you earn it everyday by your work. It also
works the other way, but most companies don’t have a problem recognizing that. They don’t feel gratitude
or loyalty to you for doing the job they hired you to do. That’s why they pay you to do it. In the end,
gratitude does not pay the rent and you can not eat loyalty.
I could see that my philosophical wonderings were not necessarily helping. She didn’t get it or she just
disagreed with it at that time. So I asked her a question.
I said, “Do you know when you should start looking for your next job?”
This of course got her attention as it was at the heart of all of her anxiety. Should I start looking for a new
I said, “You start looking for your next job the first day of your current job.”
She was set back and waved me off as if I was joking.
I said, “I am not joking. You never stop looking.” (Looking is a job)
You have to get passed the thought that a job is the end result it is the finish line. The job is the process.
It’s the race not the prize.
No job is forever and that is OK. It creates a need to be dynamic, to do and be better then the next guy in
order to stay employed. It increases competition and competition is at the heart of improvement and the
The Lesson to Learn:
A job is a job and not a family. It is a transactional relationship so don’t take it personal. Keep looking and
keep looking out for yourself. If you can do this you will save yourself a lot of unpleasant surprises and a
lot of unnecessary stress.
The Brutal Truth:
There is no such thing as a permanent position so take such actions as necessary to secure yourself.