Are You At Risk This Year?

As January begins, I recommend that you do a short job risk-assessment exercise.

A best practice for your well-managed career is a periodic threat analysis. What is on this year’s horizon that could be a threat to your job, your income, your market position or your career growth?

The idea is simple. If there’s a reasonable likelihood that something could occur outside of your control to threaten your professional well-being, it’s worth anticipating and preparing for it.


The Horizon: As you think about potential threats, the priority is the next 12 months. However, try and see beyond as well. If the shift you would need to make is relatively simple, then your runway to action might be shorter. If, however, your response to the named threat requires a more thoughtful or involved response – re-tooling, mastering those market skills so that you can compete effectively for new opportunities, plan for a longer runway.

The Economy: While I generally put more emphasis on areas where we have greater control, the state of the economy is relevant. As I write this, the predictions for 2020 are somewhat mixed, with a general consensus from economists that we will see continued moderate layoffs. There is also growing global uncertainty. Factor this in (from my perspective, this means that you should be prepared, develop your external network and options, ensure you are performing, etc.)

Industry Level: What is happening or could happen given market forces at the level of the sector, industry or market in which your company/organization operates? Some industries are on the upswing and others are shrinking. Factor this in.

Professional Level: What is happening at the level of your job function or profession (expected skills, credentials, etc.), including how key results are generated in your area? To make this practical, ask yourself this question: if I had to compete for new jobs tomorrow, how does my experience, skills and knowledge stack-up against my competition and the expectations of hiring organizations?

Company Level: What is happening and what predictions can you make about the company you work for in terms of growth, financial health, direction, or the possibility of being acquired? Hint: If the company was acquired or has merged, or is consolidating/re-organizing, factor this in. This is where a lot of forced job changes occur.

Key People: What is happening or what could happen with the key people up the chain of your reporting structure who you currently rely on for support? Often, the glue that binds us to a company is key people and when those people leave or are no longer your manager, you can find yourself at risk. This is also a big one.

Your Performance: How your performance and your fit with the team and company are perceived by key decision-makers and influencers impacts your level of risk. In general, strong relative performance, organizational fit and professional relationships increases your security. Be honest with yourself as you assess this one.

Your Preparedness: Stuff happens. So, the big question is this: if something happened next week that forced you to find new work, how prepared would you be? How’s your network? Your professional reputation? Are your resume and LinkedIn profile strong and representing you well?

Action: Give yourself 5-10 minutes to go through this.

As with any risk analysis, our intent in identifying and assessing the level of risk is to take the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk and/or develop contingency plans. What does this threat analysis tell you about what you need to do this year to ensure that you continue to thrive professionally and personally?