A friend has worked for a federal agency for more than 20 years. He likes the work. He likes the hours. And he likes -- well, liked -- the security. He's had other opportunities along the way, but he liked the stability that working for the government provided. 

As long as he did his job, he figured, his job and his family were safe.

Until now.

Another friend works at a hospital. Generally speaking, hospital jobs are like government jobs: If he did his job, he was pretty safe

Until now. Administrative missteps have shattered his community hospital group's financial position. While it's unlikely to shut down, his hospital is ripe for takeover by a larger system. And who knows what may change then--pay rates, benefits, work schedules. A professional life that seemed highly stable may suddenly be anything but.

Most of us are largely untouched -- at least directly -- by the government shutdown. Maybe you can't get into a national park. Maybe you wait longer to get through airport security.

Or maybe it affects you more directly. Possibly your rural home loan is on hold because a USDA office is closed. Or possibly your microbrewery can't get its new formulations approved because the Treasury Department has delayed signing off on new labels.

And of course if you're an affected government employee, your life has definitely been disrupted -- and with seemingly no end in sight.

Unfortunately, that's always a possibility when you work for someone else.

Take me. I walked in to work one Monday as 17-year employee with consistently outstanding evaluations and a reputation for hard work, dedication, and being the go-to person for the projects no one else wanted to take on, and later that day I got fired and was escorted from the building as an ex-employee.

I never saw it coming.

And that, unfortunately, is the nature of work. No matter how well you do your job, things inevitably change. Industries shift. Cultures shift. Organizations lose funding. Companies lose customers. Stuff happens.

Stuff you can't control. 

Forget the politics of the shutdown, or who is right or wrong, for a moment (if only because I'm not smart enough to know the solution to the current political impasse). 

When you work for someone else, your upside is always capped. Sure, you might occasionally get a raise, but in most cases, 3 to 4 percent is great.

Yet your downside is always unlimited, because getting fired or laid off can make your income disappear overnight, and with it all that time, effort, and dedication.

What you have today can be gone tomorrow.

That's a fact -- and it is a fact -- that you should not only keep in mind, but act upon.

Which is why, if you work for someone else, you should always be looking.

Because you never know. 

And because you may never know, if you aren't looking, when better opportunities exist.

The best time to look for a job is when you have a job. When you aren't desperate, you can objectively evaluate an opportunity. You can weigh the pros and cons. You can make a thoughtful decision about how a new job might improve your professional and personal life.

You may not find a better job, but you will never find a better job if you don't look. And if you do lose your job, you'll already be in the game. You won't have to start from scratch. You'll know what's out there.

And you should always have a side hustle going. Even if it's more hobby than business, that's OK. If you lose your job, it's a lot easier to ramp up a small venture than it is to start something new. And even if you don't lose your job, your side hustle can help you develop skills, talents, and connections that will pay off at your full-time job.

Win-win.

And who knows: Your side hustle may turn into a real business. And then you'll be your own boss.

And while your future still won't be guaranteed, at least you'll control it -- which is the best reason of all to be an entrepreneur and start your own business.

You never know what other people may do. You can't control what other people may do.

But you can always control what you do.

Published on: Jan 14, 2019
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