Earlier this week Siemens announced it was eliminating 15,000 jobs (See Siemens cuts 15,000 jobs in six billion euro savings drive). What would you do if you were one of those 15,000 people?

Think it can't happen to you?

Just last week BlackBerry announced it was laying of 35% of its workforce, about 4,500 people (BlackBerry to Cut 4,500 Jobs, Will Take Nearly $1 Billion Loss).  Citibank announced it was laying off 1,000 people in its mortgage unit (Blame Citi layoffs on shifting mortgage landscape). Earlier this year, Hostess shut down suddenly, 18,500 jobs were lost (Why Hostess Had To Die).They are not alone.  

Still think you're immune to a layoff? 

Let's not forget the more than 800,000 Federal government employees currently not working or getting paid during the government shutdown. Or the government workers who were previously furloughed 1 day a week, effectively receiving a 20% pay reduction. 

These job cuts come from across industries and are hitting all types of workers. Front lineworkers, accountants, managers, executives, engineers, sales people, drivers. No one at any level of an organization is immune. Your degree doesn't matter. Your experience doesn't matter. 

What's Going On – An Economic Perspective

When you start looking at these job losses and the reason for them there is a subtle difference than from job losses in the past. Throughout the 20th Century job losses were clearly tied to the economic cycle. People who were laid off could almost count on getting their old job back once the economy picked up again. Layoffs tended to be tied most directly to those involved in the production of goods in manufacturing. As automation was introduced and became more wide spread, such as in the auto industry in the 1980s, we saw the beginning of the permanent loss of jobs. Still most job losses were tied to economic cycles.

The 1990s saw the beginnings of globalization. Jobs in the US were "off-shored" to other countries where the costs of labor and production were lower. The reductions of trade barriers, increased technological capabilities and the growing, global, skilled labor force all contributed to this fundamental shift in the labor market. There was great political debate in the US about this trend and its impact on Americans. Still the world moved forward and it's an accepted reality today. 

As we move forward to the Turn of the Century we saw the rise of the Information Age and the Internet Economy. Suddenly businesses and jobs for the tech savvy seemed to be created out of thin air. There was talk of a "New Economy" where productivity was skyrocketing, inflation was low and the stock marketing increasing indefinitely. This was the time of the rise of Amazon, Ebay, and Google, AOL, PSI Net, WorldCom, Webvan and others. Of course many of them collapsed in the Dot Com Bust.  Enron and Arthur Anderson were two other notable companies that were destroyed during this time.

This was followed a few short years later by the of rise financial services, real estate and social media and we're still experiencing the fall out and job losses occurring from the collapse of many firms in those industries. Virtually every company in these sectors were damaged and many, like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, disappeared overnight.   

What is really happening in the economy that is causing companies to lay off people or causing companies to collapse so suddenly? There are 3 factors at work:

  1. Business Cycles
  2. Creative Destruction
  3. Mismanagement/Fraud

Although you may not be responsible or able to control any of these factors, you do need to know these factors can affect your job at any moment. And you need to know how to respond if your job is affected. 

A Job, A Career and The Business of You

A Job, A Career and The Business of You are three distinct mindsets and views of your work life. Your personal economy. Regardless of whether you work at a Fortune 50 Company, a small business or you're an entrepreneur your perspective has a great influence on how you see your work life evolving over time and how you respond to changes that affect your employment and your income. 

A Job. This perspective of your work focuses on the tasks you do in with a specific employer. Your job has a description defined by someone else. Usually people with a job show up for work, complete their obligations and go home. A job is very much in the present moment. It doesn't have a future view because the job either continues to exist as it is or disappears when it's no longer necessary or better, faster, cheaper ways are found to do the tasks in the job. 

A Career. The career perspective is a long term. A career evolves over time with the worker, the business and the economy. A career may see you changing jobs, responsibilities, industries and even skills. Careers can be strategically and thoughtfully directed or just evolve naturally over time, depending on the ambitions of the person. A job can be part of your career. 

The Business of You. With the perspective that you are a business you gain the greatest freedom to interact with other business to share your skills and talents in exchange for a source of revenue (i.e., income). As a business you are free to enter into business relationships with other businesses. You understand your cash flow and how it depends on the performance of your business partners (employers). You negotiate payments for services (salary) just as two businesses do, from a position of mutual benefit, rather than one of uneven power and strength. As businesses both the employer and employee want the relationship to work well, have clear performance expectations of each other, and seek to meet or exceed expectations.  

How Does "The Business of You" Help Me In This Economy?

When you look at yourself and your career as a business the first transformation that happens is you get more engaged with the work you are doing. You don't want to go bankrupt after all, right?  Second, you start to look for the best business partnerships. Sometimes it's about money. Sometimes it's about stability. Sometimes it's about maintaining a certain lifestyle.

Strong businesses understand who they are doing business with. They seek to grow and diversify. They are continually working with their network to identify new opportunities. Businesses observe and seek to understand how the market dynamics are changing. They seek to innovate and adapt.

The Power of Perspective

Whether you look at yourself as having a job, a career or owning a business the tasks you are doing at work can be exactly the same. The difference is in how you look at yourself and your relationship with your employer and your work. Being a business owner puts ownership of your results squarely on you. You have the responsibility to your shareholders (yourself and family) to do provide the best financial return you can while achieving your vision. You have to do more than just show up and do your job. You spend time outside of work understanding the dynamics of the market that The Business of Youoperates in. You must make strategic investments to ensure your human capital is increasing in value and that your business, your income source, is not heading for Chapter 11. As the business owner you also have to recognize when it's time to let the business go and start a new one (career change). Creative destruction is happening not only to large business but also to jobs and careers. Entire disciplines have gone by the wayside. 

Are you ready for a shift?

See related stories:

What Can You Learn About Career Development From BlackBerry? 

Creative Destruction in Career Development: Learning and Unlearning