The Illusion of Safety

I had lunch with my friend Brian yesterday.  He’d been working at a small, software startup here in Boston and over the weekend the investors decided to pull the plug. No warning, just a phone call and a couple of months severance.

He figures he has three options now:

1.  Go to work for a big company.
2.  Find another startup.
3.  Start something on his own.

What I find most interesting about Brian’s situation is that most people look at that list and assume it’s laid out in increasing order of risk. Ten years ago, I would have thought the same thing, but today, I think that’s totally backwards.

Working for a large company is like being a solo professional with one client. And not just any client; a client in which the decision to keep you on or let you go will often have nothing at all to do with you, your value or your performance.  That’s what I call risky.

As solo professionals, on the other hand, we’ve all learned how to “live off the land.” Clients will come and go, but we know where to find more, and we do our best not to become too dependent on any one of them. If you ask me, that’s what security looks like.

3 thoughts on “The Illusion of Safety

  1. Aimee

    You hit the nail on the head with this one (as usual)! I started working for myself 4 years ago and have never felt more secure with my future. Keep up the great posts!

  2. Lynn

    I’m a single mum (in Australia) with a secure full-time salaried position that I’ve had for 2 yrs. I announced to them yesterday that I want to leave to go solo again. I’ve been feeling like a caged animal but still somewhat frightened at this point to let go. So thanks for your insightful newsletter and a reminder of the risks of staying with a large employer.


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