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Protecting Yourself at Work from Day One

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For generations, parents have dedicated their lives, resources, and wages to raising and educating children who are expected to one day go forth and get a job. And, for most of us, having a job is not just a major goal in life but an absolute economic necessity. In fact, many people are working at more than one job just to keep their heads above water financially!

Accepting a job and entering the workforce is one of the most significant (and possibly life-enhancing) experiences you will ever have. For some men and women, the physical, intellectual, and emotional commitment made to working is even stronger than that made to partnering and/or parenting. Who doesn’t know of someone who sacrificed health or personal and family relationships on the altar of an employer?

And yet, everybody also knows somebody who went to work one morning thinking that day would be just like any other, only to find out that it was all over: end of job — just like that. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, you may be one of the thousands who report for work every day fearing it might actually happen someday. And in this day and age, you will almost certainly experience a sudden firing at some point in your career, perhaps even more than once. You need to be mentally and physically prepared for that possibility!

Unfortunately, no one is safe. People are losing jobs in droves these days, faster than jobs are being created. At present, there is a labor surplus for the most part. Sometimes people don’t even know why they lost their jobs. In this age of job insecurity, the only people who can count on a paycheck are those who are self-employed and out there creating their own work! Sad, perhaps, but true! That’s why it’s more important than ever that you take control of your career from your very first day on the job!

Every working person needs to set up a personal employment file on the first day of a new job. Do not let your first day at work end without creating this crucial file! This applies to employees, contractors, and consultants alike — and, just to be clear, to every job you’ll ever have.

In this file you should keep your employment offer (or contract, if you are an independent), your job description, and copies of any forms you complete for the human resources department (e.g., forms relating to benefits, tax elections, and other employment records). You should also keep information HR provides you with about the company and anything your boss shares about the department you’ll be working in and the team you’ll be working with (for example, organizational charts, mission and values statements, project or assignment lists, etc.).

Over time, you’ll want to add other pieces of information to the file, such as, for example your annual performance plan, copies of your reviews, and copies of positive testimonials you receive from others over the course of your employment. Also, be sure to put any communications from the employer describing changes to your job or changes to your benefits plans and programs in there, as well as copies of any key correspondence you have with your boss. Forward any electronic documentation of the above to your personal email address.

And keep your file at home! This file is critical to your future, whether or not you lose your job. So again, keep your employment file at home and not in your desk at the office. Here’s why:

1. Your offer letter outlines the terms of your employment contract. Never leave its terms to memory.

2. Your job description explains what you have to do to live up to the terms of that employment contract. If you don't have a formal job description, send your boss an email detailing the key duties and responsibilities you believe you have and asking for confirmation. Then put both your email and the reply in your personal file.

3. Your job could end tomorrow morning without warning. Don’t ever make the mistake of believing it couldn’t happen to you! If you are escorted from the building the same day, as many people are, you will not be permitted to take your employment folder with you, nor will you be able to get your hands on the many critical documents you may need for future reference.

No one will ever care about your career more than you do. Take the above steps for yourself, and you will always have what you need to move forward should your career come to an unexpected end one day. You’ll never regret taking the time to create your own employment file.

About the Author

Internationally renowned business strategist, ueber-mentor, and MBA professor Linda M. Lopeke is the creator of the SmartStart virtual mentoring programs — the fastest, easiest way to super-size your career success. Visit to take the $1,000 cash-for-college challenge and test your office smarts.
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 own work  necessity  thinking  HR  plans  employment contracts  insecurity  employers

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