On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, Steve Jobs resigned from his position as chief executive of Apple. Jobs helped propel the computer company he created in his parent’s garage to become one of the most profitable companies in the world. His cult-like appearances were eagerly anticipated by those drooling over the latest gadget, but his battle with pancreatic cancer over the last few years left many uncertain about the future of the company. Periodic disappearances led to decreases in Apple stock. His returns were met with glorious stock increases. It seemed the fate of Apple was tied to Steve Jobs.
On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, Tim Cook was named as Jobs’ replacement. Stocks took a tumble and then bounced back. Consumers are anxiously looking forward to the next big releases and will line up in droves upon their debuts. Apple will make lots of money. In other words, life will go on for the computer giant. Translation: Steve Jobs was important to the success of Apple, but he’s just as replaceable as everyone else…including you.
But is that a good or bad thing? What does being replaceable mean?
Stop watching YouTube. You’re replaceable if you don’t do work. When a company is looking to save money, the first thing they will do is cut the dead weight. The best way to avoid that scenario is to be an important cog in the wheel. There is no excuse for spending your time at work by watching YouTube videos; updating your Facebook or Twitter status or shopping. If you have run out of tasks to do, be proactive. Find work. Because if other employees are filling their day with work and you are looking at puppies on Cute Overload, you have nothing to complain about when you find yourself unemployed.
Younger and cheaper is better…or is it? Your success at a company has led to various promotions and raises. Life couldn’t get better, but then the economy tanked and companies were looking to save money. After cutting dead weight, they decided to stop paying people so much to do a job a younger person might do for a lot less. There really is no avoiding that. The perception that younger is better has made it so that older workers who make more money are replaced by fresh young talent with a lower price tag. And the truth of the matter is, your hard work made it easier for someone to step into your shoes. Over time, your replacement has figured out your way of doing things and eventually adds their own flair into the mix, making things better than before. The company has gone on without you. Of course it takes time to train someone new and in a world where time is money and companies need projects completed NOW, it might be more cost effective to keep you. That should be your argument.
There is no I in team, but there is me. You are replaceable for the simple fact that someone on your team might be willing to take on your job with a slightly smaller pay increase or none whatsoever. Everyone is scared of becoming unemployed and if the opportunity arises, you better believe the person you worked with deep in the trenches will do whatever it takes to keep getting a paycheck. Nothing personal…it’s only business.
Learn from your smart phone. In a few years, there will be a robot that can do your work. That has become true for a lot of people. But while technology can hurt a career, like email has done for U.S. Postal workers, being knowledgeable about specific software might make you irreplaceable for a moment. If only a few people know the type of program your company uses, those people are going to be equally as expensive as you are (simple supply and demand rule), so why not just keep the person they have. The lesson here: find something your company can’t live without and then learn it inside and out. The more skills you acquire, the harder it is to be replaced. You got rid of your digital camera, phone, portable music device and a book, because your Droid does it all. Get it.
Being replaceable is a motivational power. You are replaceable and you know it, so why stay at a job that might fire you just to save some money. Knowing that you are replaceable should make you strive for something greater. This is why so many people are no longer loyal to companies and switch jobs every year. They are jumping ship before they are forced to walk the plank. Make the fact that you are replaceable work for you and keep your eye out for better jobs.
--Jon Minners, Vault.com