Last week Daniel Packer and I had a little debate about emergency funds where Daniel said you should have one in cash and I said you should invest and mitigate risk other ways. One of the ways I suggested to reduce the need for an emergency fund is to be a rockstar at work, and a few people didn’t take too kindly to that. Here are some of the responses I got on that suggestion:

Meg says:

And no matter how indispensable you think you are, things happen. Companies go under or get taken-over by others and chances are that you are not going to know ahead of time because that’s the sort of thing upper management keeps super quiet. I’ve known so many people who were absolutely surprised to lose their jobs because they thought they were indispensable.

20 and Engaged says:

I’m going to have to disagree with you Kevin. I was laid off last week… I worked my butt off at my job and felt that because I was the only one doing my job, I had job security. I was wrong.

And Darwin says:

I think the notion of “being a rockstar at work so you don’t get laid off” completely defies the concept of the emergency fund though… Most people think they are rock stars (even though they’re not), and very few know a layoff is coming.

I didn’t expand on my definition of “being a rockstar” and I think this made my argument difficult for some to understand. Your goal is to put yourself in an employment position where you are not expendable. You want to be sure that if we hit the Great Recession 2 that your job is still safe, or that you could get a new job very quickly.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if your job is expendable or not:

Does my job require a specific college education and/or specialized training or skills that are relatively uncommon?

If you don’t have at least a college degree or some kind of special certification, you are expendable. If you have a college degree or other certification that 100 billion other people have (I’m looking at you Psychology majors), you’re probably expendable. If your job simply requires you have any college degree and doesn’t specify what kind of degree, that means anyone can do your job and you are expendable.

Occupations such as engineers, corporate lawyers and computer programmers usually have a lot of job security because those are not skills that can be learned on the job.

Is my job an essential function for generating profit for the business?

Are you expendable?If you work in marketing, your company can still sell to existing customers, so you are expendable. If you work in HR, there’s a good chance one of your colleagues is going to fire you because you are expendable. It doesn’t matter what you do; if the company you work for can still make money without your job, then you are expendable.

The safest jobs are the ones that pay for themselves. Sales is a great example. It doesn’t matter what the economy is doing; if you’re selling product, you’re going to have a job. The positions that make the product will always be around as well, although if you’re overpaid and underperforming, the job will still be there but you may find someone else filling that position.

If I quit today, would they hire someone new to replace me?

If you decided to quit today and your boss wouldn’t be frantically trying to keep you and/or replace you immediately, he may as well fire you right now because you are expendable. If you’re on a team of 15, and realistically the job can get done with 10, then you are definitely expendable.

Large corporations have a tendency to over-hire when things are going well, and then they have to cut back to a critical mass when the economy goes south. The key here is to be honest with yourself about this question. If you really want to know the answer you may want to ask a trusted coworker their opinion on your position.

Am I a top performer?

Many companies give their employees a performance evaluation at some point during a year. In some cases, this performance evaluation will give you a general idea of where you stand in relation to the rest of the people at your company. If your company rates people on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the best), and you aren’t at least an 8, then keep your resume updated because you are expendable.

A company will assume they can get an average performer off the street. They will also assume that a new average performer will take a lower salary than an average performer with years of experience. If you don’t want to be replaced by someone younger and cheaper, then make sure you are performing better than a new guy would ever be able to do.

That’s it. Four simple questions to understand how secure your job really is. If you answered no to any of these questions, I recommend you either work on fixing them or prepare yourself to be unemployed. If you are expendable, it doesn’t mean the company will fire you; it just means they could, so be prepared.

This post was an editor’s choice article in the Totally Money Carnival hosted at Live Real, Now.

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