Survivability: Career Strategies for the
New World of Work

by Janis Foord Kirk
reviewed by Joan Donogh

The new world of work is technical, highly competitive and far more demanding than the workplace of 15 or 20 years ago. In this drastically altered workplace, you need strong coping skills to survive. If you are not consciously managing your life and career you are in considerable danger of being left behind.

Millions of people have lost a job in recent years and have been thrown onto a steep learning curve. Many others are "survivors" of the re-engineering mania that has characterized this time, who still go to work in the same job, in the same place, but with longer hours, higher performance demands, and in some cases even a smaller paycheque.

Canadian career specialist, Janis Foord Kirk, is in daily contact with workers whose lives have been affected by workplace changes that are largely out of their control. Survivability is illustrated with the experiences of some of these people, and provides the tools required to survive and thrive in these changing times.

What's Going On?
This section of the book puts the changes reshaping the world of work into a broad context. Foord Kirk explores the influences behind buzzwords like globalization, information explosion, downsizing and restructuring.

As a result of the unprecedented change in the job and career landscape, just over 50% of the Canadian workforce continues to work in traditional, full-time jobs. As clearly defined, salaried positions disappear in record numbers, workers must be flexible in considering non-traditional forms of work - contract, part time, temporary, freelance, or independent work.

Job security, an implicit promise from employers for most of the 20th century, is a thing of the past. Security now rests clearly in the hands of the individual, and in their ability to remain flexible, continue to learn, and cope with changing circumstances in their workplace.

Take Action, Take Control
In this section of the book, the blend of skills, attitude and learning which are necessary to succeed in the new workplace are clearly defined. Included are the results of a study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, that produced an Employability Skills Profile - a combination of academic skills, personal management skills, and teamwork skills which are typically required of the Canadian workforce. Readers can complete an exercise to take inventory of their skills and to assess them against the Employability Skills Profile.

Employability, however, is only part of the career management equation, one which provides a benchmark of skills expected by employers. In order to effectively control your career path, you need Survivability, a concept which Foord Kirk develops in the book. Survivability allows you to walk your career path, to move in and out of traditional jobs as circumstances demand, to head back to school from time to time, to work independently from your own home office. It is your ability not only to survive, but to thrive.

The following Survivability skills are described in detail in the book:

  • Receptive to technology
  • Positive attitude
  • Self marketing abilities
  • Communication skills
  • Commitment to continuous learning
  • Research abilities
  • Consultative skills
  • Creativity
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Self management skills

After reading the chapter about each skill, you are asked to score yourself. From the scores, you will be able to identify your top three strengths. The weakest three become your training goals, and you will develop an action plan to improve your mastery of them.

What Lies Ahead?
The world of work continues to evolve. To gain insight into some of the trends which are likely to create work down the road, Foord Kirk consulted with two expert observers of the changes in the Canadian workplace, Nuala Beck and Colin Campbell. Their observations are shared in this section of the book. They agree that knowledge and information are key to recognizing and aligning yourself with growth industries.

The story of a young man who made a successful career move illustrates the process of researching and targeting a specific industry, which requires a great deal of effort and perseverance.

Towards Consensus
While managing a career has always been an individual concern, Foord Kirk concludes that the current workplace shifts are affecting society as a whole. In addition to actions that an individual can take, such as implementing the personal improvement plan detailed in this book, a new concept of work is required to be adopted by governments, labour organizations, and the business community.

This book is invaluable to anyone who has been affected by the workplace revolution. It offers some clarity to the situation, by looking at the bigger picture, and functions as a workbook to develop the readers' Survivability in the new world of work.

Survivability, Career Strategies for the New World of Work, by Janis Foord Kirk. Published by Kirkfoord Communications Inc. 1996, 2nd printing rev. 1999. For more information, visit the Survivability website at

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