Tom Steckel, 62, on the plains outside Pierre, South Dakota, where he’s the state’s employee benefits director. He’s happy for the work after being laid off three times since turning 50, but it’s a long way from home. (Ackerman + Gruber, special to ProPublica)

This may seem like a click-bait alarmist statistic. ProPublica based their research on people over 50 who have had a stable job for 5 years or more. Meaning, sometime within 15 years you will either be laid off, or forced out. If you are nearing 50 or over 50 you need career insurance. What if your house had a 56% chance of burning down in the next few years? You would either move now, or immediately have a look over your insurance coverage. But what about your job?

The fact is, if you are working for a corporation, there is a strong likelihood that you will be suddenly fired, or subtly pushed out in the not-so-distant future. These rates of job disruption are no different from the rest of the population. It makes sense that in an agile economy, spending 20 years at the same job is unusual.  What is radically different are the chances of you getting another job quickly, or at anywhere near the same pay.

The scariest situation in America today is the long-time executive with a nice compensation package, a big mortgage and a couple of kids getting ready for college. The apple cart can get turned over in a moment’s notice and getting it back up may never happen.

If you are in your 30s and 40s, what this means is that you need to be fully funding your retirement now. Your career path and earnings may have been on a nice predictable upward slope, but it is a dangerously false belief to assume that will continue in your 50s and 60s. It may, but it may not.

We will be doing a career special next week.

If you are in the danger zone of being over 50, you may want to take stock of your situation, especially if your compensation is at the higher end, putting you in the sights of the cost cutters. Yes, you may have great value to your company, but unless you are a law partner, tenured professor, architectural partner or have some other sort of built-in security, you may want to take some precautions.

Complacency is the enemy. Unfortunately, there is no safe harbor in the economy anymore. We don’t mean to be alarmist — this is the reality of the modern, fast-paced digital world we live in.  If you do sadly lose your job,  you will then face a hiring job market rife with false assumptions about your age. The bots that scan resumes may immediately push yours aside, as unfair or even illegal as that may be.

In a situation of discriminatory circumstances, the response is to become so much more highly skilled, better prepared, and ultimately to show an economic value far in excess of your younger competitors.

5 Action Steps for Employment

  • Become the most informed, the most modern, the very best at whatever you do.
  • Keep up to the moment on your skills. Especially all things dealing with digital and communications.
  • Build your network. The experts say this is where your next job will come from. Work it, constantly.
  • You are probably very good at something. Become better at it, and start letting the world know about it. Speak as often as you can, wherever you can, about your special knowledge. Write a blog, LinkedIn, Medium. If you have never done any of this, it may take a while to find your voice, which is all the more reason to start.
  • Save your money, don’t take on debt. It is recommended to have 6 months of savings in reserve. Having read the statistics, 1 year of reserves is safer.