The percentage of those of us who feel secure in our corporate jobs has probably decreased over the past few months. Still, though, most people believe that a corporate job provides more stability than they could find working for themselves. I uncover that myth below.

When I first started at Novell, I belonged to a team headed by Dave Owens, the vice-president for Novell Labs. I had just completed my MBA and wanted more than anything to prove myself. Dave brought me into his office one afternoon and asked me one question: “Who do you work for, Rich?” I thought for a second and then answered, “You?” He looked at me and responded, “Wrong answer. I want you to go out and talk to Julia. Get on my calendar for next week.” I was dismissed without further comment.

The next week, I was sitting in the same chair. “Who do you work for, Rich?” This time I tried something different. “Novell.” Again, “Wrong answer.” I was instructed to make another appointment.

A week later, I was ready. “Who do you work for, Rich?” “I work for myself.” Then Dave explained. How I behaved and the work I did would have an impact on my entire life, and although I was employed by Novell, I worked for myself. Anything I did was exclusively mine to own: it would help or hurt only me. This conversation caused me to see things in a different light, especially in regard to loyalty and stability.

Corporations are bulging with people who truly believe that the company they work for provides them with far more stability than they could ever create in their own business. It is a lie! Plain and simple, it’s a façade created deliberately by companies to shackle talented, would-be entrepreneurs to their cubicle workspace. I concede there is a time and a place to allow the bonds of these corporate handcuffs, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the corporation will never represent your personal interests.

One of the strongest sentiments I try to teach my team members is the following: loyalty belongs to family, friends, and trust relationships. Never to a company. I have sat in the executive board rooms. I have not only heard the discussions, I have participated in them. Corporations are created for one purpose and one purpose only, to maximize profits for the shareholders. In all those meetings and executive discussions, I never once heard a discussion about loyalty to or creating stability for employees. This was one of the factors that motivated me to create my own businesses.

Think about it. Do you believe a large corporation is looking out for your stability? If you answer honestly, the answer has to be, “Of course not.” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t seek to have loyal and trusting relationships with the people you work with and for. You can, and should! But put trust where it belongs—with people, not with a company.

You will have more control over your future if you are the one pushing and pulling the financial levers. So why the apparent comfort level of working for a company? Blind bliss. It’s easier not to know. When you are the one at the controls, you get up close and personal with the finances, the near misses, and the visible realities. Corporations are extremely effective at creating a picture of relaxing perfection—that is, until quarterly projections are missed.

Still not convinced? Consider the following statistics.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Mass Layoff Statistics from 1997 through June 2007, nearly 175,000 businesses with more than 50 employees each conducted mass layoffs. Those layoffs resulted in nearly nineteen million individuals seeking unemployment insurance. I’m willing to bet that those numbers represent something less than one hundred percent of the total number.

So, how secure is “your” corporate job, and where does your loyalty lie?

Porter’s Points – The Corporate Myth

• You work for you!
• Understand the data: you can create more stability for yourself than you’ll ever get working for someone else.
• Be loyal to yourself, your family, and your trust relationships.

So does this mean it’s time to quit your day job and start a business tomorrow?! Not so fast. We’ll find out why next time.