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Recession-Proof Your Career

15 steps to consider for protecting your career.

Key points

  • A recession could be looming, meaning further layoffs. Now is a good time to be proactive in protecting your job and career.
  • Stay aware of signs there may be trouble, keep your job search material up to date, stay visible, and tap your professional network.
  • Have a fallback plan, such as a side gig, and maintain a positive mindset as you stay focused on your long-term career goals.

Recession fears are on the rise, with layoffs by major U.S. companies making headlines this summer. Opinions vary greatly on whether we’re already in a recession, if one will occur, and whether the relatively strong labor market will offset a downturn. Still, there is never a bad time to recession-proof your career.

Maksim Shmeljov/Dreamstime
Source: Maksim Shmeljov/Dreamstime

It’s easy to be complacent in a job market where the biggest questions have been “When should I join the Great Resignation?” and “Where can I find the best-paying remote job?” But now a larger issue looms: How safe is your job? Like most events that instill deep fears, gaining control can mitigate the fallout. A little preparation and strategy can put you in the driver’s seat.

Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

There’s no reason to panic as you take steps to protect your career. Drops in employment rates are never an overnight calamity; you have time to plot your strategy and success. Adopt the mindset that you will triumph no matter the economic conditions—but also invest in “career insurance” by being proactive.

15 Steps to Protect Your Career

It’s important to distinguish between protecting your job and career. For one thing, “jobs” have new meaning today, as the number of working Americans with side hustles has risen to 93 percent, according to Insuranks. But it’s also wise to view your current position as just one point in a longer career trajectory. Staying mindful of your longer-term career and financial goals is smart thinking in good or bad times.

Consider these steps for better career security during a potential recession:

  1. Listen for signs. Not only should you keep tabs on the economy and how it affects your industry, but also keep your ear to the ground at your company. Have there been rounds of layoffs? What is your read on the company’s financial health and prospects? Is there transparency on the corporate outlook?
  2. Update your resume. There’s no time like the present to ensure your resume is current. While this is a helpful, ongoing practice, now is the time to make sure your skills and accomplishments are updated. Keep in mind that during a recession, certain skills in your toolbox may be more coveted than others. For example, experience with streamlining expenses and finding new avenues for revenue growth may be in higher demand during leaner times.
  3. Update your “kudos” file. Third-party endorsement never goes out of style and is invaluable, especially now. Keeping your written accolades current takes some effort, but is well worth it. This file might include congratulatory letters, recognition, or praise for past successful projects.
  4. Step up your game at work. This is a good time to put in a little extra effort at work. While no one is indispensable, let it be known that you are integral to the department through your results and dedication. Employees who meet these criteria and have a great attitude are often the last to be laid off.
  5. Get clarity from your boss. Try to find out where you stand from your boss. Without appearing insecure, it’s acceptable to seek feedback on your projects and ask how you can be of greater value. If your manager is distant, uncommunicative, or increasingly challenging to work for, pay closer attention. Working remotely can create an extra layer of communication barriers. Regardless, checking in is a good practice, especially now.
  6. Consider side hustles. If you can perform well at your job and hold a noncompeting side gig, you’re protecting your interests should layoffs be around the corner. Be discreet...and honest with yourself as to whether you’re still doing your best work at your primary job. Project work can be a great testing ground for pursuing a new industry or career, too.
  7. Brush up on skills. Having up-to-date technical and strong people skills will help protect your career. Invest in online courses and explore an attitude of lifelong learning.
  8. Stay focused. It’s easy to move to a place of fear or negative thinking when the chopping block could be near. But staying unfettered and determined matters. If you put to writing your goals and ignore all the noise, you’ll maximize your career advancement opportunities.
  9. Stash your cash. It's prudent to watch your expenses during uncertain times. Having enough savings gives you more time, latitude, and confidence in making your next career move.
  10. Engage in self-care. This is a good time to eat healthy foods, exercise, and make sure you’re in good shape mentally and physically. You’ll make more clear-headed decisions should challenges come your way.
  11. Have a plan for various scenarios. Uncertain economic times can result in the unexpected. You may experience a pay cut, be asked to handle new responsibilities, be offered a transfer, and so on. You may want to have a fallback plan, or several, so consider all your options.
  12. Clean up your social media act. Should pink slips be heading to your department, make sure your social media footprint is professional. It may take some time for posts to be deleted from the Web, so now is a good time to start the clean-up process.
  13. Network nonstop. It’s easy to forget about your professional network when your job is secure. But networking activities—through business contacts, trade groups, friends, and relatives on a regular basis—always come in handy when job cuts may be in the offing.
  14. Become a LinkedIn pro. If you’re in a corporate career, there is likely no better way to reinforce and build your network than through LinkedIn. And there are myriad ways to take the process to more advanced levels. If you haven’t explored this, peruse the Web site or YouTube, or consult with an expert to boost your career prospects.
  15. Believe in yourself. As you seek ways to protect your job and career from a possible layoff, one of the best things you can do is to stay positive and know your power. You might consider this exercise. List all your major accomplishments over that last, say, five to 10 years, to remind yourself of your value. You’ll likely be astounded, as few people take the time to take this empowering snapshot of their past.

No one can predict exactly where the economy is headed, as there are many new and unprecedented factors at play currently. But what you can control is examining your options—to keep your career resilient and help you thrive.

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