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Are You Experiencing “The Great Apprehension” at Work?

6 not-so-obvious ways to counter job insecurity.

Key points

  • With inflation, higher interest rates, and an uncertain economy, there seems to be a shift from the Great Resignation to The Great Apprehension.
  • It's empowering to stay mindful of the bright spots in the economic and employment landscape to help mitigate job insecurities.
  • There are positive steps you can take now to boost your career prospects and mindset relating to your interpersonal dynamics at work.
Elnur/Dreamstime
Source: Elnur/Dreamstime

The labor market seems to have quickly shifted from the Great Resignation to a mode of increased job fears. Have we replaced Quiet Quitting with Quiet Angst in just a year’s time?

Fifty-six percent of those partaking in the Great Resignation say they’re now worried about job security, according to a recent Bankrate survey. And 19 percent say they’re “very worried.” Still, there are some proactive steps that can be taken to mitigate job insecurity.

The backdrop

The concerns are understandable, with recent layoffs at tech companies like Amazon, Meta, Lyft, Stripe, and Twitter all making headlines. An uncertain economy, higher interest rates, and inflation are raising red flags for a potentially challenging employment climate ahead. Experts say the job market is still strong overall, but there are signs of cooling.

In my last post, I addressed 15 tactical steps to recession-proof your career. However, when job uncertainty is in the air, it’s also helpful to look at the big picture—and interpersonal factors you can control to advance your career.

Big-picture bright spots

1. Despite some gloomy headlines, the job market remains relatively strong. The macro look shows some daunting signs, but a lot can change in a few months. Seemingly overnight, inflation, higher interest rates, and real estate price declines descended on the economy. And pundits are saying everything from “We’re in a recession” and “A big recession is coming in 2023” to “A brief, mild recession may come next year” and “There may be no recession.”

One thing seems apparent, given the wide range of speculation: A lackluster economy can recover almost as quickly as it soured, with little warning.

2. Barring any significant geopolitical catastrophes or Omnicron-triggered shutdowns, there are other positive signs. These include talk of lower interest rates a year from now. That could positively impact business growth and hiring.

3. The stock market tends to look several months out. And signs of more bullish (albeit volatile) sentiment could also spur business spending that could stave off massive layoffs.

4. While consumer confidence has slipped slightly of late, consumers are still spending, says the National Retail Federation. Consumer spending accounts for over two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

With this broader view of our economic backdrop, it’s easier to adopt a more balanced perspective.

6 fear-busting career tips

You can further mitigate the fear factor with some steps that largely relate to your interpersonal work dynamics:

1. Bolster relationships at work with your boss and coworkers. If there are hiring freezes or signs of layoffs at your employer, all the more reason to build a strong network with colleagues, including outside of the office. All things equal, it’s much harder to terminate a strong-performing employee with a positive team approach.

2. If your work is remote or hybrid, stop in. This is a situation where “out of sight, out of mind” can be a detriment. Consider visiting the office at intervals that makes sense. At the very least, think about having lunch with team members and the boss to maintain strong bonds.

3. Don’t be shy. Avoid the temptation to stay under the radar, especially when times are a little tough. Whether or not you work remotely, there are ways to keep your personal brand alive and well. For example, if you’re top of mind and maintain active communications—that can only improve your chances of being recruited for the most visible projects. If you work offsite or remotely, you may suggest more frequent Zoom meetings to increase team productivity.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for competitive compensation. This may sound counterintuitive or like doubling down during a shaky economy. But your long-term career health matters, and the salary raise window is soon closing. First, gauge the status of your employer and industry, as well as how your salary compares with industry norms. Assuming you and your employer have performed well, consider broaching the salary question with your boss.

The average salary bump will be around 4 percent in 2023, according to Salary.com, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Beyond the obvious, exploring this option can boost your future career prospects—and current mindset. If you believe all the factors are in your favor, carpe diem.

5. Volunteer to help your boss with key projects. It’s not always evident to a boss that team members can help support them with their managerial projects. Managers don’t typically grasp the full range of your skills, think of the possibilities, or necessarily know you genuinely want to assist, especially with the recent emergence of “quiet quitting” and the Great Resignation.

A major tenet at work is to make your boss’s workload easier, so check in and make your range of skills and interests known. Just make sure your own bases are covered, and you’re not over-committing.

6. Surround yourself with positive people. Finally, one of the best things you can do to boost your career prospects (and confidence) is to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Positivity is contagious. And it’s often said that you are the company you keep. Try experimenting by reducing your time with any toxic colleagues or “friends” in your life for a couple of weeks. See if your outlook improves!

Recession or not, you can counter “The Great Apprehension” with some proactive steps. This is an opportune time to adopt a positive career perspective and strategy—with an eye toward the immense possibilities.

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