4 Important Ways to Protect Your Job From the Coming Recession

Timing a recession is like timing the market and selling the right stocks at their peak and buying stocks that will peak at their low point, very hard to do and almost never accomplished on time. No matter the reforms since the last great recession the economy is cyclical and we have been in the longest bull market ever. What goes up, can’t go up forever and you must be prepared for a downturn at any moment. Everyone is affected by a recession but the question is how severally and how quickly can you recover. 

While most of us can’t avoid being affected, we can shore up our job skills right now and build resumes that are comparatively recession-proof when job markets do tighten up. The goal is to be indispensable in our role and have a robust network to get back on our feet quickly if the unexpected occurs.  By following my four-step plan below and other insights on my blog the goal is to get another role without taking a pay cut and join an attractive company with upward mobility.

1. Volunteer for Business Critical Projects

Just before and during a recession companies look too thin the herd and people with track records of considerable accomplishments in challenging environments tend to be retained while those with transferable skills. It’s best to strengthen your resume and reputation at your employer by working on projects that are difficult and have a high business impact. 

These projects will often land you in unfamiliar territory, working on the edge of your skillset, it will feel uncomfortable but it will compel you to pick up new skills to tackle the unknown. If they’re hard, messy, and high stakes, you are on the right path. As we have discussed in other posts, difficult projects are usually led by top managers and discussed by leadership cross-functionally within the organization. On tough projects use that time with leadership on the project to use them like mentors and gain insights plus you can grow your reputation via association with their projects.  Their success can cast a spotlight on your work by association and help to ensure you continue to gain more notoriety within he organization and insulate you from layoffs. Succeeding in tough undertakings like these can give you a powerful psychological boost, raising your confidence to take on bigger challenges–or weather hard times when they hit you unexpectedly.

While you can’t be 100% protect from a layoff if you are a top performer who is laid off your reputation can make your leadership more likely to recommend you for referral opportunities or for rehire in the future.   These projects also give you great examples for recruiters to demonstrate that you have a track record of learning quickly–not just the potential to do so.

But opportunities for “stretch” projects may not be easy to come by in your own organization. So if that’s the case, look elsewhere. If you’re comfortable in your role and ready for a change anyway, start checking out high-growth startups and industries where you’ll be more challenged. Which companies and their projects are getting media attention? Working on high-visibility undertakings is also a great way to build a professional brand that can help you stay ahead in a competitive job market.

2. Learn Quickly and Demonstrate Adoption

Learning quickly is a vital skill during a recession because market conditions change so fast, usually requiring you to use different methods in order to succeed. Besides, you might not find a job that requires the exact skill set you already have. So you’ll need to demonstrate to recruiters that you have a track record of learning quickly–not just the potential to do so.

Take a look at your role and your industry. What certifications do your peers have that you might want to consider? What new technologies or methodologies can it help you to master? Picking up some new qualifications can not only boost your resume, but it’ll also expand your knowledge base and help you find new solutions to challenges at work.

To be sure, you can only build up so much knowledge individually. But it isn’t about becoming your industry’s Swiss Army knife. As you work on deepening your own skills, you should also build a wide network of experienced and credible people who can point you toward blind spots you might not know about. Show up to the right network and consider joining some industry groups. Sure, this can often be where job opportunities come from, but in the more immediate sense, they’re also important ways to learn–including learning what it is that you don’t yet know.

3. Examples of Adaptability and Success

Every employer in the chaos of a recession needs adaptable workers who can switch gears and thrive even when the businesses’ needs change. Companies try to do more with less during a recession and employees who can wear many hats and be successful are highly sought after. Think about how you stack up right now: How quickly can you adapt to a new team or new job duties? And at a personal level, can you adapt to a budget lifestyle without affecting your morale–and thus your ability to deliver results?  Always evaluate how you would accomplish a goal if you were given fewer resources or had to accomplish it with a grassroots solution.  

One way to practice becoming more adaptable and have a way of demonstrating that to prospective employers is through volunteer work or managing programs inside your company with limited resources but high expectations. You’ll learn to navigate skill sets and diverse teams, ply your trade under different market conditions, and pick up new business approaches that expand your perspective on your work.

Adaptability is not easy to master but being a multi-faceted resource for your company makes you indispensable and also very marketable in a recession economy. No one can be totally immune from layoffs but having a skill set that is adaptable and marketable makes any risk of being jobless manageable.

4. Always be Networking and Keep Communicating

You already know that networking and communicating with that network is important during a recession or during a surge in business. Staying in touch with market leaders in your industry helps keep you relevant, and in the know for market trends and ensures you stand out from your peers as a market insider.  Always easier to be proactive and engaged with your networking with momentum than trying to get things moving from a standstill when you are desperate and without a job. In your network, you should be sharing your thoughts about your field to showcase your ideas and expertise–write for blogs and publications, interact with colleagues on social media, and pick up speaking opportunities. But you’ll also want to use those personal branding efforts as a springboard to network with people at higher levels than you otherwise might.  Your network should have a layer of people a level or two above you to ensure you have connections and relationships with people who could hire in the future.  Normally, we tend to network with people in similar roles or just a notch or two further ahead on their career paths. But to recession-proof your career, you should try to connect in particular with C-level leaders, the startup community, and HR decision-makers who have the power to make you an offer or introduce you to someone who can.

Connecting and networking with c-level leaders is not an overnight solution but a slow process and an important one. Make a list of the C-level leaders you want to connect with and try to slowly build a relationship, using a breadcrumb trail of your personal branding efforts online to build up a rapport. This takes time, but it’s easy to start doing in small steps. Start by following a certain leader on Twitter or comment thoughtfully on a Medium post they’ve written. Stop by a speaking event and grab a quick moment to introduce yourself.

Even in good times, building career capital takes a lot more than just hard work it takes long-term goal setting, intelligent planning, and committed execution. But when a recession hits, all of that gets incrementally harder to do. So front-load the effort, chip away at these steps now, and you’ll be glad you did the next time the job market suddenly tightens up around you.

For more insights check out the rest of my blog or better yet speak with us directly as a member.