Don't get caught off guard by an economic downturn.
The best time to start recession-proofing your career is before an economic downturn hits. However, once a recession arrives, you can still take certain steps to protect your job and perhaps even keep your career moving forward. Here's how to recession-proof yourself prior to, or while in the depths of, a major economic downturn.
Build up your skill set
Regardless of the industry you work in, there's always more to learn — new tools, new approaches, and new ways for your career to develop. For example, the invention of blockchain has had an enormous impact on database development, opening huge demand for developers with expertise in that type of software.
Your manager will likely be happy to help you hone your existing skills and pick up new ones, and just showing your interest in skill development may well be in your favor should a round of layoffs arrive. But your current employer isn't the only self-development resource you have: Sites like Coursera, Khan Academy, Google Code Academy, and others offer free online courses in a huge range of subjects.
Stand out (in a good way)
Actively pursuing professional development is just one way to attract notice from your manager. You'll also be a lot more recession proof if your boss thinks of you as the most indispensable employee in your department. To manage this feat, you'll want to periodically bring yourself to your manager's attention by getting your work done early and under budget, volunteering for additional tasks, proactively suggesting ways to cut costs or increase revenues, resolving problems within the department, reporting on your results to your boss, and so on.
Your boss is also likely to smile upon you if they find you an easy employee to manage. That means being flexible: graciously accepting changes to your job, such as new shifts or extra responsibilities, working well with others in your department, building relationships with customers and co-workers in other parts of the company, etc.
Prepare for the worst
Despite your best efforts, you might still get caught up in the wave of layoffs that typically accompanies an economic downturn. For example, if your company goes out of business, it doesn't matter how much your manager loves you — you're still out of a job. But if you take steps to prepare for potential layoffs well in advance, you can make it easier to hop into a new job with a minimum amount of disruption.
First, dig up your resume and update it. Make sure it includes not only your most recent employment but also all your major accomplishments and any new skills you've developed since the last time you went looking for a job.
Second, crank up your networking efforts. It's much easier to find a new job through internal referrals than through the application process. Get back in touch with any contacts you haven't spoken to recently and work on developing new ones — particularly in companies where you'd love to work in the future.
Finally, clean up your social media profiles for the new job search. Delete any pictures, tweets, or other posts that don't promote your professional brand or could get in the way of your candidacy. If you don't want to necessarily deep dive into your social media account, it's also a good idea to camouflage your nonbusiness accounts so that they won't turn up on a casual Google search of your name — especially if said accounts contain anything that you wouldn't want your future boss to know about. One way to make your personal accounts more discrete is to use both your first and middle name as your name for that profile.
Also, LinkedIn is a terrific job-search tool. If a recession is looming on the horizon, make sure you're actively updating your profile and making important connections with people in your network. Just be careful; It could come to the attention of your current employer, who might then assume that you're planning to jump ship. Avoid this potential hassle by changing your LinkedIn account settings so that these updates won't be posted to your activity feed.
Start job hunting
Some jobs are inherently more recession-proof than others. The most recession-proof careers are typically positions within industries or with companies that tend to thrive even during economic downturns. But if your current job is not one of those recession-proof careers, now might be the time to proactively move to a more protected one.
Industries that are typically more recession-proof include teaching, accounting, and healthcare. If you don't work in one of those fields and don't want to switch, you might instead focus on employers that are likely to make it through a tough economic downturn relatively intact. These include companies that are leaders in their industries, as well as companies belonging to economic sectors that do well in tough times. For example, companies that make consumer staples like toilet paper and toothpaste generally continue to do well during recessions because people need to keep on buying those things even when they're short on money.
Now that you have some ideas for how to be recession-proof, it's important to start trying these strategies out right away. The more time you have to prepare yourself for an economic downturn, the less likely you are to spend significant amounts of time unemployed. Remember, there's no such thing as a completely recession-proof job, but by taking these precautions, you can greatly increase your safety during an economic downturn.
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