Economic indicators are signaling the possibility that we are headed toward a recession by 2021. Given that recessions are usually associated with significant job losses, the warning bells in the U.S. and globally might make it easy to panic about the volatility and uncertainty of what’s ahead. But while it’s impossible to predict precisely when the next downturn will occur or how hard it will hit, that doesn’t mean that your career must be entirely at the mercy of what’s happening in the economy. There are a few steps you can take right now to continue to move your career forward while hedging against risk. The key is to be proactive as well as prepared, so here are five things you should do to recession-proof your career.
1. See your career through a new lens
We typically view our career through the lens and filter of our job title. But to recession-proof your career, the first thing you need to do is to not just think in terms of your job title. Instead, think in terms of the value you provide. That is because in a downturn when jobs and titles disappear, your value in the marketplace cannot disappear along with them. Ask yourself, what value do you add? What problems do you solve? What gaps do you help fill? Regardless of a title, you must know and be able to say why are you valuable. If you can’t answer these questions, it’s likely that no one else can either.
You must become indispensable to your employer by making sure that your value is aligned with their needs, particularly during a downturn. Also, stay focused on opportunities to impact your company’s bottom line, so your value is as quantifiable as possible. Make sure to showcase your skills and use this as leverage for even more leadership responsibilities and stretch roles that can benefit both you and your employer.
Some jobs and industries tend to be more recession-proof than others during a downturn, so stay on top of trends within your industry, and know where the new opportunities will be headed, not just where your industry has been. If you do need to open up more opportunities for yourself beyond your current role, think about which of your skills you can apply across different industries. For example, can you open up more career possibilities for yourself by transferring your strong persuasion skills, or your project management capabilities or problem-solving skills from one industry to another?
2. Build your mental fitness
As recession fears intensify, a critical part of managing your career in a downturn is also managing your emotions. As you start to think about the potential effects of a recession, you, of course, worry. But you can’t allow fear-based thinking to take over. That’s because when you move into fight, flight or freeze mode due to high stress or a perceived threat to your safety, your primal, more emotional, parts of your brain take over, and you are no longer able to use your brain’s higher capacity for rational thinking, long term planning, and problem-solving.
You’re therefore much more likely to make bad short-term decisions if you allow fear-based thinking to take over.
That’s why it’s crucial, especially in times of high stress, to build habits that allow you to decrease your stress levels and increase your mental wellness, such as a regular exercise routine, limiting exposure to the 24-7 news cycle, and regularly setting aside time for yourself so that you can recharge your batteries.
3. Grow your financial fitness
In good economic times, you usually focus on ways to grow your salary with your next raise or promotion. Now, you also need to grow your financial fitness so that you can quickly recover after any financial setback. You already know the importance of having an emergency savings fund, but you should also create multiple income streams of income that ideally are not dependent on one another.
Having a side gig that provides another income stream can help you reach your financial goals faster and help build your emergency funds sooner. There are several ways to start a side gig. You can consider joining a freelance website, for example, or you can start your own service-based business such as tutoring or catering, selling products online, or becoming a consultant. By simply taking inventory of your skills, hobbies and interests, you might be surprised to discover what kind of side gig you want to develop.
4. Leverage the power of networks
Your career is not a hero’s journey, especially in volatile and uncertain times. You should always be making new connections and nurturing the ones that you have. Keep your online profile and presence up-to-date, so others know who you are and how you stand apart from others with similar backgrounds.
Even beyond your online presence, you should make yourself visible to others through speaking opportunities, joining associations, leading workshops, and participating in panel discussions, for example. Be aware though, of the mistake that many people make as they try to broaden their network. They restrict themselves to the people they spend the most time with–their coworkers. Make sure you are expanding your connections outside of your current company so that you have as many people as possible that you can call on if you need to (confidentially) begin a job search. You should also keep in mind that networking is a two-way street. Ask others how you can help them and what introductions you can make so that your relationships are mutually beneficial.
5. Invest in yourself
The one investment that will always pay off regardless of the economic climate is an investment in yourself. Continue to grow your skills to stay competitive in the marketplace, and consider taking classes to expand your knowledge base, technical skills, or to complete a certification that will allow you to take on more responsibilities.
Is there a skill such as public speaking for example, that is not currently a strength of yours but could raise your profile and increase your opportunities? Then you should consider finding ways to upskill, whether by taking a class or joining professional clubs like Toastmasters.
Managing your career by being proactive and prepared is what will allow you to be recession-proofed during the challenging times, while also positioning you for continued career success and growth at all times.