- Eileen Smith coaches executives in public speaking, executive presence, and career achievement.
- As the economy shows signs of a possible recession, she says now’s the time to bolster your career.
- Her suggestions include tapping into your network, reframing your skills, and trying a side hustle.
Employees have enjoyed a seller’s market for the past two years, in which they’ve been able to demand more flexibility and better pay and enjoy the confidence of knowing they can find a new job at any time.
But a recent downturn in the economy could change all that and put an end to The Great Resignation. Rising prices, falling stocks, and the global supply chain crisis may well be pointing us toward a
— and with it, layoffs, hiring freezes, and budget cuts.
Instead of sitting back and waiting for the economy to impact your employment status, you can recession-proof your career by activating your network, doubling down on your skills, and considering a side hustle.
Activate your network
There are few things in your professional life that are more painful than calling up someone you haven’t spoken to in years and asking if they know of any job leads for you, so don’t let it get to that point: Start now, when you aren’t looking for or in need of a job.
“No one likes to be hit up by a desperate job seeker, but everyone likes to help their friend get a foot in the door,” Ashley Quinto Powell, a self-advocacy expert, author, and startup founder, told Insider.
Start catching up with old friends and colleagues now. If you haven’t been working long enough to have old colleagues, reach out to people you look up to outside your immediate organization. It can be flattering when you ask someone about their career path and what’s inspired them along the way. Lunch, coffee, dinner, drinks, or even an easy
chat or phone call — with no ask — can make all the difference down the road.
And don’t drop that ball after you’ve caught up. Keep the relationship fresh by checking in over email or text every couple of months, Powell said. “If you have two to three networking ‘dates’ a week, at the end of a year, you’ll have fostered relationships with more than 100 people who can help when you need it,” she added.
Double down on your skills
Now is a great time to use your flexibility to learn a new skill that will make you better at your job or earn a certification, such as in project management or computer networking, that recognizes skills you already have or will make you stand out. Taking classes in person can help you build your network with people in your field, but learning online can be an easier way to fit training into your lifestyle.
You should also learn how to better market your current skills. “Recession-proofing your career is more about packaging your existing skills to meet shifting market demands. For many people, what they really need is a new story about the skills they already have,” Chris Donohoe, a career coach and host of the “Career Lab Podcast,” told Insider.
If your work function is an expense for your organization, like HR, rather than a revenue generator, like sales, reframe how you explain your skills. For example, rather than saying you do internal corporate communications, repackage your description as someone who supports large organizations through strategic business transformation. This can speak to the heart of the challenge for a company downsizing in a recession.
Similarly, a teacher can describe themselves as someone who teaches students and grades homework, or they can reframe what they do in business terms. The same teacher leads and motivates a goal-oriented group of 25 people, sets metrics, provides guidance to meet those metrics, identifies performance gaps, and modifies their approach for continuous improvement.
Consider starting a side hustle
During a recession, freelancers are more appealing to employers because they don’t have to commit to full-time employment, and they don’t have to pay for benefits. This can be a boon to an independent worker who’s built up a diverse client base.
You can start your side business right now by identifying what parts of your skill set you can do on your own, such as a graphic designer creating logos or a marketer managing websites. You can build your income and your options while you have a steady job. “Big data shows that you can reliably make more than you did in your full-time employment — and do so in less than six months of starting your independent consultancy,” Sam Lee, the founder and CEO of IndeCollective, a modern MBA-style program for independent consultancies, told Insider.
If you’re going to start moonlighting, be sure to follow the rules your company has in place about activities you can undertake during company time and on company equipment. Your current employer may well be your first big client if you decide to take your side hustle full time, so make sure you stay on good terms.
Eileen Smith, a former diplomat and founder of Spokesmith, is on a mission to help you and your organization show up at your best. She coaches business executives and policy experts in public speaking, executive presence, and career achievement. Find her tips at spokesmith.com.