Keeping your career moving up during an economic downturn

It is a natural part of the evolution of an economy to go through ups and downs. However, during an economic downturn, it can instill a lot of concerns about job security and what career moves are wise. After all, nothing is worse than changing jobs in the middle of a recession only to find out your new role is being eliminated.

However, while there is no way to guarantee employment during economic slumps, there are ways you can protect yourself against layoffs while simultaneously continuing to move your career upward. In this guide, discover how you can focus your career in a positive direction even when the economy feels uncertain.

Establishing your value in your current role

First and foremost, if you are already employed during an economic downturn, your initial goal should be to safeguard your existing position. It is much easier to look for upward career opportunities when you don’t have the added pressure of worrying about missing paychecks.

To establish your value in your current role, put these strategies to work:

Work hard

It seems obvious, but it is worth emphasizing. During lean periods in an organization, leadership is going to first cut those who are not delivering sufficient value to the company. Being a hard worker who produces results in your position is a good way to ensure that you are not at the bottom of the barrel.

This is particularly important if multiple people share your job role in the company. As leaders are pressured into making layoffs, they will undoubtedly start by getting rid of those who have a poor work ethic.

Focus on profits

If there is any way to tie your work to the profits of the business, now is the time to renew your focus on increasing the earnings of your company.

For example, if you are in sales, focus your selling on the highest profit accounts. The more clearly you can demonstrate how your work is driving revenue, the better. Leaders will be hyper-focused on numbers during a recession.

Be flexible

When you were first hired on, perhaps the company was booming. There was an ample headcount, which means your job role may have been limited in scope. As your company enters hiring freezes or cuts back on employee headcount, it is important to be willing to step up and take on new work. Flexibility will go a long way in establishing your value with leadership. If you are willing to go the extra mile during a difficult period for the business, you’ll continue to reap the benefits when the economy finally takes an upward trend. This is not the time to make “that’s not part of my job description” statements.

Build relationships

Visibility is key in retaining your position. Don’t be content to sit back and hope that your boss notices your hard work. Build relationships with key players in the company.

If you need to, take the time to brush up on your interpersonal skills. People prefer working with those who are easy to get along with and work collaboratively. Focus on how you can expand your network, which will make it much harder for a boss to justify letting you go.

Expand your skills

Continue to look for ways in which you can grow your skillset in your current role. This will not only help you establish increased value in your existing position, but it can set you up for advancement in the organization. This can become invaluable when departments get cut or roles are removed. If you can showcase how you have expanded your skills, your boss might be able to shuffle you into a different role if the company is reorganizing.

You can do this through company training opportunities, online courses, or your own self-led studies. Keep looking for areas where you could become more skilled and where you can increase any specialized areas of expertise.

Cut costs

When profits are high, bosses might not spend much time pouring over the company costs. However, during a recession, leadership will scrutinize every penny spent. Look for areas where you can decrease your own spending.

It can also be highly beneficial to bring to light areas to your boss where your team could lower costs. By showcasing your attention to detail in relation to company spending, you’ll become part of the solution rather than contributing to the problem.

Evaluate your current position

In addition to establishing your value in your current role, you’ll want to evaluate the strength of your position. Rather than sitting back and hoping for the best, evaluating how likely it is for your job to continue during an economic downturn can help you strategize your best plan of action.

Consider your department’s role

First, think through the role your department plays in the organization. Some departments will be naturally more resilient to layoffs than others. For example, if you work in accounting, your department will continue to be necessary regardless of the economy. If, however, you work in event marketing, you might be more prone to layoffs.

Assess the popularity of your boss

Within organizations, a lot of the changes that take place during an economic downturn will come back to internal politics. Think about the favorability of your boss among leadership. If you are working for a manager who is dynamic and well-liked, you might have better protection against layoffs. If, however, your boss has been disliked, leadership might see a recession as the perfect opportunity to get rid of your team.

Study the trends of your industry

Perhaps more than any other factor, the trends of your industry will play a huge role in whether or not your job is secure during an economic downturn. Certain industries tend to fare better during recessions. Government, health, and financial services tend to remain strong during downturns. On the other hand, industries like retail, leisure and hospitality, and real estate are heavily affected by the economy. If you know you are in an industry that will be negatively affected by downturns, you might want to focus more on a transition into a new industry than if you are working in a strong industry.

Prepare for a career move

Whether you hope to advance your career or you are aware that your industry is likely to experience company-wide layoffs, preparing for a career move during a recession requires a little more careful focus than during a booming economy. Use these tips to help set yourself up for a successful move.

Brush off your resume

First, take the time to review your resume. Do this before it is necessary. Proactively taking the time to work on your resume will give you more time to polish it and make it the best possible representation of your work.

There are countless resources available for building a professional resume. Put these resources to work right away and make sure you are prepared the moment an opportunity arises.

Do your research

As you apply to new roles, take the time to research each organization. This can help you avoid jumping ship only to be laid off your first month into a new job.

If you are applying to a publicly traded company, you can find out a lot about the financial status of the company online. Public companies are required by law to report all relevant financial information. You can usually find this information posted on the business’ website or through online databases. Additionally, along with reporting quarterly earnings, companies will often host quarterly earnings conference calls. You can tune in and discover how well a company is performing and its projected profits.

When applying to a private company, it can be a little harder to ascertain its financial health. However, there are resources, such as Crunchbase, which collect data from startups and indicate the amount of investment money these businesses are earning.

Be willing to expand

Finally, as you look for new opportunities, be willing to expand your career in a new direction. Even if you love your work or enjoy the industry you have been working in, an economic recession might require you to step outside of your comfort zone in order to advance.

Think about ways your skillset could be applied in a different position. Look for growth opportunities even if they feel out of your wheelhouse.

By continuing to expand your skills and remaining open to opportunities, you can advance your career even during an economic downturn. Businesses that are continuing to thrive will still be on the lookout for top talent and will continue to invest in quality employees.