Ever since the Brexit referendum result was announced and the pound plunged, there have been comparisons with the traumatic events of 2008. Recession and redundancy are real fears that can be heard in offices across the country.
Job security unsurprisingly becomes a more valued commodity in such circumstances. Presuming you don’t fancy retraining as an insolvency lawyer, what can you actually do to recession-proof your career?
1. Read the risk
The first thing to do is figure out what immediate risks you actually face. While no one really knows how their organisation will fare in uncertain conditions, it helps to have advanced warning if the ship’s going down, says Ros Toynbee, founder of The Career Coach.
‘Don’t wait to be made redundant, when you’ll be looking for work at the same time as all your colleagues, but start anticipating what’s going on financially and moving into other areas,’ Toynbee advises.
If your boss isn’t the most transparent, try finding someone higher up the organisation but in a different department, who might be willing to have a frank conversation.
2. Show commitment
Lehman-style collapses aren’t the norm in a recession, thankfully. More often than not, teams get trimmed, so your next objective is making sure your head isn’t on the chopping block.
‘If you’re worried, one of the first things to do is to show commitment to the organisation, the team and its values. You can do that through engagement and discretionary effort, going above and beyond what’s required,’ says Amanda Potter, occupational psychologist and founder of Zircon consultants.
While you can’t guarantee your loyalty will be reciprocated, it certainly can’t hurt – especially if your colleagues suddenly start making a habit of mysterious two-hour lunches with ‘clients’ they clearly met on LinkedIn...
3. But hedge your bets
It’s perhaps counter instinctive, but focusing too heavily on your job security could actually undermine your career and financial security. Not keeping all your eggs in one basket is a smart way to protect yourself from a sudden shock like redundancy.
‘What’s more secure?’ Asks Toynbee. ‘One form of income from one employer, or having a number of clients and working on a freelance basis?’
Interim or freelance work can actually provide more security than a PAYE job, so long as you have the skills and are willing to do a bit of networking, Toynbee says.
You could also start your own business, either full-time or as a nice little earner on the side.
4. Sharpen your skills... strategically
Training and development are often the first things to go in a recession, but it would be a mistake to neglect them, says Toynbee. Your next job may depend on it.
‘It’s really about having skills others will pay for. Keep your head above the parapet and notice what skills are coming into demand,’ she says.
This is where LinkedIn comes into its own. Group discussions offer a way to keep abreast of trends in your sector, while profiles and job ads allow you to figure out what your CV needs to take your career to the next level. You can even ask successful people for their advice.
‘Keep an eye on what’s the next big thing and look to get experience in it - do a course, find cross-departmental projects where you’re able to get exposure or at least network with the people emerging in that field. Then, when you go for an interview for your next job, how impressive does that sound?’ Says Toynbee.
5. Get resilient
If the worst happens and you are made redundant, it isn’t the end of the world. Hard times were the making of many a successful person, says Potter.
Resilient people tend to have unwavering self-belief and insatiable hunger for success, but if that doesn’t exactly sound like you, don’t worry. There are things you can work on.
‘It’s very hard, but try moving away from negative language and look at the potential positive scenarios that could come out of it. Also remove the language around learned helplessness ("it’s not my fault"), which creates an aura of pessimism, and look at what you can control,’ Potter says.
You can also draw on the resilience of the people around you, whether at work or in your personal life.
Photo credit: Matt Brown/Flickr