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How to Survive the Next Recession

Topics: Career Advice
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Recessions happen.

You don’t have to be a doomsayer to know that. So, considering that recessions are cyclical and that it’s been eight years since the the Great Recession ended, now’s the time to start preparing yourself to survive the next “business cycle contraction.”

Could a Recession Be Around the Corner?

Some economists predict that the next recession is on its way. Why?

One of the most widely recognized indicators of a recession is higher unemployment rates. Despite the loss of 33,000 jobs in September due to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the unemployment rate fell in September to the lowest level since December 2000, and job openings are a record high, MarketWatch reports.

That might seem like a good sign, but although unemployment has declined, so has the size of the labor force.

“The combination of a low unemployment rate and a stable-or-shrinking labor force implies that the economy won’t be able to keep [adding jobs] for long,” wrote Neil Irwin at The New York Times. “If employment gains are going to continue at that pace, it will have to be because more Americans join the work force.”

And even though the job market is tight, Americans are not experiencing bigger paychecks. According to The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for employed U.S. workers, wages grew 2.8 percent year-over-year for Q3 of 2017. The Index also shows that real wages — the buying power of workers’ wages when inflation is taken into account — have declined 6.9 percent since 2006. Consider this: even a decade ago, when the unemployment rate was higher, wages were growing faster, at a rate of more than 4 percent a year.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

There are other indicators that a recession might be on the way, including declining tax revenues and credit growth. But perhaps the best reason to prepare for the next recession is that it’s been a while since the last one.

“…the length of the current recovery – 93 months as of April 2017 – is the third longest of the 11 expansion periods since the end of World War II,” wrote economist KC Sanjay at Forbes. “Should the recovery last past May 2018, it would surpass the 106-month expansion of 1961-1969. It would match the longest period, 120 months, in July 2019. Looking simply at the cycle, one could say the due date is near.”

Assess Your Value Now

The bottom line is that no one knows exactly when the next recession will hit — but it can’t hurt to think in terms of recession-proofing your career.

J.T. O’Donnell, a former HR executive and the founder and CEO of Work It Daily, recently wrote at Inc that you can dramatically increase the chances that your job will be saved in an economic crisis by making sure that the value you deliver is in alignment with the needs of your employer.

To prepare your career for a recession, she suggests three things:

  • Map out goals with your boss that tie directly to revenue
  • Invest time in your career strategy by growing skills to stay competitive in the marketplace, networking, and being fully prepared to kick-start your job search
  • Do a salary assessment to make sure you aren’t too high or too low on the salary range

Find Ways to Improve Your Value

If you determine that you should try to survive the recession at your current job instead of fleeing to a more stable job, immediately start finding ways to improve your value.

Be the go-to, indispensable employee with organizational knowledge, and ask for more work and more-challenging assignments.

Make sure you’re constantly upgrading your knowledge and skills. Whether it’s reading a book a month or taking courses to beef up skills, find ways to show your employer that your personal growth can tie directly to the company’s revenue growth.

Don’t Ignore Layoff Signs

Even if you want to stay at your company during the next economic downturn, you might need to bail before you’re the victim of the dreaded layoff. In other words, to survive, you cannot just bury yourself in work — because that might be akin to burying your head in the sand.

Some signs are obvious that layoffs are looming at your company: profits are free-falling or the local newspaper is openly questioning the company’s viability. But if you really want to be prepared, look for more subtle signs that job losses are ahead, such as the company announcing a move to cheaper office space or a freeze on free pizza Fridays. Hiring freezes or stopped projects can be other warning signs.

You can also tune into your managers’ behavior or how they spend their time. Are they on edge? If they’re hidden away in conference rooms all day or stay in their office with the door closed, something could be amiss. And if your manager asks for your help updating his LinkedIn profile, that’s a sign that you should be updating your LinkedIn profile.

Have a Backup Gig Now

If you determine a job search might be in order to survive the next recession, consider getting another job immediately. It’s easier than ever in today’s gig economy to get a second job, whether it’s selling your lightly used designer handbag collection online or driving for Lyft.

Getting a second gig now can help you prepare for a recession in two ways. First, you can stash the extra cash for an emergency fund to prepare for the looming economic crisis. And secondly, should you suffer a layoff, you’ll already have a source of income to help you power through your job search.

Start the Job Search

If survival does indeed mean fleeing your current job before your employer shows you the door, start your job search quietly, keep working hard at your present job and communicate to your potential new employer that you need to keep your search confidential.

Tell Us What You Think

How have you survived a recession? Share with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below.

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