With duration of unemployment becoming the longest during any recession on record, the continued decline in the housing market, and the threat of a double-dip recession, people are justified in their concerns about their employment and their investments. After all, you can’t really control what is going to happen with the economy or whether the market will soar or plummet.
On a recent economy rant post, I went into some uncertainty about the stock market and economy as a whole and concluded with three recommendations on things that you can control:
1. Live frugally within your means
2. Save your money and have a big position in cash for emergencies and tough times
3. Build your skills and career to be economy-proof
The last recommendation prompted a 20somethingfinance reader, Jesse, to ask the following question:
“I would like to hear more about how you think one should economy proof your skills and career. I’m currently in a turbulent field, (marketing communications) and thinking about how to either make my job economy proof or changing careers. What are your suggestions?”
It’s a great question, and one that definitely deserves some focus. It’s true, you can’t control the economy as a whole, but what you can do is control how you economy-proof you are. So I put together 5 recommendations. What you’ll find in these recommendations is that many of them feed into each other. If you’re strong in all five areas, your fears about the economy should drift away and you’ll find yourself to be a much more well-rounded employee and human being.
1. Find a Career that is Indispensable, Even in Recessions
This will undoubtedly be the hardest one to come to grips with and take action on, but some professions are much harder hit in recessions than others. And your profession might just be one of them.
Looking for a recession-proof career? Find a profession that is indispensable to the public. If you’re an auto mechanic, a plumber, or a nurse – a recession should have little to no impact on you. People will always need your services, and demand in a recession might actually go up for people with these skills. If you’re in finance, retail, or home construction, the demand for your services will plummet in a recession. It doesn’t matter if you’re an all-star performer or not, in many cases. If your job is easy to replace by cheaper labor or when the economy rebounds, you will be one of the first to go and you will also have a harder time finding a new job.
As a real-life example that hits close to home, my wife is a landscape architect, and back in January of 2009, right after the beginning of the financial sector collapse, she and a good number of her co-workers were immediately laid off. Why? For starters, in a recession, nobody is building anything. Her second problem was the way engineering firms bill hours. If they have people on payroll whose hours can’t be billed towards a project, that worker becomes red ink. Her profession is the first to let people go in a recession. And that’s not a fun place to be.
2. Start Getting Paid to do the Things you Love Outside of Work
This suggestion is much easier to implement than the last, and the two combined will leave you in great shape.
There are lots of things that you love doing (I hope). And the odds are that there are a lot of people out there willing to pay you for doing those exact same things for them – just remember that prostitution is only legal in Nevada. I kid, I kid.
Here’s a list of 55 marketable hobbies that you can get paid for. What does getting paid to do things outside of work do for you?
- Multiple Income Streams: It goes without saying (but I will anyway), that added income streams outside of your day job are going to help as a safeguard in the event that you lose that day job. Huge benefit.
- When you have that added cushion and know that you can get paid for doing things you like doing, it starts to shift your perspective. Odds are that you won’t be as stressed out about losing your day job, and if things go really well, you might even voluntarily leave your day job, regardless of the economy.
- You start growing skills in areas that are in demand, which could lead you into your next career.
- It helps you build a network in those same areas.
3. Network Like Crazy
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, start one today. Find anyone and everyone that you’ve ever worked or been friends with, and connect to them. Keep your profile up-to-date and add new connections as you make them. You never know when your social network will come in handy and if you wait until you get laid off to start putting one together, you’re at a big disadvantage. Focus on having genuine, positive interactions with other professionals, connect with them, and don’t feel shy about reaching out to them when needed.
Whether you have a job at the moment or not, start volunteering. I used to work in non-profit and two of the volunteers I worked with while there are now full-time staff. If you believe in a particular cause and work hard, that will be noticed by the organization and it will also be noticed by other volunteers you encounter. You’ll also often find that these volunteers are a very well connected bunch who might just be able to help you get your next job.
If you love what you do, are passionate about it, and make calculated risks, you’re going to stand out amongst your peers as a top performer. You want to make it hard for your employer to let you go, not easy. As I mentioned earlier, some careers are indispensable. Some employees are considered indispensable as well, even if their role is easily filled by others. If you hate your job and are not passionate about it, you might be in the wrong career or working at the wrong employer.
And the last thing you can do is just relax and not stress out. Until something bad happens, nothing bad has happened. Do the 5 things I mentioned not out of fear, but because they will make you a more well-rounded, happier, connected, and relaxed person.
- What steps have you taken to recession-proof your career?
- What careers do you think are indispensable?