While the recent fears of an impending U.S. recession might be overblown, the current economic expansion that began in June 2009 will eventually run out of steam.
The good news: you can take steps now to lessen the career and financial impact from the next downturn. Not only will you be prepared when it happens, you may even come out ahead.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
Jason Schenker, economist and chairman of The Futurist Institute, predicts that the next downturn will impact some tech companies more than others. Employees at potentially vulnerable companies—smaller, more debt-laden, with fiercer competition—need to take stock of their situation and decide what they can do right now.
When money becomes more expensive in a higher interest-rate environment, investors become much more ROI-focused, he explained. The problem is that more companies with negative earnings are going public than ever before, even when compared with the dot-com bubble (Hi, Uber!). Any company that isn’t growing or generating profits could be at risk. Moreover, Chinese investments in U.S. technology startups have all but dried up, following new regulatory oversight that took effect in August.
Companies that make “cool stuff” but don’t have a strong economic use-case may also hit financial headwinds. For example, that startup that only designs custom emojis might be really fun to work for, but they may not survive a recessionary environment like a mature firm that specializes in dozens of lines of business.
“If you’re counting on stock option payouts to pay your mortgage, or you’re working for a company where the only exit strategy is to be acquired, then you need to assess your risk tolerance and begin a proactive job search, if necessary,” Schenker said.
Fortunately,every company is now a tech company, so even if the economy slows,the market for pros with in-demand skills and experience will remain strong for the foreseeable future. “You may not be able to control the economy, but no one says that you can’t quit and go somewhere else,” Schenker added.
Make Yourself Hard to Replace
Safeguarding your job is imperative whenever positions are be being cut. And while no one is completely safe if a company falters, people who exhibit certain attitudes or traits are usually the last ones to be eliminated, according to Joan Tabb, founder and principal of Great in 8 Coaching.
“Tech professionals who are enthusiastic, likeable and viewed as someone managers and co-workers can count on to get things done tend to be retained,” she said.
Start now by proactively displaying the traits that employers value most, such as curiosity, intellectual agility and emotional intelligence. Demonstrate a dedication to continuous learning and passion for your specialty or domain; for example, ask your employer to sponsor educational opportunities (such as classes or certification work), or take the initiative and learn on your own. Once the pink slips start rolling out, you’ll lose your chance to show off your commitment to empowerment.
Get a Side Hustle
Did you know that 41 percent of freelancers also have a full-time job? Many tech workers learned a painful lesson during the Great Recession, and are no longer beholden to a single employer.
By having money coming in from multiple sources, you can survive a temporary slowdown. Need ideas? Build apps or chatbots in your spare time, be a STEM tutor, or create an online course. Here’s a list of the top 50 companies to freelance for, as rated by fellow freelancers.
Contribute to Mission-Critical Projects
Which of the company’s projects are likely to survive if the economy slows down and budgets are cut? Answer: The ones that are essential to the survival and mission of an organization. Identifying mission-critical opportunities and becoming personally involved in them will increase your value to the organization and your chances of being retained during a recession.
Stop Ignoring Recruiters
Are you too busy to take calls from recruiters? Now more than ever, workers always need to be in the “ready position,” Tabb noted. Keep your résumé, online profiles and code samples or portfolio up-to-date. Find the time to attend a weekly networking event and keep one toe in the market waters at all times. Whether or not there’s a recession on the horizon, maximizing your opportunities is always a great career move.