Recession proof your career

Lay offs, companies closing, 401K’s that look more like 201K’s…these are jittery times. If you aren’t wondering if your job security is at risk, you probably should be. But rather than spike your blood pressure, why not take some smart steps to recession-proof your career?

If you were around for the last few recession swales, you may be sharpening the survival skills you honed last time around. If this is new territory for you, these tips may help you sleep at night.

Step up your face-to-face and online networking.

Although you may think, “Why network before I need it?” I can count hundreds of examples of people who told me that they regretted not having an active network before they lost their jobs. Trying to pick up the pieces after they were on the street was emotionally and physically daunting. It’s much easier to establish a network while you have a job because people don’t see your motive as purely needing job hunting help.

There are plenty of obvious reasons to connect with people. Projects you are working on, personal interests, professional memberships are all logical reasons to get to know others who have ideas and insights. Afraid others won’t want to make time for you? Don’t be. The smart ones are doing exactly what you are doing.

Reach out beyond peers to former managers, classmates and neighbors to reacquaint yourself with people who know you and like you. Meeting for lunch and simply reaching out by phone is a time-tested way to establish the connections that can lead to opportunities later.

Searching the Internet in your areas of interest will yield many opportunities to connect with people you can start developing relationships with now—geography doesn’t matter. Even if they are in Singapore they may be able to lead you to someone you might need to know later. And if you do lose your job, the Internet can lead you to sites that offer jobs,   opportunities to collaborate on short term gigs, job-hunting help and information on starting your own business.

Find ways to add value at work.

This is not the time to be whining about how busy you are and how unfair it is. It’s also not the time to be running for the door at 5 o’clock. The best way to have job security is to have work security. That means you add so much value to the work at hand that the company would choose you over someone else if tough decisions have to be made. And even if you are cut, you will get a glowing recommendation.

Most companies have abandoned seniority as the only factor when deciding who stays and who goes. Performance ranks first. If you add extra value by contributing beyond your job description and being a valued team player, you have a better chance to survive a cut.

If you are one of the first to be picked (or volunteer) for new initiatives and serve on cross-company committees that are working on recommendations for new processes and policies, you have even more work security insurance. Have you been asked to train others, be a go-to person, or assist your manager on his or her projects? Even better. If middle management takes a hit, you will be well positioned in a leader role.

Get your resume ready.

Why now, you ask? First of all because it makes you feel more in control. Second, because it prepares you in advance if an opportunity presents itself. Once you step up your networking you are bound to stumble across work opportunities online or at a cocktail party, whether you are looking for them or not.

Finally, redoing your resume is an eye-opening exercise. You may not have looked at your old resume for years—or maybe you don’t even have one. Doing a resume makes you take stock. It puts you in a position of reviewing where you’ve been and assessing where you want to go in the future. Even if you don’t use it, it will help you figure out where you could go next, rather than simply showing up for work everyday and hoping for the best.

In addition, if you do your resume right, you will highlight accomplishments. For each major job responsibility think, “What result can I point to that will show how well I performed in this area?” Use third-party quotes from customers and from your manager (look on your past performance reviews). Tell a little mini-story about how you approached and solved a challenging situation.  Think proof—did I sell more, do more, and get asked to take on more responsibility? Did I cut expenses, reduce turn over, or minimize complaints? Talk about so many results a potential employer will drool. Play makers are in big demand any time but especially during tough times.

Even if the sky is falling don’t look up.

Project confidence and have a positive outlook—after all, you are prepared!  If you wring your hands and spin yarns of imminent doom in the cafeteria, you will only be adding to the problem. Management will be looking for ways to keep up morale if your company’s clouds darken. It’s difficult for everyone why make it worse? Instead, take the opportunity to rise above and shine.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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