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As career coaches, we’ve been getting a lot of questions from clients about what the looming recession means for their careers, and how to navigate it. Questions like:

  • “I’m unhappy with my current career but I’m starting to worry that this is a risky time to make a change. Should I stay in a job I don’t like or try to find a better one?”
  • “Is this a bad time to follow my calling? Should I put my dreams on hold and be more practical?”
  • “How do I recession-proof my career?”

I wrote this article to offer some guidance on how to manage your career in a recession. I’ll do so by answering the common questions we’ve been hearing from our career coaching clients because I imagine that you might be asking yourself the same ones.

In this article, I’ll share 4 strategies for making your career more resilient to a recession. I also guide you through a framework for how to make your current career more enjoyable in case you feel it’s best for you to stay put to weather the possible recession. For those of you that are itching to do something more meaningful, I’ll explain why following your calling is always possible and always a good idea in any economic climate.

Will there be a recession?

Nobody knows what the future holds but it seems clear that we are in the midst of an economic downturn. A recent CivicScience poll showed more than 70% of American adults believe the US will be in a recession by year-end. Michael Kiley, an economist at the Federal Reserve, published a paper showing a 50% likelihood of a recession in the 12 months. 

At the same time, the job market is still strong. According to data from the US Labor Department, employers added 372,000 jobs in June and there are currently 2 jobs available for every 1 job seeker. Those numbers are just about as good as it gets. They offer hope and options to anyone looking for a job or wanting to make a career change.

How do I make career decisions during a recession?

Before you make any decisions about what moves to make (or not make) in your career, I recommend going back to the basics. At A Path That Fits, we always explain to our clients that before you ask the question, “What should I do?” you should first ask the question, “Who am I?” 

When you reconnect to who you are by discovering your gifts, passions, values, and purpose, you can more easily take ownership of what you’re good at, what you love, and what matters to you. It’s a huge confidence boost. It also creates the inner clarity necessary to know what jobs and career paths are the best fit for you. Everyone does their best work when they are using their gifts, doing something they enjoy, and getting their needs met. 

It doesn’t matter whether we are in an economic boom or bust, the building blocks of a meaningful and successful career are always your gifts, passions, values, and purpose. If you’re not sure what to do next, start by turning your focus inside yourself to reconnect to what you’re good at, what you love, and what matters to you. Next, ask yourself two questions:

  1. How can I redesign my current role/job/career to more fully utilize my gifts, passions, values, and purpose?
  2. What other roles/jobs/careers would better utilize my gifts, passions, values, and purpose?

For example, Sharam decided to become a financial advisor after combining his gift of connecting with people, his passion for finance and investing, and his calling to build businesses. 

If you want help rediscovering what you’re good at, what you love, what matters to you, and how to redesign your current career or find one that’s a better fit, we can guide you to clarity through the Career Pathfinder Group Coaching Program or One-On-One Career Coaching.

I’m unhappy with my current job but I’m worried about making a change in a possible recession. Should I stay in a job I don’t like or try to find a better one?

It is a safer bet to stay put in a recession, especially if you’ve been at the company for more than a few years. That said, it’s hard to recommend that anyone stay in a miserable job. Let’s explore both options:  Staying put and making a change. 

If you want to stay in your current job, there may be ways that you can make it more fulfilling.

  1. How can you redesign your job to better utilize your gifts? For example, maybe you could step up to lead a project and thereby leverage your gift for leadership.
  2. How can you incorporate more of your passions? Maybe you could partner with the UX team to stoke your passion for design. Identify the projects and people that you are most excited to work with and then pitch them to your manager. Always look for a win-win.

If you’ve tried to redesign your current job and it hasn’t improved, it’s probably time to find a better job or start a new career. Look to your gifts, passions, values, and purpose to identify jobs and careers that are a better fit for you. If you want help translating your gifts, passions, values, and purpose into career ideas, schedule a free consultation with one of our coaches. We have numerous strategies, assessments, and career databases but explaining them all here would make for too long an article 🙂

If you’re worried about being more vulnerable to layoffs as a newer employee, look to well-established companies and essential industries that are more likely to weather a recession. Industries like healthcare, education, government, utilities, food, and other essential sectors tend to be more resilient in a recession. Robust and established companies are also more likely to retain their workforce in a recession. Still, it’s important that you have some genuine interest in the industry or company otherwise it won’t be fulfilling and you’ll be right back where you started. Remember, the job market is still strong. According to data from the US Labor Department, employers added 372,000 jobs in June and there are currently 2 jobs available for every 1 job seeker. You won’t know what’s out there until you start looking, and you don’t have to leave until or unless you find a more exciting opportunity. 

Is this a bad time to follow my calling? Should I put my dreams on hold and be more practical?

Finding your calling, discovering your purpose, and following your dreams are always important. It may be wise to balance the extent to which you shoot for the moon during a recession but knowing what you are here to do offers a profound sense of security. Knowing your purpose is even more important in challenging times because of the confidence and direction that it provides

Knowing your purpose also helps you stand out and be more successful. According to a LinkedIn & Imperative 2016 Workforce Purpose Index, purpose-oriented employees have 64% higher levels of fulfillment in their work, are 50% more likely to be in leadership positions, and are 47% more likely to be promoted than non-purpose-oriented employees. The inner clarity that purpose brings you is the ultimate buffer against external uncertainty. 

If you don’t have the financial cushion to go all in on your calling right now, start it on the side of your day job. Many of our clients do this, including Mary who started her career in mindfulness education alongside her software marketing job. 

If you don’t know what your calling is, use this downtime to discover it (Career Pathfinder Group Coaching Program) and then build it gradually over the next year or two. It can take time to get the additional training and experience you need to make a career change or pivot. If you start now, you’ll be well positioned and ready to go all in when the economy turns itself around. 

How do I recession-proof my career?

1. Develop your expertise. Figure out where your gifts and passions meet a need in the world and position yourself as an expert in that niche. If you’re an expert with a well-defined niche and brand, your career will be just about as recession-proof as it can get. Even if things slow down, they probably won’t dry up completely for you because you’ll be at the top of the heap when anyone looks for the type of help you provide. 

2. Build strong relationships with people. Your relationships open the doors to opportunities. Relationships are the way your career grows. Numerous studies have shown that 80% of jobs exist in the “hidden job market.” This means that most jobs are not posted online but are created and filled through word of mouth. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn said, “Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.” 

3. Add more value to your current company. What challenges will your company face in a recession? What is essential to their continued success? How can you help? If you position yourself as a vital part of the solution, your job will be secure. You may also derive more fulfillment from the experience of working on something important.

4. There are always opportunities in a crisis. What are the biggest challenges your company/clients are facing or will face in the recession? Think about what problems you can solve and how you can be of service to the changing needs in the market. Think about how you can improve your skills and knowledge so that you are even more effective in your career. 

Have questions about your career?

If you want to talk through ideas about how to recession-proof your career or you’re interested in using career coaching to take your career to the next level, please schedule a free 30min career coaching consultation. We have a talented team of career and life coaches that are all excited to hear from you. You can choose whichever career coach you feel best suits you for your consultation. 

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