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October 19, 2022

Here's How To Hunt For A Job Before (And After) The Recession Hits

With a recession looming, it’s normal to feel anxious about keeping your job or landing a new one. Rather than worry too much, take these concrete steps to put yourself in the best position possible to weather any tough times ahead. If you’re paying attention to the economic news these days, you know that things […]

With a recession looming, it’s normal to feel anxious about keeping your job or landing a new one. Rather than worry too much, take these concrete steps to put yourself in the best position possible to weather any tough times ahead.

If you’re paying attention to the economic news these days, you know that things are more uncertain than ever. The odds of the economy slipping into a recession seem to increase by the day. While job openings remain at near record highs, recent layoffs and hiring freezes by big name companies like Meta, Peloton and The Gap have created additional anxiety, especially among people seeking new jobs.

According to a Joblist survey from June 2022, 60% of job seekers feel a sense of urgency to find a job now before market conditions change for the worse, while 49% of those looking for work also think the job market is going to get worse in the next six months.

“It’s still largely a candidate’s market due to the volume of open jobs out there,” says Chris Sinclair, Chief People Officer, at Bayard Advertising. “But job seekers don’t feel quite as empowered when negotiating offers.”

Changing economic conditions have also shifted how job seekers assess potential employers. Candidates are now asking a lot more questions about the financial trajectory of companies and whether they have had layoffs over the past couple years.

“These questions are all geared towards job security and helping the candidate feel more confident when taking the leap that the job—and the company—are sustainable in the long term, even if a recession comes,” says Sinclair.

Here are some tips to consider if you’re hunting for a new job, or even worrying about keeping the job you already have.

Keeping current employees in the know

While some surprises are fun, nobody wants to lose their job unexpectedly. That’s why current employees have every right to address job security concerns with their managers if they are fearful about potentially being laid off.

“If employers learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that transparency and communication are critical in the workplace,” says Sinclair.

Any time there is uncertainty in the air, employers should be regularly communicating where the company stands in terms of financial performance, customer trends and headcount plans, as well as the possibility of any layoffs.

“Being open about what plans might look like in the event of a recession will help set employee expectations and the fear of the unknown,” says Sinclair. “This will also show employees that the company is thinking ahead and has a strategic plan—all things that will help employees feel more confident in the face of macro-economic uncertainty.”

If company leadership isn’t proactively sharing this kind of information, employees should feel empowered to schedule a meeting with their manager to discuss their concerns and ask questions that are top of mind for them.

“Companies should also ensure managers are equipped with the information they need to have these kinds of meaningful dialogues with their team members,” says Sinclair. “No one appreciates being blindsided. That’s why open communication and transparency from an employer on the state of the business is more important than ever.”

Ask the right questions

While a job interview offers an employer a chance to ask questions and assess if a candidate will be a good fit for an open position, the reverse is also true. It’s an opportunity for candidates to see if the company is a fit for them.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’ll want to go into an interview prepared with a list of questions to help you assess if the company is right for you—and if they’re ready for the recession.

Questions to consider asking might include:

  • What the company’s retention rate over the past year?
  • How the company has been communicating to current employees about job security?
  • Have they done layoffs in the past and, if so, how have they handled them?
  • How has the company been meeting employees’ needs based on inflation, flexibility and benefits that are important to them?

Having a conversation around questions like these is “normal” because any new job brings a fear of the unknown and will have an impact on the candidate’s life.

“These perceptions are now heightened even more due to the current economic situation,” says Sinclair. “It’s important for candidates to understand the health of the business, the reason why the specific role they’re applying for is open and learn if the companies they are interviewing with are invested in retaining talent and keeping their employees happy, or if they are creating new roles to expand the business in new and exciting ways.

“Until the tension of a pending recession cools off, interviewers should expect questions like this and should take time to answer them thoughtfully and with transparency in mind.”

Have a backup plan

Whether you’re worried about the status of your job or not, it’s always a good idea to have an up-to-date resume built out and ready to share.

“You never know when your dream opportunity might come along,” says Sinclair. “And even the most secure job can be on precarious ground in the face of an economic downturn.”

If you feel your job is less secure than others, it’s a good time to take a look at where you are in your career and decide what your idealnext opportunity would look like. Ask yourself questions like: Would I like to change industries? Relocate? Is there a different job I would like to position myself for?

“Planning ahead in this way and being pragmatic is infinitely more valuable than simply worrying about what might happen,” says Sinclair.

It’s also important to prepare financially if you temporarily experience a drop (or even loss) of income.

“Having some savings set aside and/or a secondary source of income you can go to—for example, via the burgeoning gig economy—can help ensure you don’t take on a lot of debt in the event of a job loss,” says Sinclair.

Up your skills game

Regardless of what happens in the economy, employers will always be on the hunt for candidates who show versatility and can diversify beyond their core responsibilities to support the business.

Keeping an eye on what skills are trending and what capabilities are most in-demand from employers is also a good way to target your learning. “Digital and data literacy, emotional intelligence and leadership skills are just some of the areas projected to be in highest demand in the coming years,” says Sinclair.

To make yourself into a stronger candidate, you could consider learning new technical skills outside of your area of expertise, take on additional job responsibilities or even to a new department or company entirely as demand ebbs and flows.

“When employees learn new skills, it can help further the business in other ways, including reducing the cost of hiring and training new employees, keeping employees engaged and motivated and improving the company’s overall reputation,” says Sinclair. “Learning new skills is also a great way to future-proof your capabilities and not only add more value to your current role, but also set you up to be attractive if/when you are back on the job market.”

Don’t compromise but adapt

As the old saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. That means even if the economy or the job market takes a hit, conditions will eventually improve because the economy moves in cycles. Even in a great economy it can be challenging to land and keep the job you want.

That’s why, even if you’re entering the workforce during tough times, you should continue to pursue your dream job. Don’t get discouraged. With time and perseverance, you will land the job and build the career you want.

“If the exact role you want isn’t in high demand when you enter the market, think about what peripheral or related roles you can take on that will act as a steppingstone to your dream job as the market levels out,” says Sinclair. “Don’t compromise but adapt.”

Approaching a job search strategically and with a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be is the best way to set yourself up for success not just for today, but in your future as well—recession or not.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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