How to Keep Your Job, or Find a Better One, if There’s a Recession

Viewed in The Wall Street Journal

In the first quarter of 2022, gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States decreased 1.5 percent. In the days to come, results are expected to appear for the second quarter, and optimism is not in abundance.

Should the GDP of the second quarter, like the first, be in the negative, the formal economic definition of a recession will be met for the world’s largest economy.

Nor is this exclusively a U.S. phenomenon.  In Europe and Asia, major economies struggled in the first quarter and many of them also run the risk of entering the third quarter of 2022 in recession.

Employee malaise

Recessions are often described on a macro-level as they relate to countries’ monetary and fiscal policies, or as they relate to industry sectors. But let’s face it: At their core, they also impact employees significantly, and it’s a good time for employees to ask whether they are or are not well aligned for what many believe could be a period of prolonged economic malaise, or worse.

Hot job market

Here’s the good news, from this Wall Street Journal article: “The job market is still really hot.” The pandemic drove many employees out of the workforce, and most of the underlying economic constraints associated with it are alleviating, which affords companies to gear up in filling jobs regardless of how they see their immediate growth prospects.

On-going layoffs

But where there is good news, bad news also abounds. Many major companies also are feeling the impact of a global and national economy that clearly has slowed. Tesla just announced layoffs of 10 percent of their white collar workers, this Wall Street Journal article reports. Other big employers have frozen hiring in preparation for what they see as sluggish growth ahead in the quarter and possibly year and even years to come.

Volatile job market

All this creates quite the challenge for employees who understandably want to ensure they are best aligned for job security in a job market that is complicated, volatile, and variable. One immediate point of advice from experts relates to the much-covered trend to remote work.

Numerous studies (as we have reported in some of our prior monthly “best reads”) are appealing to many employees, but it remote work is not without its downsides. Employees seeking stability and advancement should consider showing up in their offices more regularly, career experts are suggesting.

Cautious in jumping jobs and asking for raises

Then there is the question of changing jobs in today’s economic climate. Today’s economy is atypical. Yes, jobs abound. But so does instability.

This leads Tessa White, a career coach with two decades of human resource experience at UnitedHealth Group and Vivant Solar, to urge employee caution in jumping jobs or asking for raises in this moment. “Now is not the time to change a job, unless you really hate your job,” she says, “because the last one hired is usually the first one let go.”

Enhance your skills

 Yet, while this likely is not the ideal moment to be changing jobs, there are things employees can and should consider doing pro-actively in this current economy. It is, for instance, an ideal moment to enhance skills, which offer the best of all worlds regardless of the economy’s ultimate direction.

Employees who remain with their current employers will be seen as offering a wider range of value, and employees who fear downturns in their companies or industry sectors will expand their ability to navigate the storm by leveraging newly acquired skills that will open job opportunities that may not previously have been possible.

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