Career Cushioning: A Way to Stay Prepared for the Unexpected
It’s natural to worry about job security in an uncertain economy. While several dynamics, like low unemployment, suggest that hiring in 2023 may be more robust than many analysts have projected, some industries have seen layoffs and hiring slowdowns in recent months. So, it’s worthwhile being prepared, just in case your employment situation suddenly changes.
Career cushioning can help. It involves taking practical steps while you’re not actively seeking work that can help you quickly launch a job search should the need arise. These measures can also help to future-proof your career, regardless of what’s happening in the job market.
Here’s a look at four actions you can take now to help you keep your options open:
1. Think about your career goals
Perhaps you love your job, and you’re happy where you are. Or maybe you’re wondering what else is out there. Either way, now’s a good time to create some backup options. To do that, you need to think about where you want your career path to lead next.
Keep it simple by starting with objectives for the next two to three years. Do you want to stay in the same role or shift to a new career path? Are you aiming for a leadership position? Are there any personal skills or professional certifications you want to acquire?
Browse job boards — using search filters to find roles that match your needs — and keep a record of any that you like the sound of. Also, consider reaching out to a professional recruiter who can help to make your job search easier when the time comes to make a move. Recruiters can also help you understand what opportunities might be available to you now — or what you should do to increase your chances of landing the next job you want.
2. Identify and develop new skills
Conduct a frank self-assessment of the skills you possess — and the ones you lack. As you browse opportunities, note the qualifications and skills that are most in demand, and check them off against the ones you already have. This will leave you with a list of new skills to work on.
Your current workplace should be your first port of call to develop new skills. By signing up for your firm’s training programs, you’ll be mastering new abilities and demonstrating to your boss that you have a learning mindset. This can help to make you even more valuable to your current employer, which can help to enhance your job security.
For that same reason, be quick to put your hand up for any stretch assignments that will allow you to build skills and work outside your comfort zone. If no such opportunities exist, consider taking an online course — preferably one with a badge or certification you can add to your LinkedIn profile. Another option for rounding out your skills and experience: Volunteering for a local organization whose work you admire.
3. Use relevant job search keywords strategically
Mine the job postings you’ve been browsing for keywords and the most in-demand skills and certifications to include on your resume and social media profiles. Give specific examples of how you’ve demonstrated your skills and made a positive impact at work.
Also, look for ways to convey your mastery of soft skills like communication, problem-solving, active listening, diplomacy and empathy. That will help recruiters and potential employers better understand what you can bring to the table as a professional, in addition to your previous job experience and any technical skills.
See these tips on how to write a good resume in seven easy steps.
4. Get to networking, both online and in person
Your professional network is one of your most valuable career assets, so investing the time to nurture it both online and off is worthwhile.
On LinkedIn or other professional networking sites, regularly post links to articles that may interest your industry contacts. Engage with your connections’ posts by sharing, commenting or liking them. You could also create blog posts and video content where you talk about recent projects (work and nonwork) that required your expertise.
In-person networking is, of course, the traditional way to develop fruitful relationships. Choose an event to attend that suits your personality and career goals. A happy hour meet-up or alumni networking group is ideal if you love to mingle. If you’d prefer something more structured, look for a workshop or conference where you can strike up conversations with other attendees.
Career cushioning: a good practice in any economy
By career cushioning — defining your professional goals, polishing your skills and expanding your networks — you’ll be better prepared for whatever comes next. And whether you or forces beyond your control prompt your next career move, you can feel more confident about your future prospects.
By proactively identifying your strengths and any weaknesses you should address, you’ll get a clearer sense of how to thrive in your chosen field today and position yourself for success over the long term.