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Career Development

3 Steps to Recession-Proof Your Skills & Your Career

General Assembly
October 11, 2022

“Recession” is a word you don’t want to hear, especially when it’s followed by “coming soon.”

Unfortunately, if you’ve been anywhere near the internet lately, you’ve likely seen a lot of talk about record-high inflation rates and rampant lay-offs — both signs of a recession on the horizon.

This can feel scary. After all, no one is immune from the hard times an economic downturn brings. At the peak of a recession, companies tend to explore ways to cut expenses. This can involve reduced hiring, paused staff promotions, departmental budget cuts, and layoffs.

But here’s what you need to remember: you have more control than you think. You can take matters into your own hands to set yourself up for success by developing and diversifying your skills.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through three steps to recession-proof your skills and career so you can seize your future.

But first, what is a recession?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines a recession as, “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and that lasts more than a few months.”

There have been 13 recessions since World War II. Three of these recessions occurred in more recent memory — the 2001 dot-com recession, the 2008 financial crisis, and, very recently, the 2020 coronavirus recession that impacted the entire world.

This means most people (except those who’ve entered the workforce in the last two years) have experienced a recession before. So we don’t need to tell you why it’s important to prepare yourself as best you can. What we are here to tell you is how.

3 steps to equip yourself for a looming recession

Step 1: Conduct a personalized skills audit 

The first step in recession-proofing your skills is to take stock of where you are and where you want to be.

Take the time to get honest with yourself about your current career skills, life skills, transferable skills, and any gaps you want to fill. Your audit should provide insight into existing or developing competencies – identifying any needs for upskilling or reskilling.

How to conduct a personalized skills assessment

  • Set goals: As a first step, set some goals for yourself. For example, is your goal to make yourself indispensable at your current company? Update your resume? Make a career change? Maybe it’s all of the above.
  • Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses: Take a basic inventory of your hard and soft skills. It helps to actually write out a list of your skills and rate them on a scale from 1-10.
  • Identify gaps: What’s missing from your current talents? In this step, it’ll be helpful to look externally — whether it be through friends, co-workers, or the internet — to learn what skills would help support your progress towards your goals. Identifying the gaps isn’t a guessing game. It’s a fact-finding mission.
  • Make a plan: All this is for nothing if you don’t actually follow through. Set short-term and long-term goals to commit to bridging the gap between your current skills and your career aspirations. This will keep you accountable on your journey to recession-proofing your skills.

If you need help getting started, check out this personalized skills assessment template.

Step 2:  Learn new skills to future-proof your value

Learning new skills, or honing ones you already have, is a great way to both make yourself more valuable to your current employer, and make your resume more attractive to potential future employers.

Recession or no recession, the labor market has undergone significant transformation in the last decade. Globalization and increased digitalization have made employing new talent much more flexible. With the shelf life of skills reducing year after year and the rapid advancement of technology, lifelong learning is more crucial than ever if you want to be indispensable.

The good news is that continued learning is also easier than ever. Your current skills gap can be bridged through online or in-person training programs and courses.

Recession-Proof Skills You Should Consider

Given the rapid pace of technological advances and job security in technology, exploring in-demand skills in this sector will give you the ultimate career advantage in future-proofing your career.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some disciplines to consider, depending on your individual strengths:

  • Data Analytics: For those with an eye for detail and a curiosity about how abstract ideas relate — you may want to consider learning more about data. In a recent survey, over 80% of decision-makers said they expect employees to have at least a basic understanding of data.
  • Digital Marketing: Digital marketing is a lucrative and in-demand skill to brush up on. According to the BLS, marketing specialists and analysts should expect a 22% employment increase in career opportunities from 2020 to 2030, compared to an 8% growth rate for all other occupations.
  • Coding: If you’re motivated by problem-solving and have an aptitude for using logic to create, coding may be a great skill to learn. Coding is a hard skill that brings a lot of employment opportunities and the potential for competitive salaries.

Step 3: Find mentors and coaches that can support you

There’s a reason why so many successful people have mentors or coaches. Having a community of professionals to lean on when career hurdles arise makes all the difference.

From giving tried and true career advice and supporting your emotional and mental well-being to facilitating valuable introductions and advocating for you— having a support system is a game changer when it comes to recession-proofing your career.

Mentor vs. Coach: What’s right for you?

Whether you find a mentor or coach depends on what level of support you’re looking for. Below are the differences between the two, so you can make an informed decision that’s right for you.

Mentoring services

Career mentors support and guide individuals looking to advance their careers, based on their own experiences. They can assist you in identifying and defining your unique qualities and journey and can act as your advocate.

Like most things in life, it’s important to find a mentor that’s a good fit for you. Look for people who not only work in your area of interest but who are caring and compatible with your own goals.

Mentorships are typically relationships that happen naturally, through networking, or are facilitated by your company, rather than a paid service.

Coaching services

In contrast to mentors, coaches are specially equipped to help you achieve your career goals. It’s a more personalized approach, and typically a paid service.

You might need a career coach if you want help figuring out what’s next and how to get there. Whether you’re looking for support with a career change or a promotion, identifying the obstacles standing in the way of your professional advancement, or navigating the ups and downs of the job search.

Preparing for better outcomes during challenging times

The truth is some things are out of your control– especially at work. However, even when things take a left turn, preparation is possible.

Start by figuring out what skills will be valuable to learn, choose a few to start focusing on, and find a mentor or coach to help you along the journey. Once you’ve taken these three steps, you’ll be much more equipped to handle a potential recession.

Advance in a world that’s always changing by investing in your skills. Get started by taking one of our free introductory workshops.

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