How to Cushion Your Career Amid Rising Layoffs

To cushion or to push on? That may be the question for early 2023. The ‘Great Resignation’ came and went. Then there was ‘Quiet Quitting’ – and now another HR buzzword has arrived, signaling that the labor market winds have changed again.

‘Career Cushioning’ speaks to the jitters workers feel amid high-profile mass layoffs and gloomy economic forecasts for 2023. But what exactly does it mean to ‘cushion’ one’s career, and will this help workers ride out the turbulent period if a recession hits next year?

Cushion This?

Cushioning is a strategy borrowed from the dating world where people keep other romantic interests within reach to soften the potential blow of a possible breakup.

In the workplace, this means preparing for potential job loss or other setbacks by job hunting and proactively networking to keep your career options open. Whereas previously, employees may have strived harder to hold onto their current role, cushioning proposes redirecting that energy into looking making a backup plan.

Career cushioning can be thought of as a buffer for uncertain times. What’s more, it can be a valuable strategy, even if mass layoffs don’t hit your company. For instance, those who are unhappy with their current job may stumble upon new and better opportunities through cushioning.

The data suggests now is a good time to cushion. According to a recent LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index conducted in September-October, fewer than half (44%) of the more than 7,000 U.S.-based employees surveyed felt prepared for an economic downturn, while nearly one-third (31%) were concerned their company is planning budget cuts and/or layoffs.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn users ramped up their job search activity in September, with the average number of applications jumped 18% from the same period last year.

“While there’s never a bad time to look for a job, it’s a good idea for anyone feeling uncertain about the future of the economy and job market to prepare for their next step,” LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann told Worklife recently. Especially for those in vulnerable industries, she advised, now is a good time “to get your proverbial ducks in a row, so you can be prepared to make a move in the future.”

Cushioning 101

For those looking for a professional safety net, there are several practical measures workers can take to hedge their bets.

During periods of uncertainty, career coaching can provide great value. Coaching helps individuals to identify their strengths and areas for improvement, set goals and develop a plan to achieve them, and provide support and guidance during career transitions. When it comes to cushioning, a coach can identify ways for professionals to effectively de-risk their position in an industry, identify new pathways forward and provide feedback on how to land a job in a tightening labor market.

Keeping one’s network warm is also vital for cushioning. Active networking can help employees suss out new job openings before they are advertised to the general public. Having a close inner circle of like-minded people can also be an invaluable pillar of support if and when you are hit by a layoff, as some of them may have been through a similar experience.

Resume boosting is another go-to tactic for ‘cushioners.’ This may include updating one’s resume with new experiences and achievements, highlighting relevant skills and qualifications, and using an attractive design to make the resume visually stand out.

Resumes are what most hiring managers separate the wheat from the chaff, so it’s worth spending the extra time to polish it until it shines. Several online resume tools, including Zety, Wepik, and Resume Genius, help optimize the process.

Those worried about losing their first job might want to try double dipping with a second. ‘Career polygamy‘ caught on during the pandemic as a way for employees to double their income while working from home. These ‘overemployed’ workers simultaneously work two or more remote full-time jobs (often with overlapping hours) without necessarily informing either employer.

Applied to career cushioning, this would mean starting the ‘backup job’ immediately without leaving the first. While having two jobs may lower the likelihood of being left jobless, it does have the added risk of burnout and potentially lowered performance in either position. Depending on your work circumstances, you may also be obliged to let your employer(s) know what’s going on.

It might be soon to tell whether career cushioning is an effective antidote to the current labor market jitters. It could prove a valuable strategy through 2023 or pass as little more than another feel-good workplace fad.

Ultimately, career cushioning is about keeping your options open as an employee. Just as diversifying across asset classes is a proven method to safeguard your portfolio from pain if one or two investments go to zero, so too can career cushioning minimize the disruption of job loss to one’s career.

The strategy’s success ultimately comes down to every individual and how they plan future pathways for their career and prepare for the worst. Yet, given that an overwhelming majority of CEOs are preparing for a recession to hit over the next 12-18 months, cushioning may prove prudent for many going into the new year.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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