Recession-Proof Your Career

July 21, 2022

By Jack Kelly, as seen on Forbes.

The United States, once again, finds itself in tough times. After slowly starting to heal from the devastation of the virus outbreak, there was a euphoric run-up in stock, crypto and real estate prices. Millions of jobs became available. The mood of the nation improved for many Americans. Then, it abruptly changed.

Jerome Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, announced he will raise interest rates. The Federal Reserve Bank, with quantitative tightening, turned off the flow of cheap money, and the good times ended. Now, instead of hiring, tech companies have started cutting back. The reckless growth period has ended, as the cost of capital increases. The results are a falling stock market, job losses and a looming recession on the horizon.

The first sign of a downturn started with the tech sector. Nearly 27,000 workers, according to, were downsized. Inflation, caused in part by the Federal Reserve Bank artificially suppressing interest rates and both the Trump and Biden administrations flooding the economy with trillions of dollars, geopolitical and macro events, such as the war in Ukraine and supply chain disruptions, led to the bursting of the everything-goes-up bubble.

Don’t Panic!

The stock market plunged. Your 401(k) plan and investments are likely down around 20%, or higher depending on how much risk you took with your investment decisions. If you bought cryptocurrencies and high-flying tech stocks, the pain from the losses may be intense.

For the next three to six months or longer, you are likely to see headlines screaming about a recession, stagflation, layoffs and higher prices, due to the increase in inflation and interest rates.

The key to getting through this is by cultivating a mentally strong mindset. A capitalistic society has a habit of regularly going from boom to bust. In recent history, the U.S. has endured the dot-com, financial crisis and early pandemic stock market implosions, followed by a slowing economy and job cuts.

Since Americans have seen this movie many times before, there is no need to panic. You need to maintain a sense of calmness, which will offer clarity. Put things into perspective. Instead of worrying about your job and losses in the stock and crypto markets, think of everything you have in your life. Express gratitude and appreciation for the positive aspects of what you have. It could be family, friends and good health. Avoid making any rash decision based on fear. View this as a time to think about what you want to do next with work and life.

Start with a Plan

While others panic, you should prepare a plan. Most people get overwhelmed during difficult times. They can’t think straight and end up acting impulsively, which makes matters worse. Use this period for introspection. Devote quiet time to think about what you really want to do.

Keep in mind that you have options. If you enjoy your job, design a program to make yourself indispensable at work. You might feel the need to update your résumé and LinkedIn profile if you notice there are some layoffs at your organization. Resist the urge to immediately switch jobs. Just because there are layoffs, it doesn’t mean you’ll be impacted. Sometimes, it clears the field and you could actually benefit.

If you feel the need to leave, tread cautiously. Do your homework on the job, company, its reputation, financial situation and any pending problems. You don’t want to jump from one bad situation to another one.

Executing the Game Plan

You want to be indispensable. Position yourself as the person who is calm under pressure and can get things done. Volunteer for assignments that others avoid. Ensure that your boss and executives notice your accomplishments. While others will be angry and dejected over the state of affairs, you want to stand out by always offering a positive perspective. Go into the office on a daily basis. Proximity bias kicks in. Management would prefer to keep you when there are layoffs, as they always see you. If you are just another box on a Zoom call, the executives making the decisions for downsizing won’t have the same connection to you as someone who is always around the office

While you are managing your career, simultaneously lay the groundwork for finding a new job, as you need to be prepared for all options. Ask co-workers who have landed great jobs who were their recruiters. Set up in-person or video calls with several executive search professionals that specialize in your sector. Similarly, find a few career coaches and résumé writers to help get ready for everything you need to do if a job search becomes necessary.

One of the best ways to find a new job is through networking. You want to let the people you know and trust that you’re open to seeking out a new job. Ask your friends, former co-workers, neighbors, college alumni, members of your temple or church and other people you’re associated with for leads and introductions to jobs at the companies you’d love to work for.

What to Do When Laid Off

Take time to process the job loss. After you’ve come to terms with what has happened, immediately take action. Your new full-time job is finding a job. Reach out to recruiters and your network. Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Get active on the platform to garner attention from human resources, hiring managers and people who can help you find a new job.

When you interview, don't be afraid to ask questions. You want to make sure that the position is right for you and that you’re not just jumping on the first offer. Avoid disparaging your former boss, company and colleagues, as it’s a turnoff to interviewers. They’ll assume you’ll talk bad about them too when you leave.

Take Care of Your Mental Health, Emotional Well-Being and Finances

With the possibility of World War stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, runaway inflation, supply chain disruptions, the rapid fall in stock and cryptocurrency prices, job cuts, rescinded offers and social and political unrest, it is easy to get depressed, anxious and stressed out.

Block out all of the noise around you. It may not be easy, but you need to practice self-care. Hyperfocus on your short and long-term goals. Resist the temptation of turning to drinking, drugs, overeating and other bad habits to dull the pain. Seek professional help if you feel that you are losing control.

Go to the gym, do yoga, run in the park, ride a bike or take long walks. Make an effort to socialize with people. Engage in hobbies and activities that give you joy. Use this time to learn new skills, maybe go back to school, upskill yourself with online courses and obtain new credentials, licenses and accreditations that you’ve been putting off.

Pay close attention to your finances. Pay off credit cards and other debt, as the interest rate will escalate. Reign in unnecessary expenses. Put aside money, in case you are out of work for a while. Find ways to earn additional income streams. This could include gig work, starting a side hustle or an online business.

Tough times make for tough people. This is a period when you want to stay strong. This won’t last forever. Remain positive and stay the course. The goal is to keep your job, find a great new one or improve yourself during this unpleasant phase.

Jack Kelly is CEO, founder, and executive recruiter at one of the oldest and largest global search firms in my area of expertise, and have personally placed thousands of professionals with top-tier companies over the last 20-plus years. I am passionate about advocating for job seekers. In doing so, I have founded a start-up company, WeCruitr, where our mission is to make the job search more humane and enjoyable. As a proponent of career growth, I am excited to share my insider interviewing tips and career advancement secrets with you in an honest, straightforward, no-nonsense and entertaining manner. My career advice will cover everything you need to know, including helping you decide if you really should seek out a new opportunity, whether you are leaving for the wrong reasons, proven successful interviewing techniques, negotiating a salary and accepting an offer and a real-world understanding of how the hiring process actually works.