28 Career Management & Job Search Action Steps to Take during a Global Recession

28 Career Management & Job Search Action Steps to Take during a Global Recession

I’m not a fan of hype, but there is a difference between preparedness and panic. Buying enough toilet paper to get by for a week or two is smart. Panic-buying toilet paper is greedy, thoughtless, and selfish (not to mention unnecessary).

But your career is yours alone and you are solely responsible for it. It funds your ability to buy whatever you need and your lifestyle overall; it keeps a roof over your loved ones’ heads, the lights on, and food on the table. And for millions of people, their career and income are either already or soon to be in jeopardy due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

Early this week David Wilcox, the former head of research and statistics at the Federal Reserve Board told CNN that “Whereas 10 days ago there was some legitimate uncertainty about whether the global economy was in the process of going into recession — 10 days later, there’s no question that it is.” Kevin Hasset, a former Trump administration economist was quoted predicting that “the United States could lose up to 1 million jobs in March alone because of the severe disruptions caused by the coronavirus.”

News from Moody’s Analytics quoted on CNN suggests that nearly 80 million U.S. jobs are at high or moderate risk – that represents more than half of the jobs in the economy overall. Mark Zandi, Moody’s Chief Economist hastened to add that not all those jobs will be lost but indicated that as many as 10 million workers could experience layoffs, furloughs, or wage/hour losses. Of the 80 million at-risk jobs, Moody’s notes that 27 million in the transportation, travel, leisure, hospitality, temporary help, and oil drilling/extraction sectors are at high risk with perhaps 20% or 5 million jobs affected. Another 52 million jobs may be at moderate risk in industries such as retail, manufacturing, construction, and education.

Now here’s the really important thing to keep in mind: Robert Sapolsky, a Professor of Biology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at Stanford University warned on a recent op ed on CNN that research has demonstrated that “stress distorts our decisions in consistent ways. One is that we become more impulsive and less reflective.” He goes on to say that:

“We end up having tunnel vision when it comes to making choices and it becomes harder to consider extraneous factors that may actually not be extraneous, or harder to factor future consequences into present considerations. Another well understood consequence is that our decisions become more habitual and automatic. We fall back into a usual solution, and instead of trying something different when it doesn’t work, the pull is to stick with the usual, but go at it more often, louder, or faster, assuming that it’s got to work at some point.”

These news stories and many like them point out the pitfalls ahead … that there is genuine economic and labor market danger now (I can report that according to my clients, layoffs directly related to COVID-19 have already started) AND that, at chaotic it’s-getting-worse-every-hour times like this, our rational thinking can fail us and cause us to overreact or underreact. From a career perspective, both are worrisome. If you overreact you might spend your reserves unwisely, change jobs precipitously, or take the first offer that comes along even if it’s a bad one. If you underreact, you might wait too long to get your career communications portfolio updated, refresh your LinkedIn network, or enter a job hunt.

The smart thing to do is not to make any assumptions about how safe your job is or how secure your finances are (for most of us anyway) and to get ready just in case. Get ready for what from a career perspective? Sudden job loss. Interruption of income. Looming layoffs. Disappearance of retirement funds. Most adults have seen this all before (as recently as 2008-2009), so you hopefully won’t need reminders about how to protect your career and your income, but just in case, I’ve pulled together a bundle of tips and suggestions below, along with links to helpful resources. I’ve structured my tips according to career scenarios, but I’ve also showcased all relevant resource links below by job search topic to enable you to only read what you want in this very long blog post while quickly accessing the resources that are most relevant to your situation.

Let’s get started.

Career Scenarios:

If You’re Employed & Reasonably Likely Not to Be Laid Off

  • It still makes good sense to update your resume if you haven’t done so in the last 12 months. Resume writers are already getting slammed with requests and will be overwhelmed in the weeks and months ahead, so getting in line now for your update will ensure you have it when opportunity calls.
  • Likewise, it also makes sense to update your LinkedIn profile. Review your headline, refresh your About and Experience content, and make sure your Skills section is maxed out at 50 skills aligned with your keyword targets. Build up your network to 500+ at a minimum and ensure you join or are already a member of at least 25+ LinkedIn groups.
  • Whether you’re new to remote work or already doing it, take the time to strengthen your interpersonal relationships with those you typically encounter (customers or colleagues). Not only will video/web technologies make the remote connection more meaningful, it will also help you to sustain your relationships and your visibility both inside and outside the organization – and both may be critical if you end up getting laid off later, choose to job search, or want to position yourself to be recruited.
  • This is a great time to reach out to your primary network – the folks you know the best, either on LinkedIn or in the rest of your life – and see how folks are doing. Don’t ask them for anything, just inquire into their wellbeing. Authentic outreach like this is something most of us don’t have time to do, but the time to find time to do so is now.
  • Invest in relationship-building on your job, whether you’re still able to go to work or are telecommuting. Spread a little sunshine, look for ways to make a difference, and step up to volunteer in your workplace.
  • Be a force for good in your community. Neighbors are volunteering to help neighbors on NextDoor.com and around the country, so find a way to do your part. Sooner or later most of us are going to need help of one kind or another, we just don’t know when or how.
  • If you have the funds to do so, consider donating to a local food bank to help those who are less well off. Feeding America can help you identify a food bank near you. Or give to an organization like Meals on Wheels to help get food to senior citizens in need. Or yet again, donate to your local blood bank since such supplies will soon be running low.

If You’re Employed but Concerned about Potentially Being Laid Off

  • It makes even more sense to get your resume updated NOW. Don’t delay. Gather up your recent achievements, professional development courses, certifications, and goals and embed them in your resume. Refresh your resume’s look and feel and make sure you align your branding and positioning with your LinkedIn profile.
  • It’s important to also upgrade the content of your LinkedIn profile with a fresh headline, a brand-driven About section, and achievement-focused Experience section. Make sure you age-proof your profile to help you win more visibility and interviews. Add documents and media to your profile where relevant (though NOT your resume), update your photo if needed, and take the time to install a branded header image behind your photo.
  • There’s more to do on LinkedIn beyond updating your profile, though. Push your LinkedIn network size to 500+ while cultivating connections in your target companies, industries, and geographic areas. Max out the number of skills listed on your profile and join 25 to 50 industry, functional, geographic, or alumni groups. Start refreshing stale relationships and forge new ones and don’t attempt to leverage those relationships or connections unless and until you do.
  • Start now to reflect on what you want next in your work life. What kinds of jobs, companies, or industries would suit you best? What skills do you want to learn or employ? What kind of challenges do you want to solve? Where do you want to move to or remain? How do you short- and mid-term career goals align with your long-term dreams and plans?
  • Begin building relationships with and connections to recruiters who specialize in your target industries.
  • Boost your career brand now with a new certification, skill-building classes, or new projects at work. Any of these can be added to your resume and LinkedIn profile and will add vital keywords to both documents. In addition, these types of activities also draw positive attention at work which may enhance your standing before layoff decisions are made.
  • Look for ways to be more visible at work and serve as a mentor and role model to others. This is not just the right thing to do – it’s also a savvy way to up-level your network, elevate your reputation, and earn some good karma along the way.

If You’re Unemployed & Looking for Work in Relatively “Safe” Industries

  • Even though you’re searching in “safe” industries, it still makes good sense to upgrade your career communications tools just in case the hoped-for safety turns out to be illusory. Don’t just update your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other tools – elevate their content, strategy, keywords, and look & feel.
  • Expand your network into target industries and companies. Aim to build connections in the department(s) you would most like to work in next or any that are closely allied. Remember this four-step networking process: Invite (with a custom message), Thank (with a custom message), Share (helpful and relevant articles, blog posts, news, book reviews, events, best practices, and trends), and Leverage (make specific, strategic, and targeted asks).
  • Because it typically takes seven job interviews to win an offer, you may have to reach out as many as 200 to 300 connections, influencers, jobs, or organizations in the weeks and months ahead. That outreach might include a combination of online job applications, emails to recruiters/hiring managers, networking meetings/phone calls with connections/influencers, company targeted outreach, spot opportunity pursuits, or thought leadership efforts.
  • During a recession, job searches tend to lengthen to six months or more (to 12 months or more for senior executives), so your job hunt will now likely take longer than you may have been expecting. Although you hope your search will be a sprint to the finish line, you’ll need to be prepared for it to look more like a marathon. That means you’ll need to safeguard your finances, emotional wellness, physical wellbeing, and use of time carefully. Avoid the temptation to apply for anything and everything as that reeks of desperation and is a turn-off to employers.
  • Consider starting or expanding side gig(s) to boost your income and preserve your financial health. Save time for interviewing though, which recruiters and employers expect to include availability during business hours in your field and geographic location.
  • Think about getting professional help with your career communications tools. Well-schooled resume writers know how to help you overcome challenges that can derail your job hunt such as too much/too little education or experience, disjointed career trajectories, too long/too little time in jobs, inadequate keywords or achievements, limited or unfocused branding, and so on. Invest in the highest quality tools you can afford – this is not the time to go cheap.
  • If you’ve been out of work for a while already or you haven’t job searched ever or in a long time, consider engaging a job search coach to guide you through these murky waters. One of the worst things you can do right now is assume that you already know what you need to know to land your next role. Assume the opposite, get expert support, and you’ll be dramatically more likely to land the type of job you want in the company, industry, and location you want.

If You’re Unemployed & Looking for Work in Currently Stressed Industries

  • Focus the bulk of your job search time on networking. There will be dramatically fewer job postings for you to pursue in the weeks and months ahead with an outrageous number of peer applicants. Unless you can honestly say that you outrank 99.9% of them in terms of experience and qualifications (without being overqualified), have a killer resume, and have maxed out the keywords in your resume and LinkedIn profile, you’re not likely to get many, if any, interviews.
  • LinkedIn networking is not just about connecting with 500 or more people. It’s about connecting with the right people in the right companies, industries, and geographic locations. That means you need to have a connection strategy in mind and execute it consistently day after day, week after week, and month after month. To paraphrase something 12-Steppers say, networking works if you work it. It’s a process and takes time, but it absolutely works.
  • Another option is offline/local networking. The former can include outreach to people you know but with whom you aren’t necessarily connected on LinkedIn while the latter networking can include the job clubs often managed by area faith communities and not-for-profit organizations, business networking meetings, and local chapter events and meetings for civic, social, and professional organizations. Most of the latter, for example will allow you to attend one to five meetings before you officially join, and this is a great way to build out your local network in your career field.
  • A third networking option is alumni networking. On LinkedIn, this includes both the alumni groups of your former large employers as well as those of the educational institutions you’ve attended. Keep in mind, too, that universities have a multitude of alumni groups for you to join, including those for the college you attended at the university, your major(s), and your area(s) of specialization within your major(s). The same holds true for colleges at a smaller scale. Off LinkedIn, you can check out the alumni website of your alma mater(s) for their alumni database. These tools can help you to find finds to connect with locally or online in your target geographic areas within the U.S. or Canada, whether that’s in your current city or a new location.
  • I would recommend that you spend 90% or more of your time on networking with a balance among the types just mentioned based on the strategies that align best with your job hunt targets and career goals. This means you will be conducting varied types of meetings (phone, face-to-face, video) and outreach (email, LinkedIn messages, InMail, Facebook). It also means you will likely have to spend time weekly on searching for people, companies, and organizations.
  • Try expanding your job search targets to include new industries, types of organizations (public/private, small/large, startup/mature, for profit/not for profit), types of positions, locations, and work arrangements (in person/remote, contract, consulting, temporary work). While it’s tempting to only aim for your number one target, it may be smarter to think outside the box and consider options you haven’t seriously thought about before. This will increase the odds that you can land something good sooner rather than later. You can always relaunch a job hunt later when the economy returns to a positive trajectory and employers in your preferred industries rebound.
  • If you do end up expanding your targets, try to identify skills you already possess that you can leverage or look for ways to build out new skills so this next chapter of your work life isn’t a major loss or step backward.  A skilled career coach can help you focus on your transferable skills which are most marketable and ubiquitous (which is why they’re generally referred to as universal skills) and those which more organizations are likely to need. Professionals who are multitalented, possess cross-functional skills, are multilingual, and can ramp up quickly will all be sought after in the months ahead as companies ramp up hiring in a phased fashion.

Career Management & Job Search Resources by Topic

Rather than restrict relevant resources to the above categories (which would require you to read the entirety of this very long blog post), I thought it would be more helpful to group them by theme so you can quickly peruse this list and explore the resources that match your needs and interests.

Career Planning



Job Search

Which of the above career scenarios best describes the situation you find yourself in right now? What are the first steps you’re planning to take in the days ahead? What kind of help do you need and what are planning to do to access it?

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About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

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