Staying Focused on Your Career During Down Times is Critical – Here’s Why

By Erin Ewart

With more layoffs in the news recently, it might feel like the outlook for hiring right now is bleak.

If you’re currently job searching, this may be creating anxiety and making you wonder how long it may take to land something new, or how much you’ll need to compromise. And if you’re unhappy in your current role, you might think it makes sense to hunker down and stay put until the economy improves instead of looking for something new.

These are valid concerns during challenging economic times. And the reality is that despite all the predictions out there, no one knows for sure what this year will bring.

When times are tough, it can seem logical to put off thinking about your career and just focus on getting through.

But the truth is that the down times are actually the most important times to be thinking strategically about your career.

In this post I’ll share more about why that is, what we’re seeing in the job market (and why the news isn’t all bad), and some ways to take action as we continue to navigate a rapidly changing hiring landscape (remember the “great resignation” from just a few months ago?!).

First, a few themes and reminders to ground us: 

    • Look at the data: yes, there a lot of high profile layoffs happening, primarily in big tech companies. We are definitely in a time of economic contraction in some sectors, but at least for now, hiring numbers are still steady in many areas of the larger social impact sector. While the outlook will vary depending on your specific careers goals and skillset, knowing that the data tells a different story than what you’re seeing in the headlines can help alleviate some anxiety and help you think about how to target your search.
    • Acknowledge that this is a tough moment. Whether you’ve been directly impacted by layoffs or not, economic downturns are anxiety-provoking for many reasons. Take a breath, remember that macro factors are not something you can control, and re-focus on the things that are within your control, like your mindset, how you spend your time and energy, and how you plan for the future.
    • Consider the opportunities: as hard as it may be, all change brings opportunity. What opportunities could this time create for you? For example: if moving to a new organization right now isn’t in the cards, how could you shift your current role to align more with what you want? If you’re concerned about potential cuts where you are, how can you proactively be warming up your network so you’re prepared when it’s time to find something new – whether that’s now, or later?

Next, some context about where we are and why now is an important time to focus on your career strategy: 

    • This is cyclical, and things will get better. That doesn’t mean this period won’t be challenging, and I think it feels particularly harsh coming on the heels of Covid. But like they always do, the economy and hiring will rebound – here’s hoping quickly! This is the time to be thinking strategically about what you want and how to get there, so you’ll be prepared for that upswing.
    • Hiring never stops. Hiring didn’t stop during the economic downturns of 2000 and 2008, or during the height of Covid. This is not to minimize the very real hardship for people who lost their jobs then and now, but to remind us that even during the tough times, people are still getting hired. While there are lots of headlines about layoffs in tech, we’re still seeing great jobs being posted in the nonprofit sector, philanthropy, government, and smaller businesses. If you opt out of the job market now, you could miss out on some great opportunities!

Finally, here are some ways to take more ownership of your career right now: 

    • Build your skills as a consultant. While organizations may be more hesitant to commit to hiring full-time employees during tough economic times, they often lean into the flexibility of hiring consultants or freelance workers. Even if it isn’t something you want to do long-term, learning how to put out your shingle for consulting opportunities is a hugely valuable skillset that will help you build a resilient career that can withstand future economic downturns.
    • Get creative and map out interim steps. If you are currently looking for a new job, you may need to adjust your strategy, timeline, and expectations around what kinds of roles to target and how long your search may take. Maybe now is not the time to make a huge leap, but what’s the in-between step that could help you get to where you eventually want to go? And if you have to take a role that’s not ideal in the short-term, what can you learn or gain from that experience to set you up for what’s next?
    • Use this time to “recession-proof” your career. What would you do if your job disappeared tomorrow? How clear are you on your bigger picture career strategy and direction? How strong is your network? How up to date are your skills, resume, and LinkedIn profile? Do a quick self-assessment and pick one of these areas to focus on. Even if your current role feels safe, the reality is that no job is ever guaranteed and you should always be prepared to pursue a new role, whether that’s because a great opportunity pops up or something unexpected happens to your current job or organization.

And last but not least: get and give support! Seek out people or communities who can help you process your emotions and uncertainties. Tap into mentors and supporters who have your back and will be your champions. And find ways to help others – this one of the best ways to shift your mindset and it will make you feel great!

If you’d like more structured coaching and support, we’d love to help you create your career or job search strategy through one of our upcoming events, group coaching programs, or individual coaching.

Finally, remember that this time is temporary, you are resilient, and you’ve navigated tough times before. There are amazing professional opportunities in your future, and by continuing to prioritize your career goals now, you’ll be ready to pursue them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *