How to make your job recession proof before it knocks on your door

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”

 Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the United States

In an ideal world, a producer first produces goods. Then, the consumer proceeds to buy those goods. Finally, the producer uses the money generated to manufacture and sell more goods and the cycle repeats itself.

As any economist would say, the reality isn’t as straightforward. The reality is much more complicated and uncertain. The feedback loop often slows down and sometimes, it even comes to a halt. The transactions that fuelled the cycle prove to be unsustainable. 

As the national bureau of economic research puts it, a recession is " a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales".

As a result of a recession, companies use various coping strategies.

  • Freeze hiring
  • Close down on R&D
  • Pause business expansion projects
  • Minimize advertisement expenditure

Anything to keep the business running at the lowest expenditure possible.  It’s an endurance test for the company while surviving on limited reserves.

And then, the worst fear of everyone in the company comes true. The company announces downsizing and lay-offs.

One might think that one’s company - or at the very least - one’s position is secure. A recession might not even have any real negative effect on the company. But history tells us otherwise:- 

       a) It isn’t a question of if a recession comes, it’s a question of when; 

       b) And when it does come, for how long is it going to be; 

       c) The duration of the recession will determine the reach of the - to use the word of Truman used - depression.

So, it becomes a battle of survival against the economic epidemic. And you’ll have to think like a survivor if you want to have job security during the recession.

You must attempt to be an indispensable resource for your company.  Irrespective of what your position is, if your company is downsizing, you need to make sure of a few things. 

You want to make sure your work can’t be delegated to others

You want to make sure that you have a significant impact on the base operations of the company.  

You want to make sure that you are seen as the best performer in the projects you work in and/or manage. 

You want to make sure that you’re someone that can be counted on and whose counsel everyone seeks. 

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.”

― Mark Spitz, nine-time swimming Olympic champion

“This is all fine, but what can I do now?”, you ask. Good question! There are, in fact, a few things you can do to prepare for when a recession arrives at your doorstep. 

You can strengthen your position by gaining certifications. Aim for certifications that are relevant to your domain and/or the capacity you operate at (or will want to operate at). 

Enroll yourself in training courses and get certifications that can help you rise up. Doing so can help you in the following three ways:  

a) Getting certified makes you stand out amongst your peers and adds to your professional credibility. 

b) Certifications aren’t just namesake. Enrolling yourself into well-recognized, authentic courses, and diligently doing them will - newsflash - elevate your understanding of whatever domain you choose, and choosing a good certification (more on this later) will mean that the knowledge you gain will find application in your work.

c) Certifications don’t just increase safety during a recession, they help both prior to and after it. If you are forced to look for other opportunities in times of crisis, they show well on your portfolio.

How do you go about choosing which certifications to do?  Before I answer this, let me reiterate the point I said earlier. You must attempt to be an indispensable resource for your company. 

Keeping this in mind, you can aim for the following : -

a) Take up certifications related to your domain.

b) Take up certifications that train you in initiating, executing and maintaining projects.

Are you from the customer service or service management background? 

Then, gaining certifications in ITIL 4 by Axelos will be of great benefit to you. The ITIL certifications have five levels. 

They go into increasing depths of the ITIL framework and the Service Lifecycle and specialization of your choosing. The certifications begin from the entry-level ITIL Foundation. One can then climb up the ITIL certification ladder up to ITIL Master.

If you have experience managing and executing projects, do a PMP (Project Management Professional)/PRINCE2 certification.  

Or perhaps you're starting out and are seeking to gain managerial experience. In which case, CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) is the perfect course to take.  

If you’ve been in an agile environment, PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Professional) is just the certification for you. The certification will give you a strong command in methodologies like Lean, Agile, Kanban, Scrum and Test-Driven Development.

Such certifications empower you to put into practice what you've learned. This will benefit you irrespective of what position you're at. Benefits include jumpstarting your managerial career to reinforcing your capacity as a manager.

Wouldn't it benefit you to learn methodologies that curtail resource wastage and reduce defects? As you must have figured already, such a skill would come very handy when your business faces a recession. 

To this end, training and certification in Lean Six Sigma can be of tremendous value. 

The certification would empower you in making key decisions when it comes to optimally manage the company's resources.

So there you have it. Make your job recession-proof. It’s entirely possible. Get started and poise yourself as an authority with globally recognized certifications under your belt.


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Maria Thomas