Economic downturns can happen at any time. The toughest part in planning for a recession is that those who may be impacted the most will typically have less time to plan. This means that you'll want to be prepared ahead of the curve-at all times.
Let’s look at seven reasons why you’ll want to recession-proof your next career reinvention—now.
1. Moore’s Law
Named for the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and CEO of Intel Corporation, Gordon Moore’s prediction that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit double about every two years has for decades been used as a guide to long-term planning and to set targets for research and development. But you can also use Moore’s law in preparing yourself for a down economy using technological innovation every two years as your marker.
Act Now: Visit a local cafe or library and begin building out or refreshing your career timeline for the next two quarters. By completing this activity you’ll know when it’s time to begin your next career reinvention and whether it needs to be fast-tracked—something you begin in the next two weeks—or whether you can pace yourself and begin the process in the next two months.
2. Crossing Complacency Chasms
Far too often organizations allow complacency to seep between the culture cracks, creating blind spots that produce stale products and services. This is how business leaders and managers kill innovation—slowly and almost methodically ignoring the death of creativity while punishing personal risktaking within their functions.
It’s fairly easy to expose complacency inside your organization if you elect to remove your blinders. In fact, by strenghening your peripheral vision you develop the foresight for anticipating problems before they happen. It’s like having the ability to see around corners—kind of a sixth sense—where you see early warning red flags flying before they’re raised on the flag pole.
Because of the importance of peripheral vision, especially to personal risktaking and innovation capabilities, we delve deeper into this topic in two of our Seeding Change online courses 30 Days to a Recession-Proof Reinvention and The Scrappy Corporate Entrepreneur.
Act Now: What have you done to advance your career within the last two years? If you haven’t taken courses, workshops or classes, at the least every quarter, then you’re likely getting stale in the role that you’re currently in. This would also be a great time to update your resume given that the jobs market continues to change.
3. Inflection Points Matter
Just as businesses cannot afford to ignore strategic inflection points neither can professionals afford to miss the four critical signposts indicating it's time for a career reinvention. By proactively managing your Personal Inflection Curve (P.I.C.) you remain alert to career opportunities and vigilant to organizational undercurrents that signal early shifts in business and in the workplace.
You want to avoid bypassing your personal inflection point and the red flags warning you of the impending risk heading towards a downward slope. The amount of energy and effort required to reinvent yourself when you're in the doldrums is far greater than if you proactively reinvent ahead of the curve.
Four Signposts of Your Personal Inflection Curve (P.I.C.)
Intuition as a key navigation tool
OCC - the optimum time for you to change
Connecting the dots - bridging the old you to the reinvented you
Peripheral vision - seeing around corners
Act Now: We walk you through these four signposts in our online recession-proof reinvention course.
4. Innovation Marches On
Technology advancements didn’t take a pause during the Great Recession nor will they stop during the next downturn either. Enterprise research and development units might not be fully funded for a time, but innovation cannot be stopped or contained for long.
In fact, innovative breakthroughs often occur during times of great stress—fear walks a fine line between stimulating our creativity (necessity is the mother of invention) or shutting it down altogether.
Atlantic senior editor Richard Florida suggests in his 2011 piece for the magazine that we consider recessions as a chance to “reset” given that innovations that come out of hard times will refill the landscape of economic decay. Resets can be seen as do-over opportunities.
In the case of the U.S. auto industry the Great Recession turned out to be an innovation lab.
Act Now: Innovating on demand is a differentiator and companies want to tap the entrepreneurial energy and creative thinking that can make this happen. On a scale of 1-10 how innovative would you say your performance has been in the last 12 months? Map your short term (3-6 months) and mid-term (9-12 months) plan for harnessing your existing capabilities and upgrading your entrepreneurial skills.
5. Economic Recoveries Take Longer
Let’s not forget that it took the U.S. economy five to six years to fully cycle out of the Great Recession that officially only lasted from 2007 to 2009, primarily due to households and institutions having to financially dig themselves out of economic debt.
One of the issues that I cover in my book Innovation in a Reinvented World: 10 Essential Elements to Succeed in the New World of Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2011) is the idea that wider gaps that exist between a recession and an economic recovery can negatively impact both employers and potential employees due to skill misalignment and, thus, possibly prolonging the employment recovery.
Companies that I profiled in my book acknowledged that skill gaps existed just as the economy was cycling out of the worst downturn since the Great Depression and hiring was beginning to pick up.
Seeking professionals with advanced technological knowledge and experience after a two year hiatus in employment meant that for large swaths of unemployed career professionals they were no longer considered competitive in a rapidly changing field. So unless a professional was able and willing to fund their own upskilling and reskilling efforts, then they were pretty much out of luck given that limited government resources were available.
It may be difficult to imagine another long economic recovery given that in 2019 the U.S. and other countries are now experiencing low unemployment numbers. This could be why "ghosting" has become such a phenomenon in the last few years as recruitment firms grapple with being snubbed by candidates who initially accept an offer, only to retract it, or not show up at all.
According to recent research of 1,202 U.S. managers by recruitment firm Randstad US, more than 43 percent of Gen Z employees-those aged 22 and under-say they've ghosted a recruiter or employer. This figure dips to 26 percent for millennials (ages 23-38) and Gen X-ers (ages 39-54), perhaps because these generations do remember the economic pain of the Great Recession. Millennials will likely grapple with GR after-effects and wage disparities for decades to come. On the other hand, ghosting by baby boomers (ages 55-74) was only at 13 percent.
No hard data exists as to whether ghosting behavior will negatively impact professionals after the next recession hits, especially for Gen Z workers who were too young to have experienced the unemployment pain following the Great Recession.
Act Now: Build relationships in areas that pique your curiosity—new role, new project or even a new industry. Rebuild relationships where you may have burned a bridge or your reputation may have been sullied, e.g., ghosting of a recruiter or potential employer.
6. Leaps in Technology
Circling back to Moore’s law, let’s peer into the near future and consider how industries, businesses and organizations could change if technological leaps occur every two years. Advancements in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics are already altering how businesses operate today and will transform how functions get work done and how professionals collaborate inside the workplace with both humans and smart machines.
We hear about how millions of jobs will be lost to these advanced technologies and that many more jobs will be created. But the biggest challenge currently is that no one can really say for certain what skills these replacement jobs will require. This makes planning for closing the “jobs gaps” and planning for the future a bit dicey, unless it’s the more obvious tech roles such as AI engineers or machine learning designers.
A good rule of thumb regardless of how fast these technologies advance is to strengthen your foundational capabilities, such as adaptability and complex communications, as well as developing or honing skills associated with project management and change management.
Act Now: Refer back to reason #5 about economic and employment recoveries taking longer during deep recessions. You want to be as prepared as possible for potential training gaps as emerging technologies take root. Would you be ready to fund your own training in order to remain competitive? Does your employer offer you opportunities to upskill or reskill? If so, have you taken advantage of this training? What are the industry trends for your line of work? If your job were to disappear in sixty or ninety days what would reinvention look like for you?
7. Planning for Career Pivots
Don’t underestimate the amount of time that career pivots could require if economic conditions quickly head south. Optimism will serve you well in most situations; however, pragmatic optimism will serve you even better. Planning for “what if” situations is never a bad thing, and if you’re a project manager or change practitioner you’ll never go wrong with having Plan B’s, Plan C’s, and if the complexity warrants it, Plan D’s.
Planning for the future is not the same as being fearful of the future. You don’t want to be so careful about your choices in life that you never take chances and smart, informed risks.
Career success in today’s fast-moving environments and marketplace ups and downs is about reinventing before the next economic inflection point and ahead of your own Personal Inflection Curve (P.I.C.).
Act Now: It’s time to circle back to #1 about visiting your local cafe to work on your reinvention timeline, and while you’re at it (it might mean another cup of your favorite joe or tea), you’ll want to begin fleshing out a fuller reinvention plan utilizing the Act Now activities in this article.