How to Create a Recession-Proof Career

Ever since the Lehman Shock in 2008, the global economy has enjoyed steady growth, that, unnoticed to most, has led to the lowest level of unemployment in the US, Europe, Switzerland and Asia for the last decade. This expansion phase is coming to an end. This article will highlight why, in 2020 we'll have a perfect storm for the global economy and how you can prepare to avoid being caught off guard by a recession.


The Most Anticipated Recession in History


We face one of the most anticipated global recessions in history. Think “When, not if”. One crucial statistic is that the world economy will only grow 3% this year, according to IMF estimates - that’s the slowest rate of expansion since the global financial crisis started in 2008.


Europe’s largest economy, Germany, is in a technical recession. Europe’s second largest manufacturing economy, Italy, is plagued by political instability and debt crisis. The UK economy saw zero growth at the end of 2019, and is expecting a recession soon. 


China’s economic slow down is pivotal in the slowdown of the global economy, says Joseph Stieglitz economics nobel laureate. In fact, it is predicted to experience the lowest growth rates in 30 years. In 2003, China was the 6th largest economy with a share of 8.7% of World GDP, nowadays it is the second-largest economy with 19.3% of World GDP. On the third of February 2020, China's stock market dropped 9.1% in one day. Google, Apple, Samsung, Tesla, Microsoft, Foxconn, Nike, just to mention a few, who have tens of thousands of people working in their factories, sent their staff home. Plants were shut down. David Dodwell, the executive director of the Hong Kong-APEC Trade Policy Study Group, a trade policy think tank, goes as far as talking about a coronavirus triggered global China-led recession saying:

“As Chinese factories shut and people stay home and spend less, global manufacturing supply chains are breaking down, tourism is depressed, and commodity prices are falling.”

While we can expect a sharp V-curve shaped economic impact of sharp disruption - sharp recovery, Asian countries with heavy reliance on China are hard hit, notably South Korea and Singapore. Given a recession looming, what is the best course of action to take for safe sailing during the throes of change?

How to Make Your Career Recession-Proof

Uncover hidden jobs: As the power in the job market shifts towards companies, we will soon transition into a buyers market: An abundant and ever growing pool of applicants, shrinking hiring budgets, fewer open jobs and crushing competition among candidates. C-suite job seekers have an increasingly hard time to find jobs because the open job market is drying up. For this reason, it's vital you learn about the Hidden Job Market and how to navigate it. Learn how to uncover hidden jobs and how to secure them.

An electric utility CTO in his late forties, was stuck in his job search for six months unable to secure CEO interviews and turned to me for advice. His job search strategy was wrong. By shifting his focus from open to hidden jobs, he got the vital interviews he needed, and, four months later, got an offer for a CEO position at a Hidden Champion with 120 years tradition, owned by a USD 10 billion industrial conglomerate. 

Learn to sell your brand: Few executives know their brand, let alone how to sell themselves, especially those who have worked for a long time in industry leading companies in the IT, FMCG and luxury industries - just to name a few - assuming that the market will eat them up if they decide to leave.

Take the examples of a global, Oracle Top50 sales executive or a finance VP from Unilever who were both unemployed for more than one year because nobody wanted them. Machiavelli cautions that men are either unable to go beyond their fixed characters or are unable to convince themselves to change because their past style has been so successful. Remember your ego is not your amigo. 

Reinvent yourself: How can you play a winnable game worth playing in your career and in your industry during the upcoming recession? Control your destiny or someone else will. A lighting technology industry executive contacted me in the search for a new challenge. He confessed:

“After twenty years in the same field, I know this game inside out, know all key people in this industry, and have progressed to global CEO, but I achieved my mission. My position is safe, but it is getting boring.”

To create new energy and momentum in his career, he realized he needed to innovate himself. He engaged me to reinvent his career. Today, he is the CEO of Europe’s most innovative solar technology company, with potential to impact the life of more than two billion people. 

I had a recent coaching inquiry from a 51 year-old business unit director who had been over-achieving consistently over the last 5 years with compensation between one and two million USD. He confessed:

"It may be difficult to replicate my success. I am at the pinnacle of my career. Can you help me?"

Wow, that’s how a champion thinks. The ticket is never punched. Named Chairman Special Award recipient for the third time in a row, he immediately set the sails for innovating himself, for playing a bigger game in his next career move, possibly into industries completely new for him, thereby escaping a possible downward trend, and assuring sustainable growth and momentum in his own career despite an upcoming economic plight. What about you?

Conclusion

People want to hear about ‘happy days’. If this is you, you should be on guard. Recessions are impossible to predict, but eventually they will come. They are part of the inevitable ups and downs of the global economy. The real problem lies in the lack of preparedness. 

Unless you take action now, you will run into closed doors during a recession. Redefine your positioning and branding and re-consider your go-to-market strategy in the light of deteriorating conditions, to avoid becoming the victim of restructuring or other rightsizing measures. 

Catch the signs of shifting tides and be your own career captain about what's ahead, so you can proactively position yourself. Who knows, your deeds could make the upcoming recession the hallmark of your entire career.

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About Rainer Morita
As a Leadership Advisor, International Job Search Coach and Hidden Job Market Expert, I prepare leaders to ride the wave when recession is looming, keep riding the wave during a recession, and emerge as winners in a world where the only constant is change. 
 

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