WARM UP YOUR NETWORK
Right now, the job market is still a very bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economy, with historically low unemployment and open positions outstripping the number of workers available to fill them. But jobs are a lagging economic indicator; an uptick in unemployment is typically one of the last developments to presage a downturn, so don’t get too comfortable.
Annelizabeth Konkel, a senior economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, sees mixed signals in the labor market, indications of ongoing strength as well as “signs of temperance.” On the plus side, employer demand for workers at Indeed remains robust with job postings recently at 54 percent above their pre-pandemic level. Meanwhile, payrolls have grown by an average of 400,000 jobs a month over the past three months and nominal wage growth remains strong.
On the negative side, Konkel notes, there have been a variety of announcements lately about layoffs and hiring freezes—tesla, Coinbase, J.P. Morgan Chase and Netflix among them—particularly in the tech sector. The biggest outstanding question, in Konkel’s view and that of many other economists, is whether the Federal Reserve can manage a soft landing. “Tightening of monetary policy [to fight inflation] is like threading a needle,” she notes. “How the Federal Reserve proceeds will impact what we see in the labor market.”
There is, of course, nothing you can do about the Fed. But you can take steps to make your current job more secure and to position yourself to find new work quickly if a recession develops and your income takes a hit or your position is eliminated. “Hiring still occurs in down markets,” says career coach Caroline Ceniza-levine, founder of the Dream Career Club. “People who leave need to be replaced, new projects need to be staffed.”
Reach Out and Touch Someone ▸ Still working remotely or only venturing into the office on rare occasions? Make an effort to interact more with colleagues in real life, both at work and socially, if appropriate. Says Ceniza-levine, “Face time is important because it adds another dimension to relationship-building.”
If going back to a physical work setting isn’t feasible because you live in a different location or have health-safety concerns, make an extra effort to build relationships in other ways with your boss, colleagues and senior leaders. This includes more frequent reporting on your work results and the status of your projects, and might include social Zooms so you can have friendly interactions. “People want to like who they work with,” says Ceniza-levine. “Likeability matters when companies make decisions on who to keep during a layoff.”
Focus on Measurable Results ▸ Companies will use bad news about the economy to gain back the advantage they lost during the Great Resignation, says Ceniza-levine, who believes employers may soon start to negotiate harder on salary and raises and be pickier about who they hire and retain because they think they can be.
Counter that burgeoning trend by driving home what a valuable employee you are, and back that up in ways that can be quantified. “Make your boss look good,” says Ceniza-levine. “Check in with them to ensure you’re working on the projects that matter. Show a positive, can-do attitude.”
Kick Your Job Search Into Higher Gear ▸ If you’re not working now, double down on your search; you want to get hired before more layoffs occur and candidates flood the market. Add temp and consulting work to your radar, suggests Ceniza-levine, and be visible with your connections.
Also rekindle old connections where you might have fallen out of touch. Say hello and share what you’re seeing in the market. She says, “Don’t make every outreach about your job search—that’s annoying and makes the outreach transactional.”
Instead, make the interaction as much or more about the person you’re reaching out to as it is about you. Among Ceniza-levine’s tips: Share leads that might fit the other person; they’ll be flattered you thought of them. Make introductions to recruiters, as appropriate; both the recruiter and the person you refer will see you as a connector. And when you do talk about yourself, make the interaction about more than just your job search—share what you’re reading, any consulting (even pro bono) that you’re doing, ideas you have.