You are reading this article because you want to recession-proof your remote job or working remotely career. That’s a safe and prudent goal. While economists bicker about the state of the economy and the definition of a recession, remote workers on the ground are looking for insight into ways to recession proof their careers.
To determine how best to position yourself and your remote career for the future its helpful to review past economic data and outcomes. This is particularly true during a projected economic downturn. For instance, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), in its Working Paper No. 17040 titled “Job Loss in the Great Recession: Historical Perspective from Displaced Workers Survey, 1984-2010,” analyzed crucial data. Its findings?
During the 2008-2009 downturn, the following conditions were dire in comparison to the economic downturn of the 1980s:
1.The period of unemployment was relatively longer (35 weeks) than the period the average unemployed worker experienced in the 1980s economic downturn (20 weeks).
2. Difficulty in obtaining a new job after unemployment led to significantly lower rates of re-employment and lost earnings than in the previous downturn.
3.Once re-employed, the level of new earnings per week were roughly 17.5% lower at the new job and in some cases for workers who had formerly worked full-time, the drop in earning dipped by almost 22%.
4. The data revealed that the negative impact of the economic downturn was more severe among women as the probability that they were likely to remain employed decreased. Conversely, the likelihood that they dropped out entirely from workforce participation increased.
5. The demographic data also showed that unemployed workers in the age bracket of 55 to 64 years of age were more likely to drop out of the labor force than their younger unemployed counterparts.
If one were to use this information as a foundation from which to develop a strategy to recession proof one’s remote career, what would one do?
Recession-proof your remote career if you are currently employed
Remain at your present job and take any opportunity to:
- Show your value
- Increase your productivity
- Improve your professional brand, and
As I read many posts on Reddit and Facebook, there are many employed workers who are overwhelmed and frustrated with the work thrust upon them. At their present job, they worry about lack of advancement, overwork, an irritable boss or co-worker and lack of promotion and increases in pay. Sometimes, it is better to lie low, work very, very hard and wait out an incoming recession rather than complain to human resources or management thereby putting a bull’s eye on your back. In the worst of times, no one wants to be the first ushed out the door. So, it may be advisable to hang tight, continue to show your value, endeavor to increase your productivity, improve your professional brand, and on your off hours, take online courses and workshops to upskill. Generally, downturns may last 18 months or so. This is just enough time for you to shine like a light when the moment comes.
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Recession-proof your remote career even if you are not presently employed
Even if you are presently unemployed, it is important to recession-proof the career you will soon have. How do you do this?
If you don’t yet have a remote job or any job at all, the suggestion would be to:
- Strategically target your goals toward your unique skills and interests
- Build, expand, and nurture your referral and social network
- Seek gig and freelance work in a desired line of work
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Unlike the suggestions presented for the remote worker who is currently employed, this task can be a little daunting, but not impossible to master. On many of the social and professional media sites, posters share stories about the length of time they have been unemployed. Many describe bouts of depression and social anxiety because they have sent out hundreds of resumes with no response. Others talk about the different ways in which they were ghosted by recruiters and potential employers. Some, it not the majority, divulge that it has been difficult experience and seek solace from strangers in the absence of in-person, personal guidance and support.
While we have sympathy and provide advice often in such forums, what is proposed is that job seekers should first identify their personal set of interests and skills. Next they should take an assessment to identify targeted jobs that are best suited for them. This goes without saying that these considerations should be made with the underlying knowledge of the growth trends by occupation. You wouldn’t want to target the job ‘cobbler’ when today’s consumer buys shoes that are meant to be worn one to five times and discarded quickly with the anticipation of buying a new pair.
In 2021, PAIRIN published findings of its studies to show that the jobs in demand spanned all of the ten occupational areas: Information Technology, Sales, Project Management, Medical and Health, Customer Service, Accounting and Finance, Marketing, Education and Training, Business Development and Administrative. What was insightful about the research though was that these attributes (as it relates to remote working, working remotely, and work from home), regardless of sector were emphasized:
- Assertiveness and Critical Thinking
- Forceful Action Takers
- Accurately Detect and Manage Emotions
- Effectively Manage Conflict
- Superb Social Engagement and Communication
Around the same time, Randstad USA, analyzed the job market shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic to determine the projected industry winners and those losing ground. The hospitality industry lost about $534 million in earnings. The retail sector lost out to online stores who increased their sales by 74% in the first quarter of 2020 alone. Healthcare experienced an uneven impact according to Randstad, while the Technology sector fell by just 2.6%, experiencing minimal impact. And much like the PAIRIN study, Randstad found too that employers were looking for these transferrable skills:
- Problem solving
- Analytical Thinking
- Customer Service
If you are unemployed now and don’t feel that you have the time to improve upon all of these skills, Randstad does suggest these three should be emphasized:
1. Customer Service. There were about 4.5 million job postings related to customer service in one year says Randstad. And thus, this may be the “single-most prized soft skill” that can easily be transferred across industries and sectors.
2. Financial Services and Loan Mortgage Processing. Randstad pointed to the COVID-19 congressional aid packages that provided loans to homeowners and small businesses impacted by the virus.
3. Scheduling. Randstad provided data to explain that about 3 million job postings in one year related to scheduling which is also an easily transferrable skill relevant across all sectors.
Another key aspect of being in status of unemployment is the time available to expand, build and nurture your referral network. Usually when we’re employed we are often too busy to call a professional friend, send a quick email, go for coffee or happy hour. Now that you’ve got time, use it wisely. For it is through your personal and professional network and connections that you will probably get your job. Even if your network of references are not the direct source of a remote job opportunity, their support and reference will be needed during the background screening process.
Finally, after you have identified your targeted job, to get valuable experience in this area, you should try volunteering or enrolling in online, virtual, in-person workshops and classes to expand your knowledge and experience.