In a bleak economic outlook plagued by inflation, rising interest rates and uncertain hiring practices, the concept of ‘career cushioning’ has entered more into HR’s consciousness. Career cushioning refers to employees taking proactive measures to mitigate the damage of potential job loss and leave them better placed to bounce back into work in the event of sudden unemployment.
Career cushioning can involve actively monitoring job market trends, networking, and staying updated on industry developments to maintain a sense of job security, or can even go as far as actively applying for new roles. According to research by recruitment firm Robert Walters, more than a third (37%) of workers are taking contingency steps in this vain.
When quizzed further about what preparation they’d done, two-thirds (66%) said they’d been monitoring the job market and 43% had updated their CVs. Meanwhile, a third (33%) revealed they were actively applying for jobs.
In this blog, we explore the concept of career cushioning, the reasons why it has become essential in today’s job market, and practical strategies for employees to navigate job security in these uncertain times.
Reasons for the emergence of Career Cushioning
The current economic climate is characterised by rising inflation and interest rates, along with the lasting impact of the pandemic on hiring practices. These factors have created an atmosphere of uncertainty, leading employees to seek ways to protect their careers.
Economic indicators suggest a potential recession looming on the horizon. The financial crash of 2007 and the ensuing job losses aren’t too distant in the memory and employees are recognising the need to prepare for potential job instability, embracing career cushioning is a pre-emptive strategy. Given that the world of work is vastly different now than it was just a few years ago prior to the pandemic, any sense of job security is likely to be far more fragile.
What does Career Cushioning look like in practice?
Continuous Learning and Skill Development:
To enhance job security, employees will see benefit in continuous learning and skill development. This includes staying updated on industry trends, acquiring new certifications, attending workshops, and engaging in online courses that align with their professional goals. This proactive approach ensures they remain relevant and valuable in a changing job market.
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Networking and Building Connections:
Actively networking within the industry expands employees’ repertoire of professional contacts. Attending conferences, seminars, and industry events provides great opportunities to meet like-minded professionals and potential employers. Building this strong network increases the likelihood of finding alternative job opportunities should the need arise.
Maintaining an Updated CV and Online Presence:
Employees will be regularly updating their CV to reflect their most recent accomplishments, experiences and skills gained. Additionally, they could be more active and looking to maintain an updated online presence on professional platforms such as LinkedIn. These platforms provide a unique way for potential employers to discover their skills and experiences.
Side Projects and Freelancing:
Engaging in side projects or freelancing can provide an additional income stream and broaden one’s professional network. These opportunities can serve as a safety net during uncertain times and may even lead to new career possibilities.
Staying Informed and Flexible:
Regularly monitoring industry news, economic trends, and company developments helps to stay informed about potential job market shifts to stay up to speed. A flexible mindset and an openness to exploring new roles, industries or locations increases the chances of finding alternative employment options in the event of instability.
By continuously updating skills, networking, and staying informed about industry trends, employees can create a safety net of alternative opportunities during times when the future can appear highly uncertain. Taking these steps provides a sense of security and increases the chances of a softer landing should job loss occur. Adopting this approach can empower individuals to proactively manage their careers and adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
What can employers do?
Speaking to People Management, Ian Moore, managing director of HR consultancy Lodge Court, said said that in spite of these “troubling” figures, there are ways that employers can mitigate this risk. “Employers need to show their staff that they value their work and commitment and must listen to their concerns, questions and feedback,” said Moore.
He added that, to get to this stage, employers must first identify warning signs that certain colleagues may be “growing tired of their role”, including “being vague about future plans, reducing their performance and showing decreased motivation.”
Moore said organisations could help combat this by “checking people can cope with their workload, putting career progression plans in place, and carrying out regular satisfaction and culture surveys”.
“These steps will ensure your employees feel valued and appreciated and have a clear, long-term role in the company,” he continued.