It’s the latest workplace trend taking off recently, and it’s called career cushioning. While this isn’t a revolutionary concept, it is being talked about in a new way as professionals brace themselves for potential layoffs. According to a recent LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index, 85% of American workers are concerned about inflation, yet just 44% feel prepared for an economic downturn. So, the question is, what is career cushioning, and how can it help you prepare for a job loss?
Career cushioning is a term derived from the dating world where individuals entertain other romantic options while still in a committed relationship. In the professional realm, it refers to keeping your options open and taking actions to “cushion the landing” should something unexpected occur. The trend isn’t surprising, given that a growing number of organizations are laying off workers as they prepare for a potential recession brought about by high inflation and rising interest rates.
The silver lining is that while layoffs are still prevalent (primarily in the tech sector), job growth reflected stronger-than-expected hiring momentum, according to The Labor Department’s most recent jobs report. So let’s dig deeper into how you can prepare for the unexpected while expanding your skillset.
Identify top values
One of the primary reasons people don’t feel happy or fulfilled in their jobs is because their values aren’t aligned with their company’s values. That’s why the first step is to list your top values so you can evaluate current and future employers. For example, does your manager expect you to be on email every evening and weekend when your number one priority is your family? Or perhaps you’re stuck in a toxic work environment when all you want is to find a creative organizational culture that supports employees’ mental and physical well-being. Make a list of your top five (or even ten) work values and write them on a post-it note in the order of priority. Then place it on your laptop so you can use it as a guide moving forward.
Build and market skills
Honing your skills is another way to practice career cushioning. Why? You take your skills with you wherever you go, and they only increase your value in the workplace. It’s also essential to market your skills because that’s what recruiters look for. According to LinkedIn, over 40% of companies globally explicitly rely on skills to search for and identify job candidates (up 20% year-over-year). And while hard skills used to be valued more than soft skills, that has changed over the last several years. Now, soft skills are more in-demand than ever. Rohan Rajiv, Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, says that “foundational soft skills have become even more important given the rise of remote and autonomous work, and are growing in importance across industries, levels and work environments. In fact, these soft skills were featured in 78% of jobs posted globally over the last three months.”
Apply for jobs
Regardless of economic conditions, it’s important to remain open to new opportunities. One of the side effects of applying for roles is that you feel in control of your career. The act of job searching makes you realize that you have choices and that you aren’t stuck in one role or company. It also helps you hone your job hunting and interview skills so that you’ll be ready when you want to find a new position. Another possibility is that you may come across a role that looks “somewhat” interesting, and then after going through a few rounds of interviews, it ends up being your dream job. Finally, it gives you a chance to expand your network, as well as get a better understanding of the job market and compensation for specific positions.
Consider a side hustle
Another way many people are career cushioning is by creating a side hustle or side gig. According to a Zapier report, 40% of Americans currently have a side hustle, up from 34% in December 2020. And that number is expected to increase in 2023. Starting a side hustle is not only an excellent way to earn extra money, but it also allows you to stay on top of industry trends, experiment with a new idea or “try on” a new career. It can also provide a creative outlet if your current job isn’t fulfilling your passions and interests.
Don’t wait until your position is eliminated to start being proactive. Think about what is in your control and start taking small actions. You’ll be surprised how empowered you feel. Even the tiniest step forward can result in incredible long-term career success.