Are we in a recession? Not yet. However, in Canada, inflation is at its highest level in 31 years. Normally, inflation sits at around 3% increase per year but right now it’s at 6.7%. Rising prices means that things are, ‘duh’, more expensive and when everyday household and big-ticket items get pricier, consumers have less purchasing power, and this causes us to hold back. What we buy and where we invest become weighted decisions in this economic climate because we can’t purchase or invest in as much as when inflation is lower. Food, energy, transportation, and rent are all examples of items that have seen price increases as of late and the less we buy the more expensive things get. Sad news, but truth be told we need inflation to increase now for the long-term health of our economy.
What goes up must come down, eventually. The average recession lasts no more than 11-months. The last recession, in 2008, was more prolonged. It lasted 18 months, give or take.
On a personal note, I’m very familiar with seeking employment during a recession. The collapse of the United States housing market, due to sub-prime lending practices, rippled into Canada in 2008. This will date me, but I was a newly minted college graduate returning from travelling across parts of Europe and anticipating a smooth landing back at a promised job offer from my employer. I had interned for said employer in sales and marketing. What I returned to, in fact, was a personal debt from sunny days abroad and a fashion company that had, to the fault of no one, ended its days. I had no job and no prospects. What I did have was bills and a suitcase of colourful sweaters the company had gifted me. Time was of the essence, and I began pursuing an income but also the right experience to land me the type of jobs and career I wanted long-term.
I started by matching my skills and interests long-term with job opportunities that weren’t on my radar initially or not within the industry I desired. I ended up aligning with a handful of opportunities and took a job managing the front desk and reception at a busy real estate company. It gave me the money I needed to pay rent, keep enjoying entertainment and life, and a funky work environment in the heart of downtown Toronto’s King Street area. It also empowered me with constant learning and a set focus, at a time when so many lacked a schedule or income. Not having a job or routine and feeling like you are building something is a hard place to be in – some would call it a rut. Avoiding ruts in times when the economy is slumping can feel particularly uphill, right? But there's no better time to keep pushing above and beyond, moving forward, then when things are tough. And, by doing this job, which I graduated initially with no interest in pursuing, I not only gained a gamut of experience and learned so much about a thriving industry but built a slew of skills foundational to my future career. I also made friends, one of which was even a part of my wedding party ten years later and remains a 'bestie'.
So, Step One is from personal experience and that lesson is: Work Backwards
Write down a list, freestyle, of all the jobs you’re interested in long-term. You might notice that these won’t necessarily be in one industry. If they are, good on you. You might notice that these roles have parallel industries that you had not initially considered = also great. What you’ll find by doing this is the blueprint for where you want to land. If you know this, you can begin to research what skills and experiences these types of job opportunities are seeking.
From here, you can go onto a job board like OCC or Indeed or Job Hopper, even, and search for the exact role titles on your ‘long-term list’. This will reveal the types of skills and experience that employers are looking to hire for in these opportunities. Sure, they may not be seeking your experience level now but now you know what you need to get there.
Step Two: Understand What Skills & Experiences Are Important to Your Longterm Career & Use This New List to Narrow Down Short-Term Career Options
Okay, you now know the skills and experiences you need to get into the roles you eventually want to land. Which of these in this list is most aligned with your personality? This might clarify, even further, your best ‘bet’ when it comes to your long-term employment goals. This will also show you what types of jobs you can look at in the short-term, now, that will give you these skills and experiences so that you can work toward landing roles that aren’t necessarily in the exact echelon or industry you had initially planned on being in but that can build you a foundation and increase your hire ability, while giving you a salary, to be hired now. Being hired now, while also working toward the big picture, means when the economy bounces back (and it always does) you can launch into a more direct route toward what you always wanted to do.
People, like companies, have a choice to scale back or push forward when everyone is scaling back and go further. Your choice.
Step Three: Integrate & Initiate to Bank on Yourself Now & Later
Now is not the time to have a huge ego. Check that at the door during a recession and save it for later, if you two are super-tight. ?? Now is the time to integrate and initiate. Take your pursuit of a ‘foundational job’, the job that will eventually lead you where you want to go, as a full-time job. Commit to applying to five-ten jobs daily but first integrate the keywords and verbiage aligned with the skills and experiences you know you need long-term and with the roles that are currently hiring and into your resume. (This search approach could also mean dipping between freelance roles and applying there too). The end-aim is to ensure that the roles you land will work toward something bigger but offer you the chance to build a livable income and foundational experience now. This is a strategic mindset to building your future career now, and it means that you might not glide into the office, latte-in-tow, doing exactly what you’d always imagined would be your first job but, with commitment and your eye on the long game, you will earn the money and work credit you need to bank on you - now and later.
Know This: It’s Not Your Fault
No one and no company are recession-proof. It’s just a fact. Sorry. So many articles discuss recession-proofing your resume or recession-proofing your life but while so much we can control in life there are outliers – like, for example, you are not responsible for the global state of our economy and there isn’t much you can do to change it right now. The things you can do are fairly common sense. One thing I will note is that this article about skills employers seek during a recession seems fairly legit. After all, who doesn't like 'universal mastery'?
Truth is that companies and people that hire rather than fire and invest rather than devest thrive post-recession when the competition has scaled back. “Necessity is the mother of innovation; scarcity drives entrepreneurship.” Former COO of Apple, Tim Cook, is quoted as saying “We believe in investing during downturns.”
It's only human to have knee-jerk reactions to uncertainty and fear but all we can do is adapt and keep moving forward (eyes on the endgame). So, hang in there, and hang tight because this too shall pass, even though it hasn’t technically started.