How to Recession-Proof Your Career

Economic conditions across tech and the financial markets often shape a candidate’s job search conditions.

When economies are strong, it's common to hear candidates express interest in working for startups. These are the times when you’ll see more candidates taking a gamble on employers who are seed funded or haven't yet found product market fit.

When the economy takes a downturn, it's common to hear candidates express interest in working for larger companies or employers with a strong brand, like "Big Tech," as they have become known. Why? Because candidates perceive an employer who is not a startup to be a more secure, longer-term employer.

But is this true?

Can a large, publicly traded, household-name tech company provide you with more job security than a startup? Not if you ask the 11,000+ employees downsized from Meta or those who were part of the more recent downsizing when Salesforce cut 10% of their staff.

A Recruiter's Perspective on Job Security 

Most people will agree that if you work for a tech company, you do so for the opportunity to build a product or a business, not for job security.

Job security in its purest form is typically more achievable in industries with little disruption and where the function of an employee is unlikely to change. Examples include school teachers, unionized factory workers, government workers, and financial institutions such as banks or insurance firms.

But most likely, if you’re reading this article, you’re not interested in those industries, even if they promised zero chance of downsizing or termination. So where does that leave you? Employment with “Big Tech”?

The Employment Security Myth

The idea that a large global brand or public tech company can provide guaranteed job security is a myth. The myth stems from the fact that we associate those companies with having the money to operate and the ability to acquire and keep paying customers, which is the key to growth and long-term viability. We also want to believe they are unsinkable ships.

Leaders of tech companies are often entrepreneurs, risk-takers, and self-identify as “disruptors.” If they are venture-backed, they have borrowed money from investors who want ROI. If they are part of the "Big Tech" family of companies, they are obligated to deliver results to their shareholders. All of this introduces risk to the employees who work at those companies.

Additionally, companies are run by people, and people make mistakes or get things wrong. Big bets on new markets or product ideas outside of a core business have been many companies’ demise. The pressure on public companies to report good news to shareholders is high. So, “Big Tech” often means big decisions that impact big numbers of employees, positively or negatively.

How Can I Recession-Proof my Career?

So if “Big Tech'' isn't a safe haven, how can you recession-proof your career? While there are no guarantees in life or business, our 20+ years of recruiting for tech companies and representing thousands of candidates throughout multiple economic cycles have taught us a few things. 

Here are our top three tips that are most likely to help your career when times get tough:

Don't Assume Anything

More specifically, don't assume joining a startup means a 'short stint' of employment. We represent candidates across all of our practice areas (Product, Marketing, and Sales) who have achieved success working for startups for long periods. What's long? 3-5 years. 

The number one reason we've seen long tenures is that there is a high likelihood that a successful employee can quickly become indispensable, given fewer resources. Strong-performing employees can quickly become an integral part of the business's growth goals.

This is the opposite of big tech, where depending on the markets and company performance, projects get cut or teams are rebalanced, resulting in a lot of shuffling, downsizing and often being just a number on an org chart.

Communicate and Manage Up

  • Do your stakeholders understand which outcomes you contributed to?
  • Do you regularly communicate with stakeholders, customers, or partners?
  • Does anyone outside your immediate team know who you are, your insights, and the problems you are helping solve?

Communicating up and across an organization is difficult for many people. Many employees hope to be noticed for their accomplishments. Many employees hope their line managers will advocate on their behalf to leadership. Many employees simply lack the confidence to talk with people, much less a stakeholder. Don’t be one of these many employees.

Taking the initiative to participate in company initiatives that allow you to be seen and solve problems helps stakeholders understand who the 'next level' employees are. 

Whether it's participating in a demo day, a 'show & tell' event, volunteering to make a presentation, training the trainer, onboarding employees, or assisting with special events, all of these are opportunities to show stakeholders who you are and demonstrate that you are interested in helping the broader business. These special assignments will help you be identified as the person you are, not the employee number you have been assigned.

Stick With It

Sticking with a job you were hired for in an industry as fast-moving as tech, where someone is always trying to recruit you and present a 'greener grass,' can be difficult.

This can become even more difficult when the work gets hard, and the outcomes are more challenging than expected. But remember, work is hard and it's hard everywhere.  

Sometimes candidates lose sight of the fact that employers hire people for the long term. No employer makes a full-time hire thinking they will just keep them around to see how it goes.  

For every hire an employer makes, they probably interviewed five, or more, people who did not get the job. They chose you. Sticking with the job even when things get hard in order to achieve the outcome(s) you were hired to achieve is what you have been hired to do. 

So stick with it, achieve successful outcomes, then parlay those results and learnings into the next career move. 

If you’ve recently been downsized and need to get your resume in order, we are here to help! And check out our blog for interviewing best practice resources.