Are We In For a Recession? What does that Mean for your Job Search?

I am not an economist. And my crystal ball is permanently broken. But judging by an uptick in anxiety, stress, and a heightened sense of “oh, crap! I NEED to land a new job before a recession” in my inbox, it seems like all the news that a recession may be coming are taking their toll.

Again – I’ll repeat – I know NOTHING and am in no way qualified to talk about whether a recession is coming. I strongly urge you to defer to real experts in the economy. Who can tell you far better than I can whether we’re headed for a recession. Who know what on earth a yield curve is or why it’s inversion matters.

But I do have

  • emails from 2 folks saying their team is getting the axe (Layoffs)
  • loads of requests from folks looking for a new job – for all kinds of reasons. But a big theme seems to be “my workload is overwhelming me. My employer isn’t doing ANYTHING to reduce it!” which sounds to me like their employers are scaling back on hiring.
  • email from people who have been looking for a while (3+ months) and are getting more worried & discouraged (sigh! I feel ya! )

So what’s my inbox like? Should I job hunt before a recession hits? Do I just take the first offer that comes along, presuming it’s going to get rougher? Is there any point keeping up a job hunt during a recession?

Hmmm. I truly don’t know what to say to any of these, other than what I always say, regardless of whether the economy is sunshiney or doom-and-gloomy: What do YOU want? What do YOU think you should do? What can you tolerate, versus what MUST change for you?

I can totally relate. During the last recession, I got laid off. That forced me to switch gears, and REAL fast. Largely because I was pregnant. I was freaked out, on a FIRM deadline to find something, and didn’t have the luxury of being picky.

That ended up being one of the best things that happened to me.

But truth be told, I myself have been looking for a better fit for my full-time thing, despite any indications that my timing might be bad. And while I will say I’m ready to move on, and impatient with how long it is taking to land my next, I wouldn’t say that I think it’s any rougher out there than any other time. I’m still seeing a number of positions in my niche, and I’m getting an appropriate ratio of applications to interviews.

There are things you must always remember.

First, every person’s path is different. Me? I’m looking for something super niche and specific, so I have to keep checking myself when I hear myself saying that this is taking “too long.” Also I have very narrow requirements this time around, whereas when I was looking during the great recession – when I was laid off – I was much more open to what I would / not consider.

Second, I also don’t know that anecdotes equal data. That these tales in my inbox are an indicator of any larger trend. So while they FEEL truthy (Yes, I STILL miss the Colbert Report!), I am not in any position to take a global view and say whether they ARE indicative of a larger pattern. I do tend to get more job search requests at the beginning of fall in any given year. There is a seasonality and cycle to these kinds of things, but this is bigger than usual.

Third, there’s literally nothing any of us can do, other than what lies within your own control. So try your best not to worry about things like whether your job might be a recession victim. That is outside of your control. (Easier said than done, I realize!) What is in your control? When you decide to take action, what action you decide to take, and how you choose to cope with stress. Decide how YOU want to proceed. That might be deciding you’re ready to start looking for a new job, recession warning signs be damned. Or that you would rather keep your head down where you’re at because having a bird in the hand is much less stressful than not knowing what’s next. Or that you should start to think broadly about where you can apply your skills & experience (and reduce your expenses) if you are unfortunate enough to be faced with a layoff.

Fourth, know that not all industries are affected equally during recessions. There are so many factors that go into how difficult it is to find a job, as this Brookings Institution piece shows. Higher ed sometimes even ends up on the winning side of things, because those without transferable skills or who cannot find work sometimes decide to use the otherwise idle time to get a new degree or certificate, and students need all kinds of campus support staff.

My gut instincts tell me you’re right to be concerned. Heck, even data and Millennials’ experiences prove that we should be worried. (If you can stomach the headline, this piece in the Atlantic about what Millennials will face if there is a recession is worth the read). And you’re not alone. This article points out that many people – even those who are downright miserable – are staying put out of fear of a possible recession.

But none of that means you should halt your strategy, or abruptly change your mind about what is best for you. If you’re job hunting, struggling with the decision, finding it’s rougher out there than before, I’m here for you. Reach out to me and let me know how I can help.

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