4. Differentiate your role
When layoffs loom, businesses look for redundancies in their workforce. In fact, in some countries, the word redundancies is a euphemism for what we in the U.S. call layoffs. The best way to avoid becoming a redundancy is to avoid redundant roles.
Regardless of a company’s size, you can test for redundancy during your interview process. Ask the hiring manager how many other people in the organization have the same function, and how many other departments do the same things. If you’re being hired to expand capacity for an existing role, you can be let go if demand for that function drops during an economic downturn.
Even if you’re one of several people doing the same thing, you can look for ways to expand your role to fill key needs for the business. Taking on important specialized tasks that others aren’t performing can help differentiate you from the pack and help with job security. Just be sure you’re taking on specialization that’s essential rather than novel (and that you’re valued accordingly for that skill set or knowledge). It’s a lot harder to let go of the account manager who’s proven uniquely able to manage the toughest account than the one who has taken on organizing the company picnics.
5. Optimize for adaptability
Jobs come and go, but adaptable people are always in demand. Develop skill sets that will serve you in any job, and always be learning. In a topsy-turvy market, a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none but often better than a master of one.
Relationship management skills (both internally and externally) and project management skills go a long way regardless of your industry or job function. Demonstrating highly versatile skills can be a shield of immunity when management is looking at whom to cut.
Complacency, on the other hand, begets risk, and those who count on things staying the same are most vulnerable to change. Strengthen your position by reading your industry’s trade periodicals and spotting innovation and trends. Integrate continuing education into your lifestyle, taking courses in new or emerging skill sets. Take on challenging projects and ask your employer to fund relevant training to develop your skills in ways that advance the company’s interests.
While no amount of training and skill development can totally shield you from a round of layoffs when a recession occurs, developing an adaptable mindset and building highly transferable skills can ensure that even if you do lose your job, you’ll be better prepared to look for a new one.