I always thought that having a career in toilet paper would be brilliant. 🧻
I have a distinct little kid memory of this. “DAD!” I exclaimed at the breakfast table “everyone will always need toilet paper, I’ll be busy forever!” he peered over the newspaper and replied “sure thing kiddo” and went back to reading.
I’d like to think I was a visionary kid because hey, I used toilet paper and scotch tape for my Barbie gowns. “See dad? Toilet paper can do anything!”. My dad was just happy he didn’t have to appease my taste for expensive doll clothes and got used to me yelling random job ideas at the kitchen table.
Not much has changed. I still think TP is a great gig despite losing some market share to the bidet market during the great TP shortage of 2020, and I still occasionally shout job ideas out. I have a bit of a different perspective this time around because, as it turns out, you can’t sell Barbie clothes made of TP.
How the economy & an impending recession factors in
So what gigs are in fact recession proof? If it’s not the gig I’m in now, how can I protect myself, my family and my future from the wild and unpredictable nature of humans and an economy I have very little control over?
Great question and I would love to tell you. I dove into this topic so you don’t have to. I’m not an economist, and I’ve failed math class more times than I care to mention, but I’ve got common sense, experience, and some smarts that I can contribute, so let’s have a poke around shall we?
To start, a recession is a “business cycle contraction when there is a general decline in economic activity” this can be measured in a few ways, and to make it even more interesting, individual countries define and measure this differently.
But the bottom line is that it’s measured by GDP, a complex thing, but I’m going to TL;DR it by saying that a recession is a consistent period of time where spending softens. My economics prof might be making a sour face right now, but I’m going with it. I’m not here to delve into economic theory—let’s talk about toilet paper.
The underlying message across all the articles that warn a recession is coming, that it’s already here, or that it’s not coming at all, is that this is a stressful scenario. With it comes an exercise in evaluating changes and to navigate this, we need to be nimble and ready to roll with it.
What can we do about it?
Given that we can’t all work in toilet paper together, and that our careers are wrapped in diverse roles, projects, and businesses, how can we prepare for this change that might be heading our way? It's possible to continue your career growth, and not end up a statistic during a recession. Let's dive in.
How To Recession Proof Your Career: Top 4 Things to Do
- Embrace the unknown
- Play to your strengths
- Shore up your skills
- Build an authentic and wider network
A few weeks ago I was chatting about change and I said "don't panic, we are merely between contexts," and this rings true. The sky is not falling—you're smart, don't spin in circles! Lean into the unknown, embrace the suck and pivot yourself to be of service to your company. Have faith in what you can offer your organization, bring an attitude of positivity and initiative, and turn towards ideas and innovation.
Follow the revenue thread. How is your role impacting revenue or supporting key organizational components? How might you look to pivot, change, or add to your role to support the strategy and reinforce financial opportunities for your organization?
This can look like finding opportunities to leverage your skills as a shared service, offering up support across the company, or just keeping your hand up and taking on what needs to be done. Double down on what you’re great at, play to your strengths, and stay focused.
Shore up those transferable skills! What might benefit you and your workplace? What gaps do you have that you can close up that will be of value? Is there new technology that your firm would benefit from?
Your qualifications and experience likely have the ability to grow in other areas of your organization. Spend some time thinking strategically about what other areas of focus might look like for you, and what you need to do or what skills you need to make an impact.
If you keep your connections close and authentic, this will lead to better long term relationships in any state of the economy, but in an economic downturn it’s key that folks know what you are capable of, and what your strengths are.
Ensure you are keeping your LinkedIn updated, sharing out completed project wins, and reaching out to new folks you’ve met with a personal note. Join connected groups and adjacent groups (think product groups if you are project focused, design groups if you are marketing focused).
So you’ve got your marching orders and you have what you need to pull a plan together.
While no recession has been formally called (and we are dancing around it like a terribly awkward TikTok dance) it's coming, but what shape it will be is still unknown. I'll still place my bets on you—and toilet paper—any day. I rounded up some homework for you in the meantime, so dive in and keep your head up. We got this.
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