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Making Career Moves in a Recession

February 5, 2019

Conceptual image of career management

With the unemployment rate dropping to the lowest Canada has seen in decades, ending 2018 at 5.6% according to Statistics Canada, those seeking work have found themselves in a power position over employers. While this statistic is a combination of many factors, and may not be entirely reflective of what job seekers find in each field, the general consensus reflects a larger abundance of positions, affording seekers the opportunity to be picky.

In the recruiting industry, this has shown through the attitude of candidates. With this new-found power in the employee-employer relationship, candidates are less likely to commit and instead enjoy the luxury of shopping around for positions with multiple recruiters. Relieved of the stress to snag one of the few good opportunities available (notably in specialized fields), time is no longer of the essence.

The forecast for 2019, however, may look quite different for job seekers. The winds of change bring a whisper of recession that will reverse the power imbalance currently held by employers and job seekers. Before you find yourself caught in the eye of the storm, however, understanding how this dynamic will affect job seekers can help prevent consistently losing out on desirable positions and ensuring the best decision is made in regards to your career.

Depending on how you view an economic downfall in regards to your career, there are a few ways of approaching a job search. First, the most obvious answer would be to make the change now. Human resources are generally the greatest asset of an organization, but also the greatest cost to the bottom line. So, naturally, in a situation of recession where companies are tightening their belts, the first area they will look to save is within the employee pool. For example, can our team of three Financial Analysts sufficiently operate with just two?

Additionally, a recession often results in lower voluntary turnover. When the job market is tight, people tend to hold on to the security their job holds. As Willis Towers Watson explains, “workers who managed to stay employed tended to remain where they were, especially older workers who couldn't afford to retire.” This means that while companies are offering fewer opportunities, the lack of turnover creates a greater deficit in what could normally be expected of available jobs. With these two key factors in mind, it would seem logical to make a move before this happens and look for an available position while there is still a surplus. This is not, of course, a fail-safe way to progress your career while standing face-to-face with economic decline. If you were waiting for the other shoe to drop, here it comes.

Recall the anecdote of three Analysts. Now, come recession, a company believes they can get along with two. The easiest decision would be made by last one in, first one out - meaning, of course, you. Adding this phenomenon to the equation, it may now look like making that move before an impending recession may not be such a good idea after all. You put at risk the job security you currently hold for lower seniority and a high probability of being the first out the door if your new company is making cuts. How, then, would you make a decision? How would you know if you should make a move or not? The answer lies in context. In all areas of job searching, context is king.

Let’s say you have decided to look for a new job. An interesting role is available at a reputable company and you believe this would be a great move for you. To add context to this situation, you would look closely at what a recession means for the company and industry in question. Taking a page from previous recessions, there are industries that are more recession resistant or even thrive during a recession. Some notable examples include Consumer Staples with grocery stores (people still need to eat) and discount retailers such as Walmart, as well as Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare. In contrast, there are certain industries that generally see significant volatility during recessions including Consumer Discretionary “luxury goods,” Information Technology and Financial Services.  

But most importantly, what is the context for you? What is this job selling, and what does it mean for you? How does this move fit into your story?

These are not always easy questions to answer. If you’re considering a career move and wish you had someone to help you navigate the murky waters of job hunting, reach out to Clarity Recruitment today. Our recruiters are committed to helping you write your next chapter.  

 

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