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Work & Money

6 Ways to Recession-Proof Your Career

Try these tips for communicating at work, connecting with recruiters, standing out online and more.

From the editors: The Black community is coping with historic challenges relating to social justice, health and the economy. We’re all in this together. During this turbulent time, Sisters From AARP is prioritizing new and existing content that supports our readers’ mental, physical and economic safety and well-being, including this story. Feel free to email us at sistersletter@aarp.org and share your thoughts on how we, as Black women, can best support one another now.

As we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re also facing economic fallout. As businesses cut back on expenses, some companies are furloughing or laying off employees. And millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks.

If you’re an employee, you may be worried about job loss. But here are some steps you can take now to strengthen your current standing — and help you proceed effectively if you have to look for a new role.

Connect with workplace contacts. Building relationships at work is important. But with social distancing and companies moving to work from home, maintaining these connections can be challenging. Make sure it’s not just 100 percent business when you’re talking to supervisors or people on your team, says Angelina Darrisaw, the founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach, which works with companies to help them retain and engage diverse employees. She advises asking how people are doing or using knowledge that you might have to offer something helpful. Some examples might be offering recipes, recommending TV shows or movies that you’re enjoying as you shelter in place, or sharing home workout tips with coworkers that you know are into exercise.

Work on outside connections. Also reach out to alumni networks and others, including people who work at companies you’d like to target for future employment. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out if you’re suddenly laid off and looking for work, but it’s more organic when the relationship has been ongoing over time, says Sonya Olds Som, a partner at executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles. The key is to not get intimidated by thinking you need lengthy communication.

Share your accomplishments. If your company had to abruptly shift to working from home, ongoing projects may be off your boss’ radar due to new challenges. One way to maintain visibility with your manager is to communicate any progress you’ve made on major projects via email. Or set up a regular time to check in via videoconferencing or phone.

Communicate about any workplace challenges. People are also trying to juggle other parts of life, like keeping children entertained and educated with schools and day cares closed. Darrisaw recommends being honest with supervisors if you’re dealing with personal issues at home. It can be as simple as saying, “I’m dealing with my kids, so I’m very available at these times and not available at these other hours.” Being open helps you to look competent as well as committed to the team, she says.

But this isn’t an excuse to forget your work. Rather, it’s a way to set boundaries as well as expectations.

Note: You may qualify for help if you’re unable to work due to quarantine or symptoms related to COVID-19, if you’re taking care of a sick family member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is under quarantine, or if you’re caring for a child under age 18 who is out of school or day care due to the pandemic. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act offers two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave or up to 10 weeks of paid extended family and medical leave. Check with your workplace for details; the provisions of the act are generally available to employees at companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Connect with recruiters. Recruiters are hired by companies to specifically identify good candidates. So it’s in your interest to have relationships with as many search recruiters as possible because companies will hire different search firms to fill a role.

It’s relatively easy to connect with recruiters via LinkedIn. Once you’ve connected, make sure they have your most recent résumé. And email them when you have professional news or accomplishments to share. You also can use LinkedIn to connect with recruiters at companies you may be interested in applying to in the future. And indicate you’re open to job opportunities, which is a feature that’s visible only to recruiters using the platform.

Get savvy online. If you’re nervous layoffs may be on the horizon, use this time to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, including your professional summary and experience. Also consider a Zoom happy hour with friends to get their feedback on what you do well and the best ways to communicate that.

Darrisaw stresses the importance of leveraging your online presence. “The decision between candidates can sometimes come down to perception,” she says, noting that she’s seen some Black women hesitate to demonstrate their accomplishments.

But, Darrisaw adds, if someone is searching LinkedIn or another platform to get an understanding of you and your work, being able to see that you can effectively tell your professional story helps you to appear competent. And that’s what you want.

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