How to recession-proof your career

marvel-style superhero in front of Wall Street

“We have no idea what the world will look like when we wake up tomorrow.”

It was late Sunday night, September 14, 2008.

Lehman Brothers had just filed for bankruptcy. And when the markets re-opened on Monday, it was going to be a bloodbath.

And indeed it was.

401ks were eviscerated.
9 million people were laid off.
Banks and automakers became wards of the state.

I was 31 (right in my peak earning years) and terrified of losing my fancy Wall Street job.

But that didn’t happen. Au contraire, mon frere.

Over the next 7 years I got promoted twice. (“Battlefield promotes,” they called them back then.)

And at 35, I semi-retired.

Here are 7 approaches you can use to keep your job (and thrive) during a recession:

1. Be your boss’ Tylenol

Everyone has a boss. Even the CEO. That boss will have tons of say (and sway) in your employment.

You should make their lives better. Anticipate their deadlines and problems. Organize their information and priorities.

Help them shine.

When the layoffs come, you will have stacked the deck in your favor.

2. Your network is your moat

Access to the right information and relationships make you indispensable. These can’t be transferred to a colleague if you were let go.

This isn’t an overnight exercise, but think creatively about your Weak Ties (people 2-degrees from you). Develop relationships based on genuine care, respect and reciprocity.

This doesn’t give you permission to be a “transactional taker.” Look to always add value and a personal touch to everything you do.

You’ll make lifelong friends in the process.

(Our Life Operating System has a detailed Personal CRM to grow and maintain your relationships.)

3. Be visible

The truth is that you need bosses, peers, stakeholders and skip-level managers to know what you’re doing.

Don’t assume they know – they’re busy and nervous too.

Manage up, keep detailed notes of wins, share that well-timed humble brag.

(Just don’t overdo it or you’ll reek of desperation.)

4. Identify your leverage and prioritize ruthlessly

Not all tasks are created equally. Not all projects drive the same outcomes.

Efficiency is squeezing water out of a stone.

Effectiveness is identifying the leverage moving the needle on the RIGHT thing.

Don’t get the two confused.

Use the $10K Work framework to ensure that you’ve created the perfect portfolio of high-impact activities.

(If you’re looking to dial-in your $10K Work, check out the self-paced version of Supercharge Your Productivity)

5. Develop your adjacent skills

There are many universal skills that make you more valuable and transcend industries. They include:

I picked up public speaking, which had always been a weakness. I practiced rehearsing and recording my presentations on my iPhone. I then dissected my own performance and tried to improve each iteration.

Now I deliver keynotes with minimal stress!

6. Be the resident “tech expert”

You don’t need to be that AI-obsessed freak in your office that only wants to talk about ChatGPT. But many big companies are so far behind grasping the tools that scale your team’s productivity.

Be the curator and gatekeeper of these tools.

Here are some ideas:

  • Data Visualization (Tableau)
  • Project Management (Asana, Notion)
  • Collaboration (Loom, Miro)
  • No-Code (Zapier, Automate)
  • Generative AI (Midjourney, ChatGPT, Dall-E)

7. Establish thought leadership

No, the world doesn’t need more influencers. But social networks are a rad way to showcase what you know – irrespective of your title.

The goal isn’t to build an audience.

Instead it’s to start conversations with peers across your areas of expertise.

Post a thoughtful comment that adds value to a conversation. Share a link with some color commentary. I promise, you will attract your tribe.

And flexing that digital muscle is definitely a skill worth having in your back pocket.

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