How to build a career in difficult & unstable times

Written by
Irina Veligan
Published on
March 26, 2024

In recent times, the job market has experienced significant fluctuations. According to the website, in 2023, more than 1,190 tech companies underwent layoffs, impacting over 260,000 employees. Since the beginning of 2024, approximately 132 tech companies have seen layoffs, affecting over 33,000 employees. This downturn in the tech industry, which saw considerable growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, can be attributed to the excessive hiring during the pandemic, with the realization now that not all of these positions are necessary as the world adjusts to post-crisis realities. However, the tech sector isn't the only one facing challenges; industries such as automotive, home appliances, and FMCG have also experienced downturns and, to ensure business continuity, have found it necessary to reduce headcount costs.

At the same time, the number of open positions to the website has been on a decline from May 2023, stabilizing somewhat in the last several months. We might be on a plateau, but this doesn't necessarily mean that conditions are favorable.

So, how should one plan their career amidst such uncertainty regarding the future of companies and entire industries? Is it better to sit calmly and wait until the crisis passes, or could a crisis be an opportune time for growth? 

Here are strategies to consider:

1. Adaptability and Continuous Learning

In an era where job roles and industries are rapidly evolving, adaptability and continuous learning have become more crucial than ever. The increasing influence of artificial intelligence (AI) in our professional and personal lives suggests that understanding and leveraging AI in your work is not just advantageous, but essential. Embrace online courses, workshops, and certification programs focused on AI and other emerging technologies to stay competitive. Whether it's enhancing your technical expertise, developing soft skills, or exploring entirely new fields, leveraging the downtime during a crisis for personal and professional development can position you favorably when the job market rebounds. 

2. Leveraging Previous Experience in Career Transitions

When considering a career switch, it's important to view your previous experience not as irrelevant, but as a foundational asset. Instead of completely removing your past roles from your CV, use them to build a narrative that logically supports your career transition. Articulate how your achievements and skills from previous positions have prepared you for your new career path. Additionally, consider targeting businesses that sit at the intersection of your current profession and the one you are transitioning into. For example, if you have experience in the automotive industry and wish to switch to quality assurance, look for QA opportunities within the automotive sector. This strategy allows you to leverage your industry-specific knowledge, making you a more attractive candidate and easing the transition by providing a familiar context for your new role.

3. Portfolio Career: Diversifying Your Income Streams

Embracing a portfolio career can be a strategic way to navigate uncertainty and achieve financial stability. A portfolio career involves having multiple sources of income, such as a traditional office job, alongside freelance projects, consulting work, conducting lectures, or leading workshops. This approach not only diversifies your income but also allows you to explore different interests and passions, making your work life more fulfilling and resilient against economic fluctuations. By cultivating a diverse skill set and building a broad network, you can create a more secure and adaptable professional life. 

4. Networking and Building Relationships

Take the initiative to reconnect with former colleagues and update your contact list with valuable connections you may have overlooked. Your network is a rich resource of support, advice, and information, providing insights that can guide you through the volatility of the job market. Don't hesitate to reach out directly to your network if you're in search of employment opportunities. Inquire about any openings within their companies and express your interest in being referred. A personal referral can significantly enhance your chances of landing an interview, as it comes with an implicit endorsement of your skills and work ethic. Remember, nurturing these relationships requires reciprocity; be ready to offer your help and support in return, fostering a mutually beneficial connection that extends beyond a mere professional acquaintance.

5. Mental Health and Well-being

The stress and anxiety that often accompany these periods are natural responses, but it's crucial to engage in self-care practices and seek support to maintain a positive outlook and resilience. If you find yourself struggling, don't hesitate to seek the assistance of psychologists, coaches, or other supportive professionals. Their expertise can provide you with strategies to manage stress, build resilience, and maintain focus on your goals. Moreover, the job search process can be a stressful and isolating experience if undertaken alone. To combat feelings of loneliness and enhance your support network, connect with local communities related to your professional interests. 

Building a career during unstable times is undoubtedly challenging, but with the right approach, it's possible to turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and advancement. By focusing on adaptability, continuous learning, and strategic planning, you can navigate through the uncertainty and lay the groundwork for a successful career path. Remember, crises are temporary, and with proactive and positive action, you can emerge stronger on the other side.

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