The economy, much like the weather, never stays in a single state permanently. Yet it’s easy to panic when the economy is bad, or to lull yourself into a false sense of security when it’s good. Rest assured, no matter what things are doing now, something will be different a year from now—and perhaps very different in a decade. The right career can offer considerable job stability, even during a recession.
Here are strategies that can help you keep a lucrative position, and even climb the success ladder, when the economy slows.
Build a Strong Educational Foundation
No matter where you work or what you do, earning a degree (or two or three!) serves as a sort of job insurance. More educated workers have lower unemployment rates. In 2018, people with just a high school diploma had unemployment of 4.1 percent, compared to a mere 2.2 percent among those with a college degree.
That only tells half of the story, though. When the economy is weak, the employment disparity between the most and least educated grows. In 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, high school graduates had unemployment of 7 percent—more than double the 3.3 percent unemployment rate among college graduates. According to the Brookings Institution, the least educated workers had not fully recovered even 10 years later.
Education promotes job stability in several ways:
- It gives you demonstrable skills that may make you more valuable at work.
- It may protect you from layoffs. When budgets are tight, employers seek to protect their most valuable workers. Those with the highest levels of education typically have the most to offer the company.
- It opens doors to more lucrative careers. A college degree is the first step toward going to medical or law school—and the economy always needs lawyers and doctors.
Choose a Job in a Vital Service
A great education is a strong step toward a lucrative, stable career. But it’s not the only factor that matters. To protect your paycheck, choose a job in a vital service.
Some jobs are simply more expendable than others. Automation and layoffs can replace some retail and food service workers. When money is tight, people may not pay for cabs or rideshare services. In the worst economy, the list of jobs that may be cut is a mile long. Some roles, however, will exist in even a recession. They include:
There will always be sick people who need medical support. Doctors must complete medical school and college, but doing so offers significant job stability. Less than 0.5 percent of doctors are unemployed. Nurses, likewise, enjoy historically low unemployment thanks to a nursing shortage.
You don’t have to master biochemistry to work in healthcare, though. Hospitals will always need administrators to set organizational policy and hire quality providers. SNU’s MBA in healthcare management can open the door to a role in healthcare leadership.
No matter what the economy does, children must learn. Teachers train the next generation of workers. They also play a vital role in helping children weather the many storms they face during an economic downturn. A career as a teacher offers great security and can be very rewarding.
Teaching children is not the only path, however. During a recession, people tend to return to school. Colleges and universities of every variety often hire experts in their chosen field to train tomorrow’s employees. A college degree helps you gain credibility that you might eventually use to secure a job as an instructor.
Social service workers
During a recession, the demand on social service agencies is even more intense. People may need help filing for benefits, accessing housing, and supporting their children. People who work in a wide range of social services can play a key role in helping people navigate a recession while enjoying significant job stability.
Some roles to consider include:
- Working as a social worker
- A role in senior care, such as home health aide, senior living administrator, or geriatric care coordinator
- Serving with a hospice organization
Accountants and financial workers
People and businesses always need accountants to help them plan for the future and file taxes. When the economy collapses, though, demand increases. A budget analyst proves their worth when finances are tight and a company must reduce waste. International business consultants may also find more work during a recession, as companies look to merge, restructure, and partner with other entities.
SNU’s business administration degree can prepare you with the basic knowledge you need to secure a lucrative job in finance. If you want to further specialize and greatly boost your earnings, consider enrolling in an MBA program.
Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders always have a place in the economy. Public health tends to get worse when the economy crumbles, securing the indispensable role of many first responders.
Not all first responders need a degree. However, a college degree can open doors even when it’s not mandatory. For example, a police officer may rise in the ranks with the right training, while a paramedic may eventually secure a higher paid job managing a whole team.
The courts remain open even in the wake of national disasters and global pandemics. Lawyers play a vital role in asserting and defending people’s rights, whether they’re suing governments for overreach, protecting the elderly from nursing home abuse, or helping businesses navigate complex issues. To go to law school, you need a college degree.
But you don’t have to invest in three years of law school to participate in the judicial system. Court clerks, judicial assistants, jury managers, and other workers help keep the wheels of justice turning. These workers need a strong education to help them administer the courts.
You’ll notice that most of these careers share something in common: strong educational requirements. Completing your college degree is the first step toward securing most recession-proof jobs.
Consider How Economic Changes Might Affect Your Role
It’s not just your job that matters. You must also consider the industry in which you work and the company that employs you. Sudden swings in the economy can render entire industries irrelevant. Consider how the internet decimated travel agencies or how websites like eBay have made life more difficult for antiques dealers.
Spend some time researching the specific niche in which you want to work. While no one can predict every paradigm shift in the economy, a little foresight can enhance job stability. The Bureau of Labor Statistics can tell you whether a specific field is experiencing growth. So consider a role in an industry that’s expanding. Some roles enjoying rapid expansion include:
- Careers in solar energy
- Healthcare jobs, such as nurses and home health aides
- Medical assistants
- Genetic counselors
Establish a Strong Reputation
No matter how strong employment is in your field, being good at what you do matters. There are bad doctors, ineffective lawyers, and dispensable nurses, even when the overall outlook for these fields is good.
When companies need to get their budgets under control, they don’t just look at who has the most education or the fanciest title. They also look at productivity, performance reviews, and reputation. Doing good work matters at every stage of your career. Follow these tips:
- Take your performance reviews seriously. Ask your manager about areas of improvement, and if you disagree with your performance review, be prepared to document the reason for your disagreement.
- Don’t be afraid to brag a little. No one likes a person who spends all their time shamelessly self-promoting. That doesn’t mean you should assume everyone will immediately notice your good work. Talk about what you’re doing so that you can get credit.
- Help others. People like colleagues who help them. Employees who contribute meaningfully to the productivity of other staff are often the most valuable members of a team.
- Be likable. Research consistently shows that social skills may be the most important factor in career success. People want to help those they like. Make friends. Find ways to be kind and supportive.
Consider Opportunities for a Second Income
No amount of planning can totally protect you. After all, no one could have anticipated 10 years ago that workers would spend many months unable to go out in public during COVID-19. In the 1980s, few people could have anticipated how the internet would revolutionize work.
A second income can help you keep your head above water when a flood of change threatens your income. Cultivating a set of secondary skills can ensure you’re ready to get that second career up and running if necessary. Here, too, an education can help you.
SNU believes that one aspect of our economy never changes: the market rewards education. We can help you explore the most lucrative paths for your skills and interests. To learn more about what we offer, for help managing the return to college, or to explore career options, subscribe to our blog or contact us to speak to one of our enrollment counselors.