Industry Insights

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Creating a Safety Net Through Career Cushioning

May 1, 2023

In today's rapidly changing job market, it's becoming increasingly important to have a solid plan for your career trajectory. However, even with careful planning, there are always unforeseen circumstances that can throw a wrench in your plans. This is where the concept of "career cushioning" comes into play. Career cushioning is the practice of developing a safety net of skills, experiences, and relationships that will help you weather unexpected layoffs and transitions in your career. Whether you're just starting out in your data science and analytics career or are a seasoned professional, career cushioning can help you stay agile, adaptable, and resilient in the face of change.

Always Entertain Opportunities

It's crucial to learn about new opportunities that come your way, even if you're not actively looking for a new job. Taking a call or responding to an email from someone who has reached out to you with a potential job opportunity can open doors you hadn’t anticipated. Engaging in these conversations provides valuable insights into a company's culture and the current job market and skillset requirements in your field. Whether you decide to formally pursue the opportunity or not, it's a good idea to establish the connection and nurture the relationship. Doing so can lead to future opportunities or valuable referrals.

Importance of Building a Network

Networking is an indispensable part of achieving career success, and it is critical to consistently build and maintain relationships with those in your industry. To remain organized and focused, create a targeted list of individuals or companies to connect with. When reaching out to someone, it's important to have a clear reason for doing so and to be mindful of adding value to the other person. This strategy helps optimize your time and efforts, providing clarity on who to reach out to and what to achieve from the interaction. It is also crucial to have a plan in place for unexpected job loss as it can happen to anyone. Maintain a current list of which individuals and companies you’ll reach out to first when the need arises and update it regularly. By doing this, you’ll be ready to act quickly to find your next position.

Keep Your Resume and LinkedIn Updated

It should be no surprise that having an updated LinkedIn profile and resume is crucial when it comes to career cushioning. This is because these two resources serve as your professional portfolio, highlighting your job history, skill sets, and accomplishments to potential employers. A strong LinkedIn profile can lead someone to reach out to you with an opportunity (and of course you’ll take the call per the first point in the blog!). You also avoid the scramble to update information after a job loss. With an updated LinkedIn profile and resume, you will present yourself as a competitive candidate in the job market and showcase your unique strengths and abilities to potential employers.

Identify & Develop New Skills

Even if you are not actively looking for a new job, it's important to think about what you want in your next position. This could include a focus on a new programming language, more opportunities for professional development, or a better work-life balance. Whatever your priorities may be, it's important to take ownership of your career and proactively work towards your goals. For example, if you're looking to focus on a new programming language, take targeted courses or engaging in self-learning to become proficient in that language. By demonstrating a commitment to learning and growth, you show that you are adaptable and willing to take on new challenges. This can lead to more opportunities for advancement and higher levels of job satisfaction.

Assess Your Risk

When it comes to assessing your risk of job loss, it's important to take a closer look at your current role within your organization. Are you working on mission-critical projects or initiatives? Are you leading teams or just serving as an individual contributor? Are you included in important meetings and decision-making processes? Answering these questions can help you better understand your level of job security and either ease (or increase) anxieties you may have about the future. It's important to have an honest assessment of your position and the value you bring to the company, as this will let you know how aggressive you need to be in cushioning your career.

Career Cushioning: Best Practice in Any Economy

If you unexpectedly suffer from job loss, it will be a challenging and stressful experience. However, it's important to remain positive and view this as an opportunity to find a new path. By doing everything you can to actively enable new opportunities to come your way and showcase your skills and experience, you increase your chances of finding a position that aligns with your career goals. Being prepared and having a solid plan in place will make the transition process less daunting and more manageable. It's important to remember that career cushioning is not just about being reactive to unexpected changes; it's about being proactive in your career development and setting yourself up for success in the long term.

This post was developed with input from Bill Franks, internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, and author focused on data science & analytics.