As the global economy takes steps against a growing recession, you may be wondering how to guarantee job security in your midlife. Whether you are preparing for your teens to head to college, caring for ageing parents, worried about your retirement plans, or even just want to cement your position at your current company- when the economic forecast turns gloomy, it is the perfect chance for you to outshine your colleagues.
Recently I’ve had several clients reach out because they are anxious about their careers. One client “Sandra” was concerned as she is three years from retirement and is fearful of the current environment and doesn’t want to lose her job and start over. Another client “JoAnne” is working full-time, juggling children in high school and looming college tuition payments on the horizon. She wanted advice on how to stay relevant during this time. My other client “Madison” is working remotely and caring for ageing parents so her time is torn between work and accompanying parents to appointments.
These are all legitimate concerns. But remember, as mature women who excel in multiple roles within our lives, we bring adaptability, experience, and leadership to the table. We might face challenges like increasing interest rates, meeting retirement savings goals, and possible job downsizing, but succeeding during stressful circumstances means thinking outside the box and taking proactive steps at work.
Here are the keys to thriving, not surviving.
If you are working remotely, it may be time to head back into the office. According to a survey from the Society of Human Resource Management, “67% of managers considered remote workers more easily replaceable than onsite workers.” The same survey found that they often overlooked remote workers when assigning new tasks and believed that working remotely was detrimental to a worker’s career goals. Researchers concluded visibility, building relationships, and one-to-one mentoring lead to increased stability and promotion.
Other reasons to head back into the office, according to Forbes.com, include factors that are important to workplace cultures such as team building, creativity, and output. Author Shellye Archambeau of Forbes writes, “Collaboration and communication between colleagues and teams are leading forces in driving innovation, production, and growth. One of the biggest benefits to returning to the office is the improved connection with co-workers that can lead to more effective brainstorming, increased productivity, and team synergy.”
However, if you can’t head into the office right now, don’t worry. There are plenty of options available for employees working remotely.
- Make sure you speak up during meetings– especially in the first 15 minutes
- Send a personalized email or text to follow up after a zoom call
- Intentionally seek out ways to interact with and support your supervisor
- Offer to lead or assist with new office initiatives
- Collaborate with colleagues on creative solutions that help the company
- Volunteer to mentor new employees
Brush up your skills
If you want to be indispensable to your company, brushing up on skills will help you stay relevant. Want to stand out? Take the initiative with managers and ask about continuing education opportunities in areas like digital skills or communication.
The good news is, as women in the prime of our careers, there are many opportunities for training in hard or soft skills, especially online.
Are you already a digital expert? According to Bernard Marr, author of Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World developing critical soft skills is just as important as working on technical skills. Soft skills that companies are looking for include emotional intelligence, creativity, collaboration, and flexibility, and researchers have documented that these skills lead to innovation.
In fact, according to Marr, the most important skills to cultivate are curiosity and the drive for continuous learning.
Consider findings summarized in HULT International Business School’s blog, “CEOs consistently cite soft skills as the most desirable professional attributes. Although characteristics like effective communication, empathy, and self-awareness are difficult to measure, they are highly valued and can make a real difference to the bottom line.”
Leaders are always on the lookout for communication, especially genuine communication. Being able to collaborate, build rapport with a supervisor, share ideas during meetings, and work with different groups are skills that span all industries and are continually in demand. Stepping up your communication makes you more visible within your company.
What about flexibility- would you consider yourself flexible? This is at the top of the list to cultivate according to a Cnbc.com article about recession-proofing your skills. Volunteer ideas to solve a problem with a project or work with different teams to expand your experience. When a supervisor asks for a volunteer for a new effort, be one of the first to raise your hand.
Focus on the things you can control like your performance and your network. According to research, employee performance stagnates or decreases during a recession. Instead of becoming distracted by the doom and gloom, make sure your work is consistent.
Sociologist Tracy Brower explains, “Focus on doing great work. Focus on your customers (internal or external). Focus on your team and your colleagues, and deliver great outcomes to them. When you can maintain your motivation, it will enhance your value and your job security.”
High-level executives and managers are also looking for employees to step up and help usher the company through transitions. Your performance and dedication to the company during uncertainty not only get you noticed by supervisors, but it also leads to promotion.
What about your network? Forbes.com found that women who fortified their career networks felt more supported at work as well as more likely to be approached for new opportunities by leaders.
Reach out to former colleagues, create a Linkedin profile, and start going to networking events again. These are all factors within our control that help us feel secure in our careers.
Build up a network
Perhaps the recession has you thinking about leveraging your experience for a raise or pivoting into a whole new career. Research shows that midlife women come out ahead during times of economic uncertainty because of their adaptability. It may feel like we are always juggling ten plates in the air, but in the job market, that adaptability is gold.
If you are thinking of pivoting into a new job or industry, but don’t know where to start, the first steps can include connecting with a career coach who can help you map out a plan to come out on the other side of change successfully. Many of my current clients reached out during quarantine because they were ready for a change; the recession may be just the push you need to try something new.
Now is the perfect time to brush up on your resume. Make sure to include any leadership roles, projects you assisted with, collaborations with colleagues, awards, etc. Add continuing education or training you participated in as well.
Make sure your Linkedin profile is up-to-date. Don’t have a profile yet? Create one tonight, or ask your career coach for help. Several of my clients have been contacted recently through Linkedin by recruiters, and having an updated profile and a resume ready earned them new careers with increased salaries.
In addition, start networking. Reach out to old colleagues, attend meet-ups for business professionals, and even connect with people in your industry via Linkedin.
One client I work with, “Sharon“, pivoted into a career in real estate during Covid, and now has so many clients she had to hire an assistant. What was the secret to her success in this new career? “Sharon” was consistent about attending a weekly zoom meet-up and created new contacts within her Linkedin network. She followed up connections during the zooms with emails and was persistent in building her community. In fact, she was so consistent in her attendance, she was asked to lead the group by the facilitator after he retired.
Think about how you can add value to your network through building relationships, sharing new ideas, supporting co-workers, and you’ll be the first person they’ll think of when hiring.
As women, we bring a lot to the table and oftentimes underestimate our ability to thrive and be successful. It’s important to remember times in the past when we’ve had to adapt to new challenges or start a new season in life. The key to thriving during uncertainty is to revisit how you’ve grown and to take action. Don’t get sucked into the doom-and-gloom group; you’ll be light-years ahead if you take steps to thrive.
You are not alone. Reach out to a coach to help you figure out the next best steps and guide you towards clarity.