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What is Career Cushioning — and Should You Be Doing It Right Now?

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Most of us spend 40-plus hours working every week, but with the economy teetering on a recession, big tech companies slashing workforces with layoffs and the fear of being quiet fired, it’s hard to feel secure in your employment situation as we head into 2023. Enter the latest work trend that everyone around you may already be taking part in: “career cushioning.”  

What is career cushioning?

Career cushioning is when an employee takes active steps to create an employment backup plan — AKA to “cushion” themselves from the pain of an unexpected job loss should it occur — while they’re still employed. 

The fact is that jobs come and go, but you still have to support yourself — and job security, no matter how hard you work, isn’t always guaranteed. 

“[Career cushioning] is taking actions to keep your options open and cushioning for whatever comes next in the economy and job market,” writes LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher. “Think of it like an insurance policy to set yourself up for success. It makes sense, right? I think I speak for most of us when I say we could all benefit from an extra plush cushion to fall back on if the unexpected arises.”

See more: The world’s top female-friendly companies.

When and why would you want to start career cushioning?

There are a few reasons to engage in career cushioning right now. Even if you love your job and aren’t quiet quitting, taking career-cushioning steps is a way to prioritize you and your livelihood above your current job or workplace — often out of necessity. 

“You’re still committed to your current job, but you’re thinking about what’s important to you and where your passions lie, and where your network and experiences could take you,” Diane Gilley, a partner at recruiting firm Odgers Berndtson’s tech practice, says in Bloomberg

The need for career cushioning can feel more urgent if you already have indications that you may be forced into a job shift in the near future, too. If you feel like you’re being quiet fired or you’re about to be laid off despite doing everything that you can to turn that ship around (note: if this is your current situation, here are some tips you can try), it may be in your best interest to start preparing yourself for the inevitable so that you’re not starting from square one if you do get laid off.


See also: Back to school in your 20s, 30s and beyond? 10 reasons to hit the books again.

What is the best way to start career cushioning?

So, you’re in a situation where you feel it’s time to start career cushioning – how do you do it? Here are some tips:

Assess your skills. Whether you’re currently employed or not, if you’re ready to explore what job opportunities might be in your future, you need to start by identifying what you have to offer. Fisher suggests taking inventory of your skills (both hard and soft) so that you know what you have to offer, and you can potentially pinpoint any gaps you can work on. 

This is a key step you can take now to help prepare: as Fisher notes, 40 per cent of companies on LinkedIn look at skills when finding job candidates.

Related: Up your career skills with social media – here’s how.

Refresh your profile, resume and references. Next, take the time to update your resume, LinkedIn profile and portfolio if you have one. Beyond just updating the technical details, be sure to layer in those relevant skills that you found from your personal skills assessment.

You may also want to start thinking about potential job references. While it can be tricky to ask for a reference while you’re still fully employed, you can try some of the reference-gathering strategies here.


See also: 5 things to never post on LinkedIn.

Network. Few people love networking, but it can be a huge help when it comes to getting your name out there and putting you on the radar for potential opportunities. 

As Fisher explains, “your network is something that you need to nurture and grow over time. You don’t want to only ping people when you need a [favour].”

“Engage in thoughtful conversations with colleagues and connections — everyone wants to feel seen and heard, especially in a time flooded with uncertainty, and those exchanges can help bring a level of comfort you may have not anticipated,” Fisher adds.

See also: This is how much money you need to be happy.

Do it on your own time. While you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking steps to prepare yourself for your next steps while you’re still employed, that doesn’t mean that you should lose your ethics either. Whether it’s networking, revamping your resume or scanning job opportunities, do your career-cushioning activities on your off hours.

You may also like: Unique jobs you didn’t know existed.

Even if you don’t end up needing that backup plan, taking some time to focus on your skills, goals and networking will likely help you succeed in any job — even your current one.

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