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The importance of career cushioning in today’s job market

The importance of career cushioning
Submitted by Harry Double on

Are you someone who casually answers a recruiter’s call just to see where it leads, or to check if you’ve still got your interview game on point? Do you regularly browse job boards to see if there are any interesting openings? Good news then; you’ve taken the first steps towards ‘career cushioning’.

Career cushioning has recently garnered popularity in workplace discourse. It simply means safeguarding against any type of career catastrophe by creating a metaphorical cushion around you, using a variety of methods.

We have been looking at layoffs announced at digital giants like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, which threw professionals all over the world into a career dilemma. As a result, ‘career cushioning’ has been right at the top of the priority list for many who are looking to find better ways to manage their careers.

Career cushioning is something every professional should look into, especially if you're looking to progress your career if you sense a looming layoff at work, or if you’re sick of working for a bad employer.

What is career cushioning?

It is a solution to professional volatility that helps you prepare for the worst by creating an alternate and equally rewarding career path through upskilling, reskilling, moving to financially stable organisations, or a side hustle. 

LinkedIn career expert, Catherine Fisher, looks at career cushioning as 

“An insurance policy to set yourself up for success, it is all about the extra padding that could protect you from the shock.”

The term got traction after the pandemic and the recession-induced layoffs, forcing people to re-evaluate their careers with changing priorities and environments. And thus, career cushioning became inevitable if things didn't go as planned.

Consider it your fallback strategy in a tumultuous work environment. It could give you the confidence to roll with the ups and downs of the industry. A wide range of jobs are increasingly facing the heat of transformation, and career cushioning can give you an alternative source of income to help weather financial storms.

For example, imagine that you are a developer with a passion for teaching. You could sign up as a trainer who teaches software development for various educational platforms. Closely interacting with young tech minds not only gives you the option to make extra money but also places you at the forefront of the industry's current trends.

Upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling

Only one in three people, according to a survey by Gartner, are aware of how to manage their careers over the next five years. The study also revealed that a staggering 94% of respondents fervently feel that it is now more necessary than ever to develop talents outside of their job responsibilities. 

Whether landing your dream job, getting a promotion, or even reshaping your career, everything depends on your skill set. With the rapidly changing technological landscape, it is quite evident that a large majority of the global workforce will need to upskill, reskill, or cross-skill to do their jobs more effectively using the technology tools available.

Think of it as an investment that you make in yourself. This may involve taking courses or certifications, volunteering in different fields, or pursuing a university degree.

Marking your presence

Career cushioning is not just about preparing for potential unavoidable layoffs but also about protecting yourself from being laid off.

How do you go about doing this? Merely by doing an excellent job, going above and beyond to complete duties, taking responsibility for bringing positive change to your company, and making an effort to learn and support procedures that are outside your daily responsibilities.

It calls on you to be ‘present’ at work, establish yourself as a go-to resource for knowledge, and engage in effective networking.

Make the switch to contracting

Have you ever considered becoming a contractor within your profession?

Contracting has been a viable career path for a long time, and those people who choose to take that direction are the ultimate career-cushioners. 

In short, as a contractor, it’s common to move onto a new role or assignment regularly. You also have more control over the type of projects you work on and where you can carry out your tasks, not to mention the opportunity to earn a higher rate of pay compared to permanent employment.

When times are tough, businesses tend to slow down their permanent hiring and turn to contractors as a flexible solution to help them maintain momentum on projects. Could this be the time you make the switch?

Keeping up-to-date on emerging trends

Another way to cushion yourself from the transformations that are happening all around is to be a part of those transformations

AI is already causing a paradigm shift in almost all departments of the workplace. The wise way to approach this shift is to be a part of it and make the maximum use of AI tools in the work that you do. Aligning with AI will put you in the next phase of changing workplace strategies.

Saying yes to an additional income

Engaging in additional work alongside your full-time job can serve diverse purposes for different individuals. For some, it's a means of supplementing income, while for others, it's an avenue to pursue their passions. Regardless of the motivation, it can be a pragmatic strategy for enhancing personal or professional growth. A common attribute of all of this is that it can be a source of relief, both financially and professionally.

It's critical to keep in mind that creating a career cushion requires time and effort, but the benefits are priceless.


Keep your personal brand up-to-date

Career cushioning is an ongoing process, and a key part is maintaining a strong online presence. Regularly update your CV and LinkedIn profile to showcase your latest skills, achievements, and relevant keywords. This keeps you visible to recruiters and demonstrates your commitment to continuous development.

On LinkedIn, be proactive! Refresh your profile regularly, share industry insights, participate in discussions, and consider publishing content to establish yourself as a thought leader. Encourage colleagues to endorse your skills, adding credibility to your online persona.

But your digital footprint isn't the whole story. Networking is crucial! Attend industry events and conferences (online or offline) to connect with professionals in your field. Strong networking opens doors to new opportunities, keeps you informed about industry trends, and builds a valuable safety net.

By actively managing your online presence and building strong professional networks, you project a proactive and engaged image. This prepares you to seize new opportunities, navigate unexpected shifts, and solidify your career foundation.

In conclusion, an effective career progression strategy for this year must include career cushioning. You can survive the ups and downs of the employment market, follow your passions, and prevent burnout by creating a financial safety net and developing a varied skill set. 

Also, it always pays off to work with a career coach or a recruitment specialist, as they know the current pulse of the industry better than anyone else. Working with a recruiter to assist you in guiding your career has several benefits; it can help you acquire the best market compensation rate for your new work, as well as save time and give you access to exclusive roles.

Whether you're just starting in your career or looking to make a change, investing in career cushioning can pay off in the long run.