How to Keep Your Job, or Find a Better One, if There’s a Recession

 (WSJ) The job market is still really hot. But concerns about the economy have many people wondering if their jobs are secure enough to survive.

In the past week, Tesla said it would lay off 10% of its white-collar workers and there have been layoffs and hiring freezes or slowdowns at Netflix, Carvana, and Robinhood, among others. Several CEOs of major banks have warned that a recession could be on the horizon. Now, some workers are quickly shifting from demanding raises and promotions to volunteering for extra assignments in case the market takes a turn for the worse, employees and recruiters say.

There is no way to guarantee that your job will be safe, career advisers say. But you can control how much facetime you have with colleagues and put in extra effort, say, hiring managers and career advisers, several of whom advise people who work remotely to think about going into the office or visiting more.

Tessa White, a career coach who spent two decades in corporate human resources, including at UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Vivint Solar, said she’s now telling clients not to ask for raises and to keep their current jobs rather than jump ship to new opportunities.

“The pendulum is going back to employers again,” said Ms. White, founder of the Job Doctor, a firm that focuses on helping employees map their career paths.

She says the current mood among her clients is a massive shift from mere weeks ago when many felt they could push for more money and continued remote work—or just quit and find a new job quickly. 

“Now is not a time to change a job, unless you really hate your job, because the last one hired is typically the first one let go,” Ms. White said.

Ammon Musselman, an account executive with a technology marketing startup, said he’s started watching the clock. He used to arrive a few minutes late to the office around 8:10 a.m., but now he tries to gauge traffic and get in right at 8 a.m. The 27-year-old, who lives in Orem, Utah, also recently volunteered to help train new hires. 

“As I started looking at the forecast of the economy, I was like, how can I help more with our future for the next several months, if not years, but also how can I stand out more?” he said.

Companies are still trying to fill millions of open jobs. An early June survey of nearly 5,000 adults conducted by SurveyMonkey for The Wall Street Journal found workers remain fairly confident about their prospects, with 41% of remote workers responding that they were more confident that they could find a new remote job now compared with six months ago.

Some career advisers think it is a good time to start going into the office more often.


Too many older workers who have experienced previous downturns, the signs, including stock market drops and hiring slowdowns, are concerning. (Federal data show that people over 55 tend to become part of the long-term unemployed at higher rates than younger people.) Some career veterans recommend preparing for a possible turn now.

The economy soured in the early 2000s when Mike Williamson was a heavy-equipment mechanic for Caterpillar Inc. Though his mechanic job was spared, his company cut his pay and hours for a time so he went back to school to become an electrician. 

He credits learning new, highly technical skills with helping him move into a new job—and protect it—as an electrician for a forklift company when layoffs came during the 2008 recession.

“My advice is: If there’s an opportunity for you to, go back to school and get better skills,” said Mr. Williamson, 48, who lives in Cincinnati and is now an account manager with a renewable energy company. 

Ebony Williams, a 26-year-old who works in customer support and lives in the Houston area, enrolled in a training program a few months ago to learn an information technology service management platform that she believes will help her stand out in her search for a new technology job.

“My focus is to try to specialize in a certain area,” she said. 

She hopes her specialized skills will make her less vulnerable to being laid off from a new position once she gets one. “My biggest concern is trying to secure a higher-paying job and making sure that it is as recession-proof as possible.”

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Some recruiters said that while the job market may be starting to cool, candidates still hold a lot of leverage when it comes to hybrid work or flexible hours.

“Be clear on what you need and want from your employer,” said Laura Mazzullo, who worked as a recruiter for many years before launching her own firm, East Side Staffing. For instance, she said flexible work arrangements are likely to stay part of job-offer conversations, regardless of the market, because employees’ and companies’ expectations around those benefits have fundamentally changed.

“While there may be fewer opportunities than in a booming market, you shouldn’t see that as a time to settle or to lower your worth,” she said.

She’s advising job hunters to raise concerns about job security in new roles during their interview process. Ask how many layoffs happened in 2020, what plans the organization has in place in case the market turns and whether they have over-hired in the past, she said. 

“You can say ‘I am very close to accepting your offer, but my concern is will I be laid off as soon as the market turns. What plans do you have in place to retain me? Do you have the budget to keep me?’ ” she said. “Employers are going to be really ready for those types of questions now.”

Write to Ray A. Smith at

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Appeared in the June 22, 2022, print edition as 'How to Stay Employed If There’s A Recession.'

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