How to get a job in a recession

Finding a job can be a major challenge. And a recession makes job searches harder. Here's how to get a job in a recession.
Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributor
A female business professional works late. She is in a dark room sitting at a desk and looking at a tablet.
Sunwoo Jung/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Whether you're out of work or you're worried about downsizing at your company, you might find yourself looking for a new job during a recession. Recessions typically mean less hiring and higher unemployment rates. 

A job search can be mentally taxing, stressful, and take a lot of energy. With a clear road map, you can stay focused on your goals. Our guide walks through each step in how to get a job in a recession.

1. Develop a strategy.

Finding a job during a recession requires a strategy. Instead of submitting applications for every job opening you find, consider a directed, strategic job search. You'll save yourself time and a lot of frustration by planning ahead.

Before you start searching job posting sites for openings, take time to reflect. Think about what you want in a job. What are your top priorities? Do you want remote work options? Do you have any non-negotiable topics, like paid time off or benefits? 

Write down what you want in a job and prioritize your list. Refer back to the list to keep yourself focused on the ultimate goal: Finding the right job for your next career step. This will give you direction throughout the search.

Next, set achievable goals. Instead of telling yourself to find a job by a certain date, set goals for networking, like attending a certain number of events each month or reaching out to a certain number of contacts each week. You can also set goals for the number of job applications you want to submit each week. 

2. Update your resume and LinkedIn.

Dust off your resume and LinkedIn profile — especially if it's been several years (or longer) since you were on the job market. This will save you time and energy during your job search.

Consider creating a resume template that you can easily customize for each job posting. A list containing all of your professional achievements will make it easier to pull items specific to the job posting.

3. Reach out to your network.

Many people find job opportunities through networking. But networking requires consistent investment. Reach out to your close contacts and ask for referrals. A referral can get you much further than a cold application. 

Make sure you send brief but collegial emails and LinkedIn messages. Even a distant connection could pay off on the job market. And check out our networking tips and resources on the best networking sites for more.

SEE: How to set up informational interviews without seeming pushy

4. Find companies that are clearly looking to hire.

It might sound backward to start with companies rather than job postings, but identifying organizations that match your professional skills and goals focuses your job search. 

Research corporate culture, the hiring process at different companies, and your networking connections. 

Identify companies where you'd like to work, and narrow your search by filtering for companies that are expanding or hiring. Even in a recession, many companies hire new employees.

5. Learn new skills to boost your resume.

Making a career change might require skill building — even if you're looking for positions in the same field or with the same job title. 

Learning new skills can help boost your chances on the job market. It also shows hiring managers that you're committed to expanding your skill set. 

You can pursue professional certification, take online classes, or go back to school in a recession to learn new skills. You might consider taking business courses or enrolling in a coding bootcamp.

6. Look into recession-proof industries.

Certain industries weather recessions better than others. Healthcare and consumer staples tend to be more stable during a recession. When researching companies, consider industries as well. 

And even within industries, look for recession-proof jobs. Accountants and nurses tend to weather recessions well, for example. 

In addition, you can add transferable skills that give you greater flexibility on the job market. Make sure to highlight those skills on your resume.

7. Consider freelancing as an option.

Freelancing can be a great way to gain experience and boost your job prospects in the future, especially if you're changing fields. Taking on freelance jobs on the side of your current work or investing in freelancing while between jobs can pay off.

If you're getting started, reach out to your network to offer your services. Research freelancing websites and look into the tax and savings implications of working freelance jobs. 

8. Consider temporary work.

While your goal might be a full-time job, temporary work can bridge the gap. During a recession, many companies hire new employees as contractors before making full-time employment decisions. Temporary work can add to your resume while also providing a source of income.

Search for temporary or contract positions as part of your overall job search. And consider reaching out to recruiters to ask about temporary work opportunities.

9. Stay the course, be patient, and focus on what you can control.

Looking for a job can feel overwhelming. And a recession only adds to that pressure. You might experience frustration, disappointment, and burnout during your job search. Be kind to yourself and stay focused on your long-term goals.

Give yourself breaks from the job search. Take care of your mental and physical health. Job searching can easily become a full-time job, and you need to treat it like a marathon rather than a sprint. That means pacing yourself and taking small steps toward your goals.

Focus on what you can control. Stand up to imposter syndrome. And be patient as you look for your next career opportunity.

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