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Assist My Profession: What’s ‘profession cushioning’ — and must you be doing it?

There’s no time like the present to cushion a potential fall.

As recession fears loom — perhaps into next year — and tech companies like Amazon
AMZN,
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and Salesforce
CRM,
+2.56%
 lay off thousands of workers, some Americans are bracing for the worst, such as losing their jobs, even though the job market is still looking fairly strong.

And in the wake of these worries, a new phrase called “career cushioning” has been gaining steam. But what is it, exactly?

“Career cushioning” is generally defined as a person beginning the process of looking for their next job, or preparing to leave their current employer, while they are still in their present position. Basically, it describes someone attempting to bolster their prospects in the event they lose their job, which should make it easier to land that rebound gig.

“A lot of this preparation is doing research on your own, building your networks, and having coffee with people who are in roles that you think you would want to be in,” Jamie Kohn, research director at Gartner’s Human Resources practice, told MarketWatch.

Other career cushioning moves may include updating your resume and contacting recruiters to discuss potential job opportunities with them, career experts say. And it certainly pays to cut back on spending and shore up your emergency fund so that you are prepared to get by for several months without income.

‘Anytime people are anticipating a recession, people look for ways in which to protect themselves.’

Career cushioning may be something as overt as getting lunch with someone to expand your professional network, or as subtle as updating your job profile skills on platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster.com. And there is evidence that the latter is already happening more often: LinkedIn claims 365 million skills have been added to profiles on its platform over the past 12 months, which is a 43% increase year over year.

Additionally, about 46% of U.S. workers say they are currently looking or planning to look for a new job in the first half of 2023, according to a Robert Half survey, up from 41% last year.

While Google
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+0.25%
 searches for the words “career cushioning” have spiked in recent months compared to the last five years, the concept of creating a “plan B” is really an old one.

“This is nothing new,” Brian Marks, professor at the University of New Haven Department of Economics & Business Analytics, told MarketWatch. “It may be characterized differently than what it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago. But it’s really renaming that which already has existed.”

But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the concept has resurfaced with a new name, especially considering the recent headlines about mass layoffs in certain sectors, as well as the possibility of an upcoming recession.

“Recession talk definitely gets people spooked,” Kohn said.

“More often than not, as people anticipate economic slowdowns, or volatility and risk associated with their particular employment — whether it’s an industry or not — (they) will engage in these type of behaviors,” Marks added. “Any time people are anticipating a recession, people look for ways in which to protect themselves.”

Whatever the future holds, career cushioning may be smart strategy whether there’s an economic downturn or not.

‘I always tell people the best time to get a new job is when you have a current job.’

So who should be career cushioning? In short, anybody who is interested in improving their career and their longterm earning potential, even if they have a job that they like.

“I always tell people the best time to get a new job is when you have a current job,” Marks said.

This kind of forward thinking could safeguard workers in the unfortunate situation where they become unemployed, or open doors that might have been closed if workers become stagnant in their current roles.

Kohn likened career cushioning to “career planning,” and said it’s “always a good strategy.”

See also: This 28-year-old grew her pay to $500,000 and found work-life balance

There are few downsides to career cushioning — as long as workers aren’t brazenly signaling to their company any desire to leave. One thing career cushioners can do is select the “Open to Work” tab on their LinkedIn profile, which signals that they are willing to discuss employment opportunities despite currently having a job. This selection is only viewable to recruiters on the platform, and is hidden from somebody’s current company.

Kohn finished by saying ,”If your employer thinks you’re on the way out the door, if they see you looking updating your resume, all of those things could be a problem, but … that isn’t really going to do any damage.”

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