A witty column about the genuine, emotional, and humorous exploits of coaching elite executives.


Recession Proof Your Career

empowerment job search strategy leadership networking strategy self understanding
Will you stand strong for yourself and fight to recession proof your career during challenging economic times? Or bury your head in the sand?

One of my proudest career accomplishments is that hundreds of executives have my number on speed dial for pressing career matters. But unfortunately, one of my greatest mental oversights is that hundreds of executives have my number on their speed dial.

Nothing has felt more true these last four weeks.

On the one hand, I get to not so humbly brag about being Executive Nostradamus. But, on the other hand, I need to get some damn sleep, and the Fed doesn't care.

Thus my iMessage feed reads like a recipe book for our current economic times: four parts neurosis, two parts concern, three parts greed, one part panicked lunacy, and a dash of utter confusion and political strife.

The odds are good that what to expect when we're expecting a recession has crossed your mind too.

Opportunity In Chaos

Perhaps it's unsurprising when 80% of all US dollars were printed between January 2020 and October 2021, we'd feel the repercussions of 40-year high inflation in less than a year.

It must be easy to pull the trigger when the cowards won't be alive to see the consequences.

After all, it only took eight months for that money to trickle up to Cook, Pichai, Nadella, Bezos, Musk, Buffet, and good ole Yucky Zucky. Throw some shade at Blackstone, Blackrock, and Zillow if you've felt the frustration of trying to buy a house.  

I digress.

There is an opportunity for your career and livelihood during the chaos that is the current state of the world—it's time to make an important decision.

So how can you prepare for the next ten to twenty years when everyone calling the shots isn't thinking about the future? Because they should have retired twenty years ago...

What To Expect

The glaring answer on what to expect during the recession is the following:

  • Comp packages soften 10-30%.
  • Extracurriculars such as signing and retention bonuses become increasingly rare.
  • ISOs, NSOs, and RSUs are more volatile.
  • Search times increase, sometimes 2 - 3x for less attractive career paths.
  • Competition increases.
  • Networking and career positioning matter more.
  • Decisions become more intentional and less flippant.
  • VC/PE money tightens and becomes more pragmatic.

Decide Now. Ostrich or Honey Badger?

Let's talk about animal things.

Contrary to mainstream intellect, most ostriches are not as fearless as described by Kevin Hart.

Yes, they are mean and scary; however, I'm referring to their tendency to bury their head in the sand. (Yes, it's so they can rotate their eggs, but humor me and pretend it's fear-based).

And then we have the good ‘ole honey badger.

Wikipedia told me that honey badgers are primarily a carnivorous species and have few natural predators because of their thick skin, strength, and ferocious defensive abilities. And we all know, honey badgers don't give a shit.

The way I see it, you have two choices. Be an ostrich or be a honey badger.

The ostrich mentality leaves your recessionary fate in the hands of others—and you bury your head in the sand, fingers crossed.

Maybe you have career security, and maybe you do not. But ultimately, the decision is based on external factors, and you're along for the ride.

The honey badger goes after what it needs for its family to survive. Sure, there will be bumps and bruises along the way, but the honey badger has multiple ways to persevere.

Maybe you have career security, but you still put yourself out there and continue to create opportunities, prepare to make a move, negotiate severance before locking in a new gig, and give yourself the greatest menu for success.

What To Do

Heighten the defenses, tilt the power in your favor, and give yourself more options:

So—are you an ostrich or a honey badger?

Tell me why in a private email or start a fight in the comments section on LinkedIn. I hear it’s all the rage.

Want to speak directly with me about your career? Contact me below.

Contact Jacob

Get the latest executive career insights each Thursday.

“I get a lot of newsletters. I skim most of them. I read to the end each time I get one from Jacob. Sign up, you won't be disappointed.”

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.