We are all reading articles and/or watching videos on the economy. The number of predictions that a downturn is close – is growing. The question that we all face is – “Is my job safe when the economy changes?”

A Bit Of Background

For all of us in high technology, and in most other industries – we have been in the middle of a great economy. We have had 10 years of expansion, the longest in US History.

What goes up, must come down – right?!

With this long expansion, the concern is rising that we are getting close to the next downturn. We are seeing a growing number of headlines saying this.

“Risk of a Recession is Rising” – New York Times, 1/17/2019

“Clouds Gathering over the Global Economy” – BBC, 1/3/2019

“Sell Brazil: Recession And Potential Currency Meltdown Ahead” – Seeking Alpha, 4/7/2019

There is more than just concern. There are indicators that the economy is changing. An example of this is the US bond yield curve, which has inverted.

Whether this means a recession is on its way is a matter of much debate. There are a good number of people who have the opposite outlook.

Big Spending May Help US Hold Off Recession” – The Business Times, 2/5/2019

Fears of Recession in America Have Faded” – The Economist, 5/4/2019

Eurozone Recession Fears Fade as Growth Picks Up” – Waco Tribune-Herald, 4/30/2019

Regardless of where you stand on the timing, all of this talk creates concern. This concern is not limited just to those working, it even reaches into college where students are concerned that there may not be jobs for them when they graduate.

On the other end of the spectrum, those over 50 are very concerned that if they lose their job, they may not be able to get another one.

In addition, there is one more key consideration as we head toward the next downturn – the impact that technology will have. There are at least three key technologies that will have a dramatic impact, some or much will be felt as we recover.

  • Artificial Intelligence and Automation – for example, used to automate answer centers or store checkout.
  • Autonomous or Driverless Vehicles – we are already seeing driverless rides, with delivery and distribution coming.
  • DNA Related Medical Advances (eg. CRISPR) – allowing us to rethink care as we address curing many diseases.

The results will be that many jobs that exist today will go away, to be replaced by new jobs and very possibly jobs that we have not even thought of yet. Here is my favorite quote related to the creation of new jobs. This quote has never been more relevant.

“85% of jobs in 2030 won’t have been invented yet.”

Dell Technologies

All of this leads to the real question. “Am I in the right job when the downturn comes?”

Which Jobs Are Most Safe

There are many “Recession Proof Job” lists. Here is a merging of a few, in a logical order, but not necessarily based on how recession-proof they are. I added some of my own commentaries.

  • Medical Professionals – very high on every list
  • College Professors – also very high on every list
  • Pharmacists & Pharmacy Technicians – seems tied to medical professionals
  • Mental Health Providers – seem at least loosely coupled with medical professionals
  • Senior Care Providers
  • Specialized Care
  • Educational Services – makes sense as this is needed, and the demand will likely grow as people reskill
  • Public Utilities – makes sense, need these
  • Energy – seems related to public utilities
  • Law Enforcement – makes sense, need these
  • Internet Professionals – this is a very broad bucket, some will be safe but others will be at risk during a downturn
  • IT Staff – this is a very broad bucket, some will be safe but others will be at risk during a downturn
  • International Business Professionals – I don’t have data one way or the other
  • Financial Services – I think this really depends on how the recession goes, last time the financial industry was devastated

Characteristics of “Recession Proof Jobs”.

  1. The degree to which industry of job is essential
  2. Clear or urgent pain on consumers
  3. Specialized training and experience

Which Jobs Are Most At Risk

There are lists that provide the other perspective. Here I have merged the lists I found, again with some commentary.

  • Construction and Supporting – this makes sense as spending slows
  • Home Furnishings – this makes sense as it is in the category of optional spending
  • Auto Dealers (and Manufacturers) – less optional, but will slow as spending slows
  • Recreational Vehicle Dealers (and Manufacturers) – optional, and if the last recession is any indicator, the impact will be severe
  • Vacation Travel – fits with optional, likely that vacations will be more local
  • Printing and Related – this industry has slowed dramatically already, so not sure how much more there is to go other than to align with an overall slowdown

My First Topical Podcast

Develop Great Managers Podcast

The question as to whether you are in the right job is a tough one to answer, but it is a pressing and timely one. That is why it will be the topic of my first Develop Great Managers topical podcast. We have an amazing panel lined up to learn from, including Yanbing Li, Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Storage Business at VMware, Paul Strong, a Chief Technology Officer at Google, and Jim Arena, a Consultant, and Coach to a broad range of businesses and their leaders.

Job in Recession

These incredible leaders have experience developing businesses, driving technology innovation, transforming organizations, and managing global teams. They are all deep into technology and aware of the changes that will result as they become real.

Podcast Agenda:

  • High-level – countries and industries.
    • What happens during a downturn?
    • Where does it start?
    • How does it move through industries and across countries, and what kind of changes often result?
  • Mid-level – companies and organizations.
    • What typically happens within a company?
    • Which areas are impacted and which are safer?
    • Which roles will likely never come back?
  • Personal level – individuals.
    • How should individuals evaluate their situation?
    • What actions should they consider?

I am confident that the panelists will provide you with amazing insight and advice!


The most valuable thing that you can do is to listen to the podcast when it is released!

But all joking aside. If you are concerned, it is important to look carefully at your job and your company and determine if you are safe. It is better to be proactive in making a change, rather than to be forced into it – especially if lots of others are suddenly in the same situation!

What you can do right now:

  1. Get your finances in order. Make sure that you can withstand at least 3-6 months, and more if possible or if you are in an industry or job that is likely to take time to find.
  2. Evaluate your risk. You need to take off the rose-colored glasses and look at the situation as unemotionally as possible (maybe get help to do this).
  3. Develop a plan. There are a number of different ways this plan can go depending on your situation. Here are a few.
    • Solidify your current role. Work to make sure that you are doing great work and that you have the support of leadership. If you are in a large team, make sure that you are going above and beyond so that you are viewed as key to the long-term success of the group, organization, and company.
    • Move to a new role within the company. If you have concerns about your role but are comfortable with the future prospects for your company, then this might be a good option. It is often easier to move roles in a company than to try to do this at another company.
    • Move to the same role at a different company. If you have concerns about the future prospects of your company, then this may be a good option.
    • Prepare for a different career path. This is a great option if you are very concerned with the experience and skills that you have, and the jobs that you are prepared for. It is also a great opportunity if you have been thinking of doing something different anyway and just needed a reason!

I hope that you have found this article helpful. I know that change is hard, but to reiterate something that I said earlier. It is better to be proactive in making a change, rather than to be forced into it – especially if lots of others are suddenly in the same situation!

See Also

Develop Great Managers Podcasts

Categories: People


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