6 Career Mistakes To Avoid During an Economic Downturn

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Eva-Katalin / Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the U.S. economy hard. Back in April 2020, the U.S. saw the highest unemployment rate since the 2008-09 recession, with more than 22 million people filing for unemployment benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Since then, while unemployment rates have dropped to near 6%, economists warn that the U.S. may not be out of the recession woods yet. Some signs that worry economists include big retailers like Macy’s and Neiman Marcus still facing financial difficulty, and oil prices being at less than $20 per barrel. This “W-shaped” recovery pattern can look like the economy is bouncing back, only for it to crash again.

When dealing with an economic downturn, there are certain career moves that put you at a disadvantage. Here we explore some career mistakes you could be making and what to do instead.

Last updated: Aug. 3, 2021

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Don’t Assume Your Job Is Invulnerable

Even if your industry has not suffered a downturn or your company has a long history of not letting people go in lean times, it’s wise not to take your job for granted. You should always have a backup plan. Don’t be complacent, keep your skills and resume sharp and think about what you would do in the case of a layoff.

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Don’t Forget To Keep Your Resume Updated

When things are good, it’s easy to get lulled into a state of complacency, forgetting to update your resume and portfolio. But that’s the first thing you’re going to need if you suddenly find yourself in need of work, so make sure it’s always up to date and showcasing your best work.

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Don’t Forget To Network

The signs of an economic downturn are usually there if you’re paying attention, so you will probably have some warning signs that change is coming. In these times, networking, which is always good for a career, is even more important if it looks like your job might be in jeopardy. Though it’s more challenging to network in a pandemic, many groups, meetings and conferences have gone virtual to maintain connections.

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Don’t Wait To Start Looking For Work

If you get the cues that a downturn is coming and you think you might need to look for a new job, don’t wait. Millions of others are probably thinking the same thing and might jump on hot new job leads before you can. There’s no harm in checking out new job leads; you don’t have to accept one until you find a good fit.

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Don’t Ignore Job Trends

Economic downturns hit different industries in different ways. Those that have easily adapted to a digital method have had better success since the pandemic hit. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to awareness of industry trends.

Stay aware of both industry and job trends, to help you understand what is affecting potential changes and to keep your toe in the waters of jobs that might be right for you.

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Don’t Expect a Grace Period on Bills

During the pandemic, the U.S. government established a temporary moratorium on evictions, and many companies have offered temporary payment deferral plans. While this has helped many struggling people, that moratorium just ended — and only some states have enacted ones of their own. Expecting to count on deferred bills for too long will just mean an unwelcome and hefty bill to pay later on. Instead, try to pay as much as you can and continue to seek new work if you’re unemployed.

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