A new trend is sweeping across workplaces around the world and it could help you stay in a job — it’s called career cushioning and involves future-proofing your career.
The hiring rate in Australia is down (-14% YOY) and 29% of leaders say they plan to cut headcount, says new LinkedIn data. As a result, according to a poll by the platform, 53% of the 1,700 surveyed said they are actively learning, while an additional 35% said they would like to add new skills. A mere 10% said they are comfortable in their current role.
So, what exactly is career cushioning? Leah Lambart, career coach at Relaunch Me, describes it as having an insurance policy in case of the unexpected happening and you experiencing some type of ‘career bump’. That could be in the form of you losing your job to a surprise company takeover or restructure, being ready to pivot if technology makes your role obsolete, or just being prepared in case you get to a point where you no longer enjoy your work.
“Future-proofing your career has been talked about for a long time, but career cushioning is just a new of describing it,” says Lambart.
“However, the concept has received more focus as a result of what we have all experienced over the past few years. Not many people could have predicted the impact that the pandemic had on careers and businesses, with many industries just shedding jobs and not replacing people.”
It was this that led a huge number of employees jobless and with no clue how to pivot or search for a new role, Lambart says. The impact of COVID-19 made employees more wary about being ready should something like that happen again. Everyone expects the unexpected after COVID-19, she says.
The industries most in need of career cushioning are those that may be potentially impacted by technology making their jobs obsolete – such as jobs that may be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence, says Lambart.
“Likewise, any industries that are experiencing a downward trend are also areas where employees should consider how they can future-proof themselves should their company close down unexpectedly or if the industry is moved offshore,” she says. “However, even employees in secure industries may feel the need to career cushion, particularly if they have a gut feeling that their current career isn’t where they want to be long-term.”
So, how can you go about career cushioning yourself?
Keep Your Network Updated
Networking isn’t something you should start doing when you lose your job and actually need your network, says Lambart. Ideally, your network should be nurtured and cultivated over time, like a garden, so that it is established and blooming when you actually need to tap into it.
“Staying in touch with past colleagues who have moved onto other roles is a great way of keeping your network warm,” she says. “Likewise, using LinkedIn to stay in touch with people in your industry or potentially using it to build a new network in other areas of interest is a great way of career cushioning.
“If you are studying, then build your network simultaneously, rather than waiting until you finish your course to commence building relationships in your ideal field of work.”
Compare the Skills You Have to the Skills for the Job You Want
When pivoting or changing to a new career, the focus needs to be on your transferable skills rather than your specific industry experience, says Lambart.
Transferable skills are skills that you have developed in your current job or past jobs, even volunteer positions, that can also be used in a new target role or industry. These may be technical skills, like software or IT skills, or soft skills, like client service, relationship building, influencing and collaborating.
“Firstly, take some time to identify the skills that you use in your current role — or work with a career coach to help you — and then compare that to the skills required in your ‘target role’,” she says. “You can then identify those that crossover and those where you may need to upskill.”
Make a Long-Term Career Plan
Having a long-term career goal keeps you focused and on track even when you are lacking in motivation, says Lambart. “Having an end goal in mind will help you get through any career bumps or challenges that arise along the way.”
Avoid Having a ‘Grass is Greener’ Attitude
“I don’t think there is any harm in career cushioning as long as you have done your research,” says Lambart. “There’s no use aspiring to a target role only to find that once you get there it is actually not anything like you had imagined.”
Before committing to further study or upskilling, do your due diligence, she advises. Identify people working in your target role and try and get the opportunity to speak to them about what the role actually involves — pros and cons. The reality of the job may not be what you think it is from the outside.