Recession Versus Career Growth: What Now and What Next?

Career Growth

The economy is a roller-coaster — good times then bad times, bad then good. The cycle repeats itself, and with the global recession hitting some markets harder than others, the question of how to survive and achieve career growth in this challenging environment has been on the minds of many. The good news is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each organization and individual is different, but there are some simple steps you can take to position yourself for growth even in the middle of a global recession. In this article, I will discuss some of these steps.

But first, what does a global recession really mean? Here are some insights:

As defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the country normally visible in production, employment, and other indicators and that lasts for months or even years. Experts declare a recession when a nation’s economy experiences negative gross domestic product (GDP), rising levels of unemployment, failing retails, and other pointers. There are so many causes of recession including but not limited to a sudden economic shock, excessive debt, too much inflation, the impact of a pandemic, too much deflation, and technological changes.

Investopedia references a global recession as an extended period of economic decline around the world which involves synchronized recessions amongst many national economies. While there is no official definition of a global recession, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), uses several criteria which include a decrease in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide. In 2020, the IMF declared a new global recession as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, two years after the global lockdown in 2020, many economies of the world have varied reports on the state of the economies which have further been weakened by the Russian-Ukraine conflict in 2022.

According to Markets Insider, the United States economy is not considered to be in a recession until it is declared so by the NBER. Though the first and second quarter GDP fell this year by 1.6% and 0.9% respectively, the NBER will not officially declare a recession because of the strong job market and the impact business inventories have had on GDP growth this year among other reasons.

In Nigeria, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report on national output indicated that the GDP grew by 3.11% in the first quarter of 2022 (a slight reduction from 3.98% in the fourth quarter of 2021) and 3.54% in the second quarter of 2022 representing an 0.44% increase relative to Q1 2022. However, the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) while acknowledging the numbers in July 2022 opined that the impact of value chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine Conflict still has prevalent pressure on the economy and warns that the country may face a likely state of economic recession by the end of 2022.

Reading the aforementioned, one would be plunged into a state of fear and uncertainty because recession talks are often followed by a rise in unemployment/pay cuts, a rise in bankruptcies, falling asset prices, and other uncertainties. But hey, uncertainties do not have to weaken or cause anxiety, in fact, they can strengthen and empower.

Here are five ways that you can empower yourself to seize the opportunities that this ‘uncertainty’ will present:

1. Prep Yourself – Get all necessary knowledge and information: subscribe to market research and journals, follow thought leaders and experts and keep updated so that you can prime yourself and be better equipped to make the right decision including what sector to transition to if need be. You may choose to focus on sectors that thrive during a recession, for example, food and groceries, healthcare, and education amongst others.
A good question to ask is: how can I make the most of this opportunity when it comes? Yes, it is an opportunity as reports have shown that there are corporations and even individuals that have thrived in the midst of recessions in the past. Taking an upside view will help you approach this uncertainty with more self-awareness and confidence.

2. Audit and Build Your Skills – Take an in-depth look at your current skills profile: Technical skills, transferable skills, soft skills, and technology skills. Are there opportunities to build and develop new skills? Are there competencies and proficiencies that need to be updated so that you can stay ahead of the curve? Here’s how I choose to view it, build a healthy combination of these four, but have a drop-down of transferable skills. Transferable skills are more important because they show that you can fit into any role and sector even if you have not been in that exact role before. While technology skills refer to proficiencies in the latest tech trends, Soft skills are non-technical skills and include interpersonal skills, social skills, and communication skills. Technical proficiencies, technology skills, and soft skills are important, however, I believe that transferable skills are what differentiates you in a period of uncertainty and enable you to pivot as needed and these can include a combination of the aforementioned.

3. Audit and Strengthen Your Network – A survey conducted by Performance base hiring learning system indicates that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking. Using myself as an example, ALL of the jobs that I have had in my career have been through referrals and notices from people in my network. Network ‘above and below, within and without your professional cadre. The point is, to establish a strong network and stay connected!

4. Act! – Define and take small but incremental steps in the direction that you want even if you’re unsure of how it’ll play out. It was Idowu Koyenikan who said that ‘when you do the things in the present that you can see, you are shaping the future that you are yet to see.’ Always take Action!

5. Take a Pause – It’s fulfilling when things turn out the way we hoped and frustrating when the reverse happens. Learn to take a pause to celebrate your wins albeit small and learn from the losses albeit big. Even if you feel like you’re stuck in a holding pattern, just take a necessary pause and then, ACT.

As the above points have demonstrated, In spite of the economic downturn that’s been dominating headlines, the recession can offer an opportunity to position yourself for a strong career future. While this may sound counterintuitive, it is very possible to use the recession to your advantage if you’re intentional about it.

Here’s hoping that we’re able to “seize the moment” and make the most of it!


Chinenye Umunna

September 13, 2022


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