Set Yourself Up For Future Success With Career Cushioning

Between economic uncertainty and a changing job market, if you want to grow professionally in 2023, you may have to think outside the box. With job freezes and mass layoffs shaking up the job market, many people are starting to cushion their careers. While LinkedIn discussion on a recession is up nearly 900% in the last year, we still don't know what will happen in the future. The best bet is to be prepared for any scenario.


To get ahead in the game, consider taking some unconventional steps. With so many workers adapting to changes from the pandemic over the last three years, we have learned that nothing can be taken for granted, especially our jobs. We have also learned just how resilient we can be in the face of adversity. So, if you are like the many professionals out there not satisfied with how your career is going or worried that you may be expendable, consider career cushioning before you make any sudden changes.

What is career cushioning?

According to LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher, "Career cushioning is taking actions to keep your options open and cushioning for whatever comes next in the economy and job market." She goes on to tell LinkedIn that career cushioning is sort of like taking out an insurance policy on your career in order to set yourself up for success. Many people have already been doing this all along; side hustles, backup plans, e-courses, and upskilling are nothing new, yet the trend is gaining traction in wake of the sense of insecurity we are all feeling right now.


It's also easier than ever to learn new skills and have a career cushion as most everything is accessible via technology. Creating a cushion to your career doesn't mean you need to quit your current position, rather it's building yourself up in case you are facing a layoff or job change. Fisher believes that we could all benefit from a little added cushion to fall back on. The next step is to find out exactly how we start to cushion our careers for future success.

Get clear on your goals

First, you have to get crystal clear on what it is you want in your professional career. Is it a promotion, new position, financial success, transition to remote work, or a better work-life balance? Sometimes it may be a combination of a few different goals that have been on your mind. Identify your values and what matters most to you. Once you get clear on these goals, take it a step further and write them down. Whether it's a career vision board, journal, planner, or even just sticky notes on your laptop, writing down what you want to achieve can be very powerful.


Now that you have the big picture stuff solidified, it's time to break it down into bite-sized pieces. How exactly are you going to make that goal happen? Do you have a plan B? Write down the steps that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be in your career. A great way to do this is to find a mentor in your field. Maybe you look up to someone at your current job and hope to be in their shoes someday. What skills do they have that you could develop? What courses or education do they have under their belt? What actions did they take to cushion their career? It may take some research on your part, but planning is important on your way to career cushioning.

Sharpen your skills

If you are preparing for a shift of careers, it's best to research what skills will look good to future employers. Because of the changing job market, employers are starting to put more value on skills over degrees (via LinkedIn). In shifting to a focus on specific hard and soft skills, companies won't miss out on hiring the most efficient person for the job. This is good news for anyone looking to cushion their career. Improving your skill sets and highlighting them on your resumé is a great way to ensure success.


The term upskilling is making waves as a way to help cushion your career. According to Forbes, upskilling teaches current employees new skills to thrive in their position. A great example of this is a company having their employees take a course learning the newest software program they will be using. But what if the skills you need are not offered at your current position? Now is the time to do your own research. What skills do your mentors list on their LinkedIn profile? Find out what skills you need and look for online courses or volunteer work that will add to your expertise. 

Use your network to your advantage

Throughout your career, you'll meet all different types of people who start to make up your social network. They may be people you currently work with, people you have worked with in the past, and even some people you only know through online communication. Many people utilize and reach out to their network when looking to cushion their careers. Catherine Fisher tells LinkedIn that it's easier than ever to see who's hiring in your network by looking at the "jobs" tab on LinkedIn to see if the connections you have are hiring at the moment. LinkedIn will also notify you when people in your network are hiring.


To build and nurture your network, make sure you aren't just connecting to the people in your social network when you need a favor. Communicate with your network in a genuine way, in order to build relationships throughout your professional career. It's great to ask your friend to refer you for a job, but make sure you continue to nurture the relationship after the favor is complete. People can tell when someone is inauthentic, so it's best to just be yourself, and that authenticity will pay off in the future.

Keep your options open

Career cushioning means you should always keep your options open. If you find yourself in between jobs or actively looking for work, utilize the #Opentowork feature on LinkedIn to let recruiters know you are available to work. Opportunities are always out there if you are open to them. Go through your resumé, cover letter, portfolio, references, certificates, and licenses to make sure everything is current and relevant. If you stay ready for any change, you will be ahead of the game when it's time to move on or if something happens to your job.


Think about the career goals you outlined when you started. What motivates you in your career? Searching job boards for keywords related to your ideal profession can be a good place to start. Also working with a recruiter may be a good idea if you are feeling lost in the sea of applicants. Recruiters aim to screen many applicants to find the best fit for the job. They may connect you to a job that you didn't even know you are a good fit for. Keeping your options open for what will make you happy is the best way to cushion your future professional career.

Consider working with a career coach

If all of this career cushioning seems too overwhelming for you, consider working with a career coach. According to Harvard Business Review hiring a career coach is an investment in your future opportunities. Career coaches can help you clean up your resumé and cover letter, improve your interviewing skills, and give you the tools to land new opportunities. They can also act as a guide when you aren't sure what path to take in your professional career.


So, how do you go about finding the right career coach for you? Find coaches that will do a free introductory session with you and narrow it down to a couple of your favorites who you felt most comfortable with. Research their experience, client reviews, and licenses or certificates before you pick the best one to hire. Cost and availability are other factors to consider. Find out whether you will meet via video or phone call, and how flexible they are to work with. Once you have all of this information and research done, it's time to pick the best coach to help you cushion your career.