Is Your Job At Risk?

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Grays Papaya Recession SpecialBefore the last few weeks, I saw most of the talk about a recession as just talk. Experts were trying to get ahead of the curve on calling an economic slowdown through the US economy and we as consumers were eating it up. With short term lending on the fritz (ignore the movement of the stock market, there’s too much noise in that), companies are truly going to have an economic reason to start cutting back and labor is far easier to reduce than any other asset.

CNN Money just did an article on this very idea, of who is most at risk in a downturn, and they highlighted people who fail to perform, who are relatively overpaid compared to their peers, and those that do not adequately fill a business need.

Based on my limited experience in the workforce, I think the folks on this list of best paying careers are pretty safe but here are the groups that I think are at risk:

Cost Centers

A cost center is a department in an organization that doesn’t product a direct profit. A research and development department is a cost center, the marketing department is a cost center, and the HR department is a cost center. While cost centers are important, cuts often start there because they don’t directly affect the bottom line. If you’re a widget maker and times are getting tough, you might slash your HR department in half because you don’t intend to hire anyone in the next year if things stay rough. You’ll let go of an HR person before you’ll let go of someone working the manufacturing floor because the technician directly contributes to profit when he or she makes a widget.

Low Oversight or Visibility

If you’re working on a project that has very little visibility or has limited oversight, I’d try to find out how important it is to the firm. If management needs to pare away some overhead, are they going to cancel the project you’re working on? If it’s an important project, why is there little oversight over its progress? If it truly is an important project (it’s not uncommon for management to overlook important projects simply due to volume) and you want to help ensure it’ll stick around, try to get more visibility.


If you’re a contractor or temporary employee, I’d be the most wary because “not renewing a contract” is the easiest way to let go of someone without dealing with the legal headaches. It could have nothing to do with your job performance, need, or anything else – it’s simply easier to let go of someone who isn’t a full time employee of a company.

Solution? I don’t know and I don’t know if there is one, the best advice I can give is that you should always, in both good times and bad, have a contingency plan. If you’re a contractor/temp now, you should be pushing to go full-time or have another job lined up. If you’re in a low visibility project, get yourself on a high visibility project. If you’re in a cost center, maybe find a new job at a firm where your specialty isn’t a cost center (accountants to an accounting firm, HR specialists to a head hunting firm). And as always, boost up that emergency fund.

(Photo: bobjagendorf)

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “Is Your Job At Risk?”

  1. Patrick says:

    I’m glad that I choose a career in software development. I am a fairly valuable asset at my company and could leave any day and still make a business on the web building websites. I am also always learning new technologies to keep myself ahead of the game.

  2. Stacey says:

    As a contractor (freelance writer), I must disagree with your last point. I’ve seen several of my fulltime co-workers fired or pushed into contract work. For now, it’s cheaper for them to rely on freelancers who get paid by the project and don’t require benefits or office space.

    Visibility is important, though! I go through hoops to make sure my boss knows I’m the most reliable contractor he has, and have seen my workload soar as they lose fulltime employees.

  3. CUMarketer says:

    Stacey, I’m with you. I’m the Director of Marketing for a credit union. It’s been shown that companies who actually increase their marketing efforts during tough economic times actually bounce back 3-4 times faster than companies that cut marketing.

    While consumers fear for their money and their futures, they are looking for safer options. If my message is out there while my competitors have cut back, who do you think the consumer will go to? Of course this all depends on the message, but I am gaining top of mind presence.

    I am just lucky to have a CEO who understands the importance of marketing. Many, like you, feel it’s a “cost center” and unfortunately it only hurts their business.

    • Iara says:

      “CumMarkerter”- I am with you 100%, great point when you said that companys that doesnt see the importance of the marketing get extremelly hurt. I am glad there are great company out there that even with a recession like this are able to have that vision. That will save them!

  4. I would think anyone in retail would be worrying right now. If people stop spending, the sales force is reduced. I would also think that anyone who counts on temporary seasonal work in the retail sector, might have a tougher time this year finding a job.

  5. Miss M says:

    I’ve been a contract employee before and when the project started winding down, the contract employees (including myself) were the first to be let go. That coupled with the lack of benefits made me swear never to go that route again. I’m not certain how “safe” my job is, most of our contracts run for years so the fallout from the current crisis may not show up for awhile. I’m doing my best to be one of the valuable employees, but I work in a different office than my boss and the lack of face time with him is always a concern, it’s easiest to lay off the people you never see.

  6. Emily says:

    It’s sad, but true. In times like these, it always helps to have a plan B, especially if you are a contractor. I’ve heard that another thing happening in some places is that instead of some people getting fired, they are getting major pay cuts instead. I guess that’s not quite as bad as getting laid off, but not so fun either.

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