Before 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:
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.