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Financial Education

Should You Be Career Cushioning?

Add a new term to your professional vocabulary and find out when and how to put it into practice.

Man sits on large yellow cusion at office, illustrating career cushioning concept
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In the last few years, several novel job-related terms have gone viral. Just think: Before this decade began, phrases like remote work, hybrid schedules, New Work, the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting either didn’t exist or were rarely heard in the workplace. Now, they are common.

Career cushioning is another such term growing in popularity. And it’s one that everyone from entry-level professionals to seasoned workers should get to know because it can be used to help ensure your financial stability.

What is career cushioning?

The term career cushioning took off in 2022. It means looking for and even lining up job opportunities just in case something happens at your current job that could affect your employment or your income level. In other words, the job opportunities that you find are meant to provide a literal cushion for your career should things go south with your current employer.

Why are so many people career cushioning?

Testing the job market like this isn’t a new phenomenon. But as companies began announcing significant layoffs in 2022, it became a bigger priority to workers who feared they could be affected by the next wave of job cuts. So much so that in this era of memes and viral videos, it earned its own name—career cushioning.

In 2023, career cushioning grew even more popular, especially among workers in the technology sector where that year, 1,191 companies laid off 263,180 of their employees, per Job cuts continued in the first quarter of 2024 with household names in media, retail and aviation joining tech giants in reducing their workforces. With inflation and interest rates still high, workers continue to prepare for potential layoffs by career cushioning.

Should I career cushion?

It never hurts to test the job market, but there are some situations where it makes even more sense to seek a career cushion:

  • You work in an industry where layoffs are routinely common, currently taking place or predicted to occur in the near future.
  • You feel insecure in your job because of something like a new manager or an initiative to increase automation that could specifically affect your position.
  • You’re unsatisfied with your job or more stressed than usual by its responsibilities.
  • A reorganization is underway or coming that could lead to layoffs.
  • The company you work for is in serious financial trouble.
  • The economy is heading toward or already in a recession.

While the above situations involve negative circumstances, career cushioning during a hot economy and strong job market isn’t a bad idea either. It can give you the opportunity to change careers or land a higher level and/or better paying job.

Tips for Career Cushioning

Here are the key steps to take if you’re interested in career cushioning:.

1. Start monitoring employment sites for job opportunities.

The internet makes it easier than ever to find job postings for specific jobs, in certain industries or particular cities on employment websites like these:

  • CareerBuilder
  • Glassdoor
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • ZipRecruiter

2. Check job openings at companies that interest you.

Some companies even let you set up alerts when job openings that match your skills come available.

3. Upskill or reskill where needed.

As you review job postings, determine whether you need to add or refine skills to make you a more qualified candidate. Then take an online or in-person course to obtain a needed certificate or earn the right to add a particular skill to your resume.

4. Update your resume.

Speaking of resumes, an updated one that includes your most relevant experience and a personal brand statement will yield the best results.

5. Prepare for interviews.

Many companies today conduct some or all interviews via video. Treat these like you would in-person interviews by dressing professionally. Additionally, check that your computer’s webcam and microphone are working beforehand, make sure you are well-lit on camera and choose a plain background. Finally, prepare to answer behavioral interview questions, such as tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict at work.

6. Expand your network.

Do you know people who work at a company you’d like to join? Ask them to introduce you to hiring managers. Do you want to switch industries? Join a local or virtual group related to your desired industry. Oh, and don’t forget to update professional social feeds to include all your relevant work experience and to showcase your complete skillset.

7. Apply to jobs.

Start completing applications and submitting your newly revised resume for jobs that interest you.

The Financial Benefits of Career Cushioning

Career cushioning can do wonders for your peace of mind, but it can also boost your financial health. Having a new job lined up in preparation for a layoff means not having to deplete your emergency fund like you otherwise would during an employment gap. Looking for a better job while still employed gives you the luxury of holding out for the best offer or continuing your search until you find your dream job. And switching companies is often the quickest way to increase your salary, which makes it easier to stick to your budget and achieve your financial goals.

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CUNA 2023 diamond award trophy icon

CUNA 2023 Diamond Award Winner

Financial Education

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