Is It a Good Idea to Change Jobs During a Recession?

Is It a Good Idea to Change Jobs During a Recession?

Conventional wisdom says that an economic downturn is not a good time to change jobs and that employed professionals should just hunker down in their current positions and try to prevent getting laid off. But staying put could potentially do more harm to your career than pursuing a new opportunity. And a new opportunity could be your ticket to stability and economic prosperity.


Conventional wisdom says that a recession or economic downturn is not a good time to change jobs. During a recession, most employed professionals hunker down and try to prevent getting laid off. Who can blame them?

But a recession can be an excellent time to take a new job, provided you've done your due diligence, says Sam Gordon, a recruiter with Harvey Nash Executive Search. "Firms that are recruiting in a downturn are doing so because the roles they have to fill have a major importance to their organizations," he says.

Such strategic roles are unlikely to be cut if a company has committed to investing in them in spite of a downturn. These positions also present opportunities for professionals to progress in their careers instead of stagnating in their existing roles while riding out a recession, says Gordon (who's not just trying to drum up by talking up the value of taking a new job.) He adds that companies that continue to fill key positions and invest in strategic projects tend to be more innovative and dynamic--and are better prepared to capitalize on an economic rebound--than companies that unilaterally pull back their spending when the going gets tough.

"If you look back on the last downturn, the dot com crash, there were lots of firms that had cut back their investment, and when they needed to grow again, they had a much bigger ramp up than companies that continued to invest," he says.

What's more, staying put during a recession could potentially do more harm to your career than good. You might think that hunkering down, taking on extra projects and working longer hours will put you in a position to be promoted when the economy rebounds, but, says Gordon, that's not often the case. Lots of companies take advantage of employees who fear layoffs and who work extra hard to keep their jobs, he says.

"Quite often, the person who has proven himself to be amenable and willing to do extra things can get himself into a hole," says Gordon. "The perception of you as someone who always acquiesces to demands can be hard to shake. When the good times come back and there's a new, exciting project, very often the company will still go externally to find the person they're looking for."

So really, your only reward for redoubling your efforts is keeping your current job, and even that's no guarantee in this economy.

What's your strategy for surviving the recession? Are you going to "stay low and keep moving" in your current position, or are you going to look for something new?

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