Will You Survive a Job Market Crash?

With layoffs increasing across the US, we wanted an expert’s take on what 2023 might bring for the job market. We sat down with Sara Causey, a Staffing & Recruiting SME and the owner of Causey Consulting LLC, to discuss her recent book, Will You Survive a Job Market Crash?

With layoffs increasing across the US, we wanted an expert’s take on what 2023 might bring for the job market. We sat down with Sara Causey, a Staffing & Recruiting SME and the owner of Causey Consulting LLC, to discuss her recent book, Will You Survive a Job Market Crash?

What inspired you to write this mini-book?

The main goal is to stimulate people’s own thinking and help them create what I call a job loss survival plan. No one likes to daydream about a layoff or what would happen if the company they work for closed down completely. Yet I believe preparation is so incredibly important. Most people in the US live paycheck-to-paycheck, so I think not planning ahead is like playing with fire.

Why do you think a lot of people lack a job loss survival plan?

It’s funny because people who usually are not superstitious at all suddenly become quite unnerved by even the idea of war-gaming a strategy about how to survive a layoff. Someone who’d never throw a pinch of salt over their shoulder or worry about a black cat crossing their path on Friday the 13th somehow think, “If I imagine what I’d do in the event of a layoff, I will jinx myself and cause it to happen.” In its own way, it becomes an excuse to escape reality and hope a problem will magically go away. In the book, I liken it to refusing to get proper training for CPR and first aid by thinking you’ll jinx the people around you if you learn correct life-saving techniques. Meanwhile, the opposite is true. You are helping those around you by knowing what to do in an emergency.

“Hope for the best but have a plan for the worst,” in other words?

Yes. In the same way you hope you never have to use CPR to save a life, everyone involved is glad for your knowledge in an emergency. If you create a job loss survival plan and that unhappy event occurs, you can revert back to the plan instead of feeling totally unsure. Most psychologists place a job loss on the list of life’s most stressful events, along with things like divorce, death in the family, contending with a major illness, etc. In spite of the way some folks posture on social media, it’s typically a pretty lousy experience to deal with.

Some of the layoff stories we’ve seen in the news sounded brutal.

I agree. And at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I believe that will get worse as we go through 2023.

You’ve been vocal in saying you think the US is already in a recession. How does that impact the job market?

I always say: I am not an economist. But I have been involved in the job market every day for over a decade and I’ve weathered the ups and downs of more than one boom/bust cycle in more than one industry. You can start to see certain patterns that are always present. I believe the US went into a recession in 2022 – if not earlier – and the “technical definition” was changed in order to paper over reality. This idea that we’re waiting for a recession to happen sometime soon is nonsense to me. What we tend to see in a recession is this: as companies have less money, they look for ways to cut costs.

The investors and shareholders still expect a profit, so it’s usually the employees who bear the brunt of a bad economy. Some companies follow a tenure protocol, i.e., last one hired, first one fired. Others will use the first and second round of layoffs to purge the dissidents, i.e., people who aren’t well-liked by management or who speak their minds rather than “going along to get along.” I don’t agree with these practices, to be clear. I’m trying to warn people so they understand how Corporate America truly operates. To sum it up: as the economy goes down, unemployment goes up. It becomes harder to find a job if you need one and the competition for what’s available becomes intense.

If you don’t mind giving us an inside look, what do you think is the first step in a job loss survival plan?

Ideally, you’re thinking about this question BEFORE a layoff occurs. To me, the first step is to create a list of your first five job-related phone calls. After you’ve called your spouse or best friend to vent about what’s happened, you need to be on the phone with people in your network who have a legitimate chance of helping you. Kvetching with friends is good and is therapeutic in its own way. But you still have to put the time and effort into finding something new. I specify job-related phone calls because if your friend is on thin ice at their own job or your neighbor is nice but has no authority with hiring, they may not be able to help you. I also see a heavy reliance on sad social media posts with the hopes that people can sort of crowdsource their own job hunt. Maybe that works, maybe it doesn’t. It feels like a massive gamble to me.

As more companies lay off, which I believe they will, your social media feed will be clogged with depressing stories of people looking for work. In my opinion, reaching out to someone who: a) can actually help you and b) has some type of relationship with you is more likely to pay off. I think too many people are trying to be Blanche DuBois and depend on “the kindness of strangers” to be their job loss survival plan. It’s a way of saying: I don’t have to think ahead. I’ll just post a sad message on LinkedIn and someone else will come to save me. It’s important to remember that in Tennessee Williams’ play, Blanche uttered that line as she was being carted off to an asylum. Random people on the internet with no connection to you and no way of speaking to your work ethic may not be willing or able to help you in an economic downturn.

For more HR insights, you can visit Sara at https://causeyconsultingllc.com/. You can purchase her minibook on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BRC4C2SQ.

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