Recession-proof Your Career - a Plan to Make Yourself Indispensable in a Tough Market

Lisa Kostova
CEO and Founder
Automatic Summary

Recession Proofing Your Career: A Plan of Action with Lisa Costella

In this blog post, we're going to walk you through an insightful career guidance session hosted by Lisa Costella, the CEO and founder of Career Climb. With her rich experience including being named a thought leader by the Harvard Business Review and her enduring spirit as a mountaineer, Lisa has much advice to offer especially for women in tech trying to navigate challenging economic waves.

A Brief Introduction about Lisa Costella

Our career guide today, Lisa Costella, is the CEO and founder of Career Climb, a company providing executive coaching and training for women in tech. She has not only been recognized as a thought leader by the Harvard Business Review but also proudly sports a chapter dedicated to her in the 'Cracking the PM Interview' book. A multilingual with experiences of living in six different countries and climbing Mt. Everest, she's here to share her valuable insight.

The Dimensions of Career Security by Lisa Costella

Lisa begins the session by drawing upon her experiences and elaborating on the dimensions of career security. Let's take a closer look:

The Proximity to Revenue

This aspect highlights the importance of functions close to the revenue in a company. This could be the people who build the product or service being charged for or marketing roles that drive traffic and convert them to leads.

The Outlook for Your Product or Company's Market

Analyzing the broader market trends, whether they are expanding or shrinking, and the potential threats or boosts from emerging technologies create another dimension.

Core Product Attention

Lisa advises focusing on the core product that originally made the company successful and made money for the company, especially in larger organizations during economically challenging times.

Seven Action Steps to Recession-Proof Your Career

Lisa further provides seven solid action steps to help you recession-proof your career:

  1. Assess and Evaluate: Assess the strength and the long term viability of your company, your industry, market, function, and technology.
  2. Plan Now: Identify the skills that will position you to be in demand in five years, and identify the smallest gap that you have between your current skills and skills required.
  3. Move Closer to Revenue: Identify if there are functions or products closer to the revenue you could move into.
  4. Indispensability: If you believe in your market and want to ride the storm, you need to make yourself indispensable.
  5. Be Part of the Solution: Reconfigure your team and resources proactively aligning with the company's top priorities can make you a valuable part of the solution.
  6. Reconnection Tour: Be there to provide an ear to people amidst fear, uncertainty and doubt and become the first to know what's on the minds of decision makers.
  7. Make a Contingency Plan: Update your LinkedIn profile, make it recruiter-friendly, engage in strategic networking, prepare for interviews, have forthright discussions with your manager and make immigration arrangements if required.

Join the Challenge

For a deeper dive, Lisa also extends an invitation to join a live challenge she is holding where you can further explore these concepts. To be a part of the challenge, head to the recession challenge dot co. In conclusion, armed with these insights, you're now more prepared than ever to face harsh economic times and come out the other side strong. As Lisa Costella says, sometimes opportunities are created out of nothing, so let's seize them and build a resilient career!

Video Transcription

Welcome to your plan to assess and proof your career. My name is Lisa Costella and I'll be your host today.A little bit about me is I am the CEO and founder of career climb, which is my company for executive coaching and training and career support for uh women in tech. I am a former VP A product. Um And I'm be behind the coach. Uh I'm the coach behind um several programs including the dual executive accelerator and a lot of challenges that I uh produce. I'm a mountaineer. I have submitted, I did that in 2019. Loved it. I was named thought leader by the Harvard Business Review for my collaboration with Professor Christensen. I was featured with my own chapter at uh the cracking the PM interview book. I speak five languages have lived in six different countries and I have looked for jobs in the past through recession. So I'm here to speak from experience. And um this upcoming year or whatever the environment is that we're going through right now is actually very, very exciting to me because um I have seen opportunities being created out of nothing.

So um if you want to go deeper after this presentation, I wanna invite you to join a live challenge I'm holding next week and you can opt in to that challenge at the recession challenge dot co. So, uh you'll have an opportunity to actually work with me and go in depth uh through some of these concepts that I'm gonna cover here today real real quick. So the first stop that I wanna set the stage up for is the dimensions of career security. And for those of you who have been around for the last recession or the last couple of recessions, those will not be new to you. But it's a good reminder. Um I during the last recession, I was part of the um business school class at Harvard that had graduated with fewest jobs in I think 100 years or several decades at least. And some of my classmates ended up starting some of the companies that are still around and doing phenomenally. Well, like Cloud Player run the runway. Some of them joined up arts like myself, I joined Zinga when it was just a couple of 100 person startup that were not going to any recruiting fairs at all.

And uh starting at small companies or small investment firms and have since seen their career really take off because of that opportunity because all the obvious options were not available. So there when we talk about career security, I want you to understand that it doesn't mean hide in a corner, look for a safe place to hide. Um you know, keep your, keep your head low. What it really means is that looking at your career long term, you want to take this as an opportunity to inform your decisions and how you look at your career more broadly over the long term, rather than just reacting to the economic conditions as they happen. So the first dimension of career security is proximity to revenue, proximity to revenue is very important because each company um has money coming in from a product or service. Tech startups are a little bit of a unique animal in in the sense that as capital has become cheap and available, lots of tech companies start without any immediate plans to be profitable. But I believe that's going to change because capital is becoming more scarce and investors are gonna increase their expectations of when and how companies reach Blake even. But in any company, there are going to be functions that are closer to the revenue in A B to C company.

Those tend to be around the product that are created and sold as well as um any function that drives traffic to um the product and converts them to leads. So marketing regeneration conversion, um seo or traffic optimization roles are gonna be very, very important and close and core to the revenue. So will the people who actually build the product that sells or the service that is getting used and being charged for in A B to B context, there is gonna be a different sales and distribution method. And for that, the sales function is really, there's really a binary um outcome whether the sales function is close to the revenue or not in companies and B to B companies where the um the um uh underlying product that you're selling and the clients actually doing well, you are going to be uh more, more, more uh more central to the function to the survival of the company in cases where your clients are in trouble because of the economy, say you're selling a um service to recruiting firms or to recruiting departments and companies, they're probably all getting laid off.

And so you're going to have a harder time and as the sales function, you're gonna be further away from the revenue. The next thing, mention of career security is uh the outlook for your product or company's market. How is the broader market doing? Is there, is it, is it expanding? What are the long term trends or is it shrinking? Is it getting threatened or disrupted by emerging technologies? Right now, we're seeing a lot of tech companies struggle, especially those who like, I'll use them as an example, have been built on um have been built on the idea that they provide expertise or uh kind of like summarize or extract the best knowledge, which is clearly something that chad GP T is disrupting.

So um that market is clearly not doing as well. Anything to do with crypto is um in the, in the ditch right now and who knows when it'll recover and come back? Blockchain um is definitely a part of that, but Blockchain has different use cases and applications so that could be different. But I really want you to take an impartial look and see like, hm what is going on with the broader market, the broader company, um product kind of product market and the market of its competitors. Is it a growing space or is a shrinking space? Um Do I believe that it's going to be around? And if it's a place where I want to invest my time over the long run and finally, the third dimension of product security and not product security top security is uh whether you're working on a core product or in an experimental new product, especially in larger organization um in larger organizations, you're going to see um lots of, lots of initiatives, lots of experimental new projects, uh new product lines that were launched over the last several years when capital was abundant and opportunity was being chased and every company wanting wanted to be participating in all the new innovation and development now is the time when investors are asking companies to scale those back and go back to the basics, which means going back to the core product.

What is the core product that originally made the company successful and made the money for the company. Next, we're gonna look at the seven action steps to recession proof your career knowing what those dimensions of security were. Number one is assessing and evaluating the trajectory of the market, the product company and you need to do that dispassionately. I know it's really hard because we always, we always have hope and hope dies last. And if you're working for a small organization, the founder, the CEO are going to be eternal optimist, optimist. So you'll, you'll never really want to just believe the party line. What you want to do is do your own independent assessment and look at it as if you were an investor, like would I invest my own third, you know, on my, my own independent capital in, in this because you are, you're actually investing the biggest part of your wealth um in this company, which is your time, your ability to generate income and to generate wealth.

And I want you to look at where do you want to be in five years time, not in five months. It's super easy to just uh especially right now, there's larger companies, larger organizations that are not in tech, who are saying, oh, for the first time in several years, we can now scoop up some tech workers because we weren't able to compete before. They didn't find it too exciting to work for us. Um Maybe we can compete on compensation. But now come on in. Welcome, come work for us. Uh I've talked to several of my clients who are considering that option and I really want you to be mindful of whether you're prepared to stay in that market or industry that you're going in for safety over the long run. Are you ok with staying in that company and that type of um industry for the next 10, 20 years? Because once you make a huge shift like that, it's really hard to reverse when the market picks up and it, well, when the job market becomes attractive again, when companies start raising capital again, if you kind of want to go back to a tech company or start up, it's, they're gonna have the pick of the litter.

So it's going to be a harder move to reverse. So look at how hard would it be in a robust market to reverse the move that you're making now? And how are you going to kind of compare to other candidates in five years time and decide if you're willing to accept, you know, that path taking you away from tech or away from your industry potentially forever. And that could be a yes or no answer. There isn't really any, any right or wrong answer here. So your tone here is I want you to assess the strength and the long term viability of your company industry and market function technology and I want you to really look at where do you want to be in five years? The next action step is to plan now, what does that mean? I want you to identify the skills that will position you to be in demand in five years time. Those may or may not be all or some of the skills that you currently have. You need to identify emerging market trends and skate where the puck will be not where the puck is. All, some of them are obvious right now. There's lots of emphasis on obviously generative A I and A I in general are hot right now.

Um So is the creator, economy, content creation. So is security and you need to identify where you can leverage existing skills for some of these emerging trends and then identify the smallest gap that you have between the skills that are required and the skills that you have and look at the Ry, like, do I really want to close that gap or do I want to invest again, be mindful with your time?

Go for those kind of most obvious um on smallest skill gaps that you can close between where you are now, what you're doing and where you wanna be in five years time. And the good news is that some of those emerging areas like A I, um the vast majority of people are complete beginners, everybody's starting from the same place at least this year. It will be different next year. So there are no entrenched market leaders and you can just go for it. So your turn is I want you to think about what technology market function do you want to have in five years time? And what are the skills that you need to get that you don't have uh that you need to go and acquire and what existing skills can you showcase and transform. The third action step is to move closer to the revenue. As I mentioned, that varies by function and by product lines. So figure out the core function and power center of your company, it's always easier to switch internally than look for a different function or different uh product area externally and do whatever you can even if it means volunteering or doing things informally to get yourself trained under that function or working or getting some experience in that function or product area um while you're still employed at your current company.

So your turn, ask yourself the question, is there functional product that is closer to the revenue that I want to move into? What creative actions can I take today to gain experience in that function? And uh number four actions that to come with a big, great disclaimer. And it's also going to be slightly controversial, but it is what it is is I want you to think about if you've looked at the broader market and the trends in your market and the company and the product and you still believe in it, you still believe that it's a solid, they have solid fundamentals for the next 5, 10, 15 years and you wanna give it a shot and ride the storm out.

So it's not a sinking ship. You're, it's just a ship that's encountering a storm and it needs to ride out the storm. Then you need to make yourself indispensable in that all hands on deck situation. So if you need a plan to work over time or delay a vacation, proceed with caution. Some of you don't know how to manage your energy. Well, if you don't know how to manage your energy, well, it's somebody who's a mountain near a mountain climber and then end you're in, I can tell you being an endurance athlete has very, very different habits and mindsets than being a sprinter. Most of tech workers are trained to be, are trained to be like serial sprinters and that burns you out. So if you know how to manage your energy and you can get on this insurance plan, then plan around it and plan to hunker down and really be all hands on deck, make yourself indispensable. If you don't know how to do that, get coaching, get help and uh then do that, but don't, don't burn, burn yourself out because even if the company survives by burning yourself out, you'll make yourself more of a burden than an asset to the company.

So is there an initiative where you can jump in and take the lead? How can you go the extra mile to make sure that you're part of the skeleton crew that survives? Those are the questions that I want you to ask yourself if you're uh to do this action. Number five, be part of the solution client of mine did this really, really well. She is the head of her department in a large media organization. And she um before any specific decisions were made around layoffs and cost cutting, she actually reorganized her team proactively. Uh drew up plans to cut her budget, consolidate resources, move some people around and presented that and made her BPS her. Uh actually, yeah, her VPs job a lot easier because she was part of that solution. She proactively said, well, if we're gonna do something, I might as well have some say in it or control over it. So if you're in the position of management, this could be a great option for you. It may or may not work again, but it's worth a try. It has to do with reposition people on your team aligning with the company's top priorities, et cetera. Um Peop people are gonna be asked to do that anyway. And by being proactive, you're just gonna just gonna save yourself and the company a lot of headaches. So your turn, how can you proactively reconfigure your team and resources?

How can you optimize your budget and calculate and show those savings. Number six, consider going on a listening or reconnection tour. Those tours are great for starting a new job. They're also amazing when there is fear, uncertainty and doubt. I call that flood in the workplace.

Be sure to not get yourself involved in gossip and speculation. Uh that's actually pretty toxic and that is a huge, huge trap. You need to be level headed person who's just there to provide an year to people as they think about how, what to do next and how to navigate this challenging time, asking stakeholders what's on their minds, what's keeping them up at night will position you to be the first to know what's going on and what's on the minds of the decision makers.

So ask yourself the question, how do I get um to set up those short catch-up calls or meetings? Who do I set up those catch up calls and meetings with? How do I put them at ease? How do I listen with curiosity and take in what's on their minds and how uh how will they see us going through this challenging period or not? Either way, more information is better than less information. And finally, number seven is a little bit more of a catchall catchall series of recommendations I have for you, which is make a contingency plan. What does that mean? If you are assessing the risk of layoffs being higher than zero, then take the next few weeks or months to update your linkedin profile. Make that recruiter friendly. I'll show you how to do that. If you join our challenge next week, uh or point you to some resources, start posting on linkedin regularly. This matters in your visibility on linkedin and where you end up in the search results for recruiters who are looking for keywords in your area of expertise, start your strategic networking efforts immediately. Don't apply blind or at least minimize the blind applications.

Uh You can use the strategic networking process that I'll show to you in our challenge. You can also get some interview practice, telling your story and interview settings uh with a technique that again, I'll share with you next week. You um you also ought to sit down and have a heart to heart with your manager right about really what's going on. Um And how can you navigate this together? What's best for for everyone if on an H one B visa, I want you to set it, save up your uh paid leave days and plan to negotiate to stay on the payroll for as long as possible. I've been able to negotiate that twice uh for two months at a time. Calculate your savings and try to reduce your overhead by cutting expenses that don't contribute to you. Getting back to uh back on track with your career, you can open a new credit card while it still employed that has a 0% or low interest balance transfer option. It's amazing banks still extend those. Uh Even I, I just, I just had an offer like that last month and uh consider a margin loan on your investment assets to tide you over. So again, assess your biggest risks and put a contingency plan to manage those uh savings, immigration status, et cetera.

And a quick reminder that I'm doing a deeper dive over three days live of next week, one or each day. And if you want to sign up for the uh recession, proving your career challenge, uh please, you can opt in at the recession challenge dot co and um you'll get an invitation and I'll see you next week. So this is it uh from me and uh we can take some Q and A if we have um if we have any questions. So let's see. Uh OK. So Anna Capelli says the analogy about printing in tech, which often leads to burnout is excellent. How can we effectively manage energy in the environment where everyone is constantly sprinting? Yes, it's hard to be an endurance athlete if everybody else is running around like chickens with their heads cut off. But that's why I really invite you to join our community. We have amazing, amazing women all the way to vps and CPO S that I've worked with and I've coached and trained uh groups of amazing women and um your environment really matters. So seek out environment of people whose mindset you do admire and you want to model and you want to be surrounded by people with a different mindset. Um Awesome. So let's see. Let's see. Do we have any other questions?

And um you know, if so I I'd be, I'd be happy to chat more. We have a lot more opportunity to interact live during the challenge. Uh and again, the is the Recession challenge dot co. All right, ladies enjoy the rest of the conference and uh hopefully I'll see some of you next week. Bye.