This was supposed to be the next evolution of employee empowerment. Whether you called it the Great Resignation, the Great Reshuffle, or something not-so-great (if you’re in the retention business like me), the sentiment was the same. In a market where companies were desperate to attract top talent and keep turnover at bay, it was workers, more often than not, holding all the cards.
Volatile markets, inflation, and a potential recession have started to shift that narrative. Hiring has slowed in most industries, and some high-profile companies are scaling back headcount. If you’re still interviewing, you may feel like you just got caught seatless in the most high-stakes game of musical chairs ever.
I’d like to suggest that you consider it a blessing in disguise. These moments require you to think more deliberately about your next move, but if you’re considerate and follow some time-tested best practices, you can still come out ahead. It sounds counterintuitive, but it pays (literally) to be thoughtful or even picky in times of uncertainty—and not just jump on the first, or more lucrative, offer. In other words, look before you leap. Lattice survey data found that 52% of U.S. workers who started new roles during the Great Resignation were already looking for a way out just three months in, which underlines the importance of intentional interviewing.
Here’s how to land that dream job even amid an economic crisis—and look beyond just a paycheck in a time when that dream salary might be off the table. The real value for your future career is definitely in play, and those who understand the game can still win it.
Know your value and how to communicate it
What’s your edge? Knowing your value is about identifying the skills that differentiate you and communicating them in a compelling and data-backed way. Don’t just call out that impressive certification on your résumé. Pull in specific examples of how it empowered you to increase customer satisfaction scores by 30% or double your company’s website traffic. Illustrating your value isn’t just about listing out skills or benchmarking data, it’s about drawing a line between your skill set and business results.
Importantly, don’t discount power skills like communication, adaptability, and empathy. These may be less quantifiable but are nonetheless critical to highly functional and healthy workplaces: Hard skills get the job done, but power skills get the job done well. And if the company is worth your time, you won’t need to convince them. Good people leaders already know that power skills are the secret sauce for successful teams and will be on the lookout for them in addition to technical skills, now more than ever, as hybrid work continues to bring new challenges to organizations looking to build durable, connected cultures in the new world of work.
Take a hard look at what you’ll gain from the new role (besides a paycheck)
I won’t deny there’s value in a steady paycheck, especially in a downturn. But don’t risk your career (or happiness) by simply signing for the highest bidder. It’s a mistake I’ve seen repeated so, so many times, especially with “brand name” employers who have the budget to sweep you off your feet. Some of these giants are great places to work—others come with cultural baggage and aren’t worth it. And more importantly, some may not be able to offer you tangible growth opportunities alongside the shiny salary.
In the interview process, take the time to really understand how you will learn and grow in the new role. What kinds of paths have others in similar roles taken at the company? Do they offer internal mobility programs or a dedicated learning stipend for employees? Does investing in employee growth factor into the company’s values or mission?
Factoring in culture, mentors, and the team you’ll work with is also essential. The last few years have created a lot of change in businesses. Be open to hearing value propositions that speak to you, even if they look different from things you’ve valued in the past. What have they done in recent years to show employees that they’re a great place to work? What plans do they have for the employee experience that could be exciting to you and align with your career path?
Don’t shy away from getting specific, either. Ask how the company navigated the start of the pandemic, as that could signal how they’ll approach an economic downturn, too. Look for things they may have pulled back on, and where they redirected resources, for a sense of what they truly prioritize.
Now you’re ready to talk compensation
Once you’ve communicated your value and feel comfortable about what this company can offer you beyond the bottom line, you’re ready to talk numbers. Well, not just numbers. Consider the full scope of compensation, or what industry professionals call the “total rewards” that includes your overall benefits package, paid time off, flexibility, and other perks.
In advance of the negotiation (trust me, we expect you to negotiate—even in a recession), build out a priority list for yourself. Are you willing to budge on salary if other longer-term incentives, such as stock options and profit sharing, are right? Would you consider a pay cut, like a third of recent job switchers did, if it meant greater work-life balance or the chance to work in any city you choose?
You might find that now, more than ever, companies are willing to play ball when it comes to noncash offerings. Many have expanded those offerings in new ways as the pandemic highlighted how employee expectations evolved around such things as mental health and family leave.
Lastly, if salary matters most to you, don’t get discouraged by an offer that comes in slightly under. The best job in this environment may be about growth and skills acquisition so you’re ready for the next economic boom to make your play.
Reinvest in your career development with a company that is a true partner to you in this area, and you will reap the rewards once this storm has passed.
Cara Brennan Allamano is the chief people officer at Lattice.