Boost your prospects despite the recession

As 2023 begins, predictions of an economic recession are tightening their grip in the job market. However, the article below offers practical tips to pursue your New Year’s resolutions and step up your career. Despite economic gloom, promotions are attainable with the help of these effective ideas – potentially boosting your climb to the top of the ladder. – Carmen Mileder


Top five tips for securing a promotion during a recession

By Helen Chandler-Wilde and Eamon Akil Farhat

New year, new promotion? Many of you might have pledged in your New Year’s resolutions to boost your career. But it has been a weird time for the UK’s job market with record high job vacancies in some sectors, while tech and finance companies cut back amid predictions of a recession. Here are the top tips and tricks to secure a step up at work.

1. Manage how you work from home 

Getting a promotion isn’t just about your job performance — it’s also about how much your boss sees. A manager seeing you work in person can lead to positive outcomes because it demonstrates commitment, according to a 2019 study. Another study found that working from home reduced the rate of promotion, despite increasing productivity. “Anybody seriously thinking about trying to get promoted will probably not be spending five days a week working remotely: they will spend a good chunk of the time coming into the office and staying visible,” said Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed.

Employers may have become more aware of these issues to try and compensate, but it always helps to think about how you communicate your skills with bosses, said Hannah Salton, a career coach and consultant. “Many of the fundamental skills you need to demonstrate at work haven’t changed. However, since the pandemic the way you can show these skills may be different,” she said. “If you’re working from home more often, you may need to make more of an effort to be visible to your boss and your wider team.”

2. Recession-proof your career

With the R-word on people’s minds, it might be good to think about how the economy affects your career development plans. There are things you can do: try to gain skills that make you difficult to replace, and think about angling to work in parts of the business that are making money, said Kennedy. “In the current climate, revenue-generating roles will be important,” he said. “Employers are going to be very mindful of keeping employees that can keep revenue and cash flow going in a recessionary climate.”

He added that there are some sectors which will fare better in a downturn than others, which could be helpful if you are entering the workforce or thinking of changing careers. Industries like healthcare, distribution and online retail will be less affected by a recession than others, he said. Consider industries that currently have a high vacancy rate. 

Looking at economic data could be helpful, too. About 600,000 people have left the labor force since 2019 with the highest drop-out rate among 50-69 year-olds, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. That means plenty of plum jobs could be up for grabs. “It might be something that younger workers might be able to use to their advantage to some extent for promotions,” said Kennedy. 

3. Find the right role for you

You are much more likely to perform well if you are in a role that you enjoy, said career coach Alice Stapleton. She said that for her clients, this can sometimes involve a complete career change. She’s helped a veterinary nurse become a baker, a lawyer retrain as an environmental consultant, and a creative consultant move into high-end floristry. 

“It’s hard to make a success of a career if you’re sat there thinking that it’s not what you want to do long-term,” she said. “I encourage people to get out there and test the ideas that they have. Experience them in real-life as much as possible with short work experience, brief internships, or talking to people who do what they want to do.”

4. Widen and deepen your skills

One of the least surprising ways to move up at work in 2023 is to deepen your skills, or acquire new ones, which could either help you to move up, or pivot sideways into a better-paid role. Focusing on acquiring skills first will help you to play the long game with promotions, said Alastair Woods, pay and employment partner at PwC. “Linear upward progression was the story a few years ago, but we’re all going to have big baggy careers,” he said. “Focus on skills not the job: money and the job title will come by acquiring the skills.”

Think strategically and seek out skills that others are lacking to get the best shot at promotion, added Woods. Clients regularly complaint to him about the lack of people who combine hard and soft skills. Employers are looking for “people who can combine business savviness with client-facing skills,” he said. 

5. Just ask

There is a very straightforward way to find out how to get promoted — just ask your boss what they are looking for and what skills they want to see, said Stapleton. “Ask what the organization wants to see from you,” she said. “You can’t work on skills gaps if you’re not aware of them.” 

Once you know what’s needed, Stapleton recommends being strategic about making sure you hit those points. “Keep a record of everything that you’re doing that’s beyond the day-to-day where you add value,” she said. When it comes to promotion season, having a log of evidence to show that you’re ready for promotion will be useful. (Corrects spelling of name of PwC partner in the 9th paragraph.)

To contact the authors of this story:
Helen Chandler-Wilde in London at [email protected]
Eamon Akil Farhat in London at [email protected]

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