Benefits of career cushioning to future proof your job
Rachel Smith interviews career expert Alex Kingsmill for Seniors Life Insurance.
Forget the Great Resignation and ‘quiet quitting’, the next big thing hitting the work landscape is a trend known as ‘career cushioning’. If you think it sounds like creating a pillow fort that will protect you in times of strife, you’re not far off the mark.
“A lot of things are happening post-COVID and it’s quite fascinating to see what’s going on in the work world,” says careers coach Alex Kingsmill from Upstairs Coaching, who works with a range of clients – many in the 50s age bracket.
“I’ve been having more and more conversations about career cushioning – a trend that I feel might be a response to the looming financial downturn, and the shifting shape of work generally. Lots of things feel a bit uncertain and fragile right now, and people are doing what they can to proactively prepare themselves for any eventualities.”
So what exactly is career cushioning? It’s a proactive way to protect your career, particularly in times of instability – and it’s trending because people are facing shifting work trends and increased financial pressure. In fact, it has been reported that more than half (53%) of Australians are just making ends meet - or worse.
“Career cushioning encourages a sense of security, builds confidence and boosts wellbeing,” Alex explains. There are lots of ways to go about it, but at a holistic level, it comes down to having a strategy in the following areas;
Learn new skills
“Career cushioning is definitely about upskilling or becoming better at the job you’re doing, but having a strategy is key,” says Alex. “You’ll want to define the gaps in your skillset, set clear learning goals each quarter and find easy ways to achieve them, perhaps through seminars, online education, short courses, reading books.” You can also get advice on how to find a job online as a mature candidate.
“Identify people in your networks and beyond, and commit to regular career conversations where you learn and share,” says Alex. “It could also help you tap into the hidden jobs market and build relationships for the long-term, not just when you’re in crisis mode. Finding mentors, peers, coaches and professional groups is important too.”
Manage your messaging
“Consider and shape your professional brand by keeping your LinkedIn updated and using the right keywords so you’re found in searches,” says Alex. “The message you’re putting out there needs to be consistent.”
“Double down on caring for your own physical and mental health – it’s near impossible to shape a career and keep it buoyed if you’re not feeling your most robust self,” says Alex. “And, the more confident and able you are to speak to your skills and abilities, and the more robust you feel mentally, will mean you can respond to any eventuality with a strong mindset.”
Jobseeking trends of 2023
Originally a dating term referring to ‘handcuffing’ yourself to a not-so-great partner to see you through the antisocial winter months, the term ‘cuffing’ has made it into the corporate world. “It refers to finding a job that’s not ideal, but it ticks enough boxes and it’s something you can stick out until things get better,” says Alex.
Having a focus on an upward career trajectory is definitely shifting, Alex explains. “I’m seeing people who say, ‘I don’t want the next job up; there’s too much stress – I’ll move sideways or even down, or I’ll change industries altogether.’ I see a lot of people who are bone-deep exhausted right now and that’s reflected in the choices they’re making.”
Many employers spooked by the potential downturn could start to change how they hire or plug the gaps in their teams, says Alex. “I predict employers on tight budgets may start to look for contractors or freelancers for short-term, casual work so they’re not tied to full-time workers and they can protect their bottom line.”
The four-day week
A wave of pilot programs is launching in Australia to test out the four-day work week, but it’s been happening for a while, says Alex. “It’s a strategy being trialled in lots of organisations and I think post-pandemic there is this expectation and craving for more flexibility – it’ll be interesting to see where it ends up landing.” It’s always good to keep your mind open. Find out how the job hunt has evolved for seniors.
23 Aug 2023