Ep. 225 Should you be career cushioning?

career cushioning

In this week’s episode, Anna looks at the concept of career cushioning.

Are you ready to take control of your career? In this week’s episode, Anna looks at the topic of career cushioning – what it is and why you should be doing it. Learn how to prepare for unexpected job changes and create a safety net for yourself.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

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Hello, hello, welcome back. Now last week we talked about knowing when to quit your job, a business or even a project. And so we talked about the seven signs, when it might be time to quit, as well as asking lots of questions to prompt you to reflect on whether it’s the right moment now and of course, there is no right time there is no right answer. But I hope that was a useful episode. For those of you who’ve been reflecting, pondering this very question. I still have my chesty cough, so apologies even just pause the recording there. Hopefully you didn’t notice to do a bit of a cough. But today I want to talk about career cushioning. Another one of those phrases, I feel like the last year or so has been very interesting in terms of jargon, in terms of the great resignation, great reflection, quiet quitting all these terms, perhaps it’s always been like that. And these things have certainly existed. It’s just that people are better at coming up with terms now.

Career cushioning, I jumped on right away and not so ethically it comes from apparently from the dating world, thankfully, not something I need to be dealing with right now. Although the apps and so on, were certainly part of my experience some years ago. But the idea of having sort of a backup plan, if your current relationship with a current I suppose the current person you’re dating doesn’t work out, then you’re kind of keeping your options open. I don’t like that for the dating world. However, in work, I absolutely stand by and I don’t just think it’s an okay thing to do, I think it is the right thing that you should all do, we should all do. It’s really sort of safeguarding your career, right. It’s just like keeping your options open to cushion the landing. That’s where it comes from. It’s having a plan be super pragmatic.

And of course, in times of economic uncertainty, with redundancies with the higher cost of living and so on, it certainly feels important to have that plan B in place.

But let’s be honest, it’s always good to have a plan B, for your career, not for your relationship, but for your career. Well, there having said that, a little aside in your relationship, I certainly think you shouldn’t rely solely on that one relationship, right. So still having friends and family and interests and so on. That doesn’t mean that you have a backup line of suitors. But it certainly means that you’re still being an individual and nurturing your network and relationships and so on. But anyway, we’re not talking relationships, although there are often very many parallels with relationships and careers, and so on, I find so in your career, keeping your options open, being open to other opportunities, making sure that you’re ready to hit the ground running, if and when needed. And that could usually be if you’re made redundant, but it could also be if you get into a situation where, you know, those things that we talked about last week that you suddenly feel like actually, I’m really close to burnout, this is not okay anymore, I’m you know, working for very little reward, your values are misaligned, whatever the reason is that you suddenly don’t want to stay where you are, or can’t stay, for practical reasons, emotional reasons, whatever, then actually having that plan B is really, really powerful.

So hopefully, you agree that it’s a valuable thing to do. And perhaps before I go into how to do it, I would just say, I suppose, I don’t know, why would you not do it is the question that I’m pondering now spontaneously? And I think the reasonable answer for why you don’t do it is that you feel safe in your job in your current path, you obviously don’t have time and energy, because you’re busy doing a full time job working in your business, managing a family, everything else, right adulting, which turns out to be very time consuming, as I’ve discovered in the last 40 years of my life, and not 40 I suppose 20 years of adulting.

So, you know, not having the time and energy makes sense. You’re fully focused and dedicated and motivated and loyal to your employer, which is very, you know, admirable, but I hate to say it, your employer is not loyal to you. Let’s be honest, this nameless corporate entity. And, you know, it’s it’s very nice that we’re loyal. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t be supportive of our colleagues in particular, the people you work with, and care for our people care for ourselves care for our immediate people who work with and so on in the organization, but as a company, as an employer, they care about the bottom line, and they may have to make decisions, you know, might be a merger and acquisition acquisition.

There might be an economic situation where redundancies unnecessary and so on restructuring, you just don’t know.

And so, you know, what you don’t want to do is be in that situation where you suddenly face that, oh, by the way, your role doesn’t exist anymore. And you say, but but but, you know, I’ve given my life to this company. And they say, yeah, thanks so much. Bye. So hopefully, that’s less than less the case now because we’re more and more used to, if not job hopping, at least the idea that we’ll have several jobs roles, careers over a lifespan, certainly younger generations are going to take that as a given. So oldies need to get used to it as well right now So that’s I guess the reason if we’re, if we’re feeling very loyal, we don’t have time or energy. The other one is obviously that I imagine and I get this sometimes from people who are considering setting up a side hustle or even building a business that that will become a full time income, ideally, is that they’re concerned about what people will think, and we’ll talk about this in the moment.

But, you know, I strongly believe that, first of all, you are in the right as it were, you should be allowed to do these things, a modern employer should allow you even to have a side hustle something as long as it doesn’t take away from your focus and your, you know, your how you’re doing a job and so on, you absolutely should be allowed to network to build your personal brand to get to know write books to have a little side hustle if you’d like to. So that’s that certainly should be allowed, as it were. But secondly, there are also ways in which you can do it in in not a secretive way, but certainly in a very above board. But subtle way, let’s say, you don’t have to be you don’t have to be ringing the bell dancing and shouting about saying, Hey, this is what I’m doing. You know, there are there are very professional, reasonable ways of building that career cushion as a way. So that’s, that’s my best, best attempt at justifying why you wouldn’t do this.

So hopefully, that’s not very, not very convincing. And you’re agreeing with me that career cushioning is something we should all be doing. So how do you do it? I mean, the issue of not having enough time, I think that’s a topic that I’ve covered before. And it’s something we can look at as well, that’s sort of a different topic in itself. What is interesting is I find, you know, you make time for what’s important. So if you identify this as a priority, then first of all, you will find the time. And secondly, actually, having something like this to focus on having a bit of a purpose, having something new can give you more energy, ironically, rather than less, and so that really, actually can spark renewed interest in your job and give you even more energy for what you’re already doing. So that’s, that’s an interesting side effect. So I want to first cluster some basics of the things the bare minimum that you should be doing. And then there’s sort of a level two, if you do want to go a bit further. So this is you know, your in your job, or even in a business, you know, you’re happy there, you don’t see any immediate need or desire to leave, you don’t think necessarily you’re at risk, but you do want to have that plan B and that option.

So the first thing is, and it sounds so basic for me in my world, but I know some people don’t do it, the first thing is to maintain your LinkedIn profile, right, at minimum, keep it up to date, with your roles.

You know, give some meat to the bones, putting your key responsibilities and your most recent roles, in particular headline, headline should not be, you know, funky title that nobody else understands at this company. It really should be who you are as an expert. I have articles on this. So So ping me a message on Instagram, LinkedIn, wherever we’re connected. And I can share more in this. But your Your title should be something meaningful to people externally. And it shouldn’t be tying you by all means, say that you work at x massive company, that’s great. But it shouldn’t just be a job title that again, doesn’t mean anything to other people. And that limits you to just that current role. Because especially if you’ve been in a career, 20 years that he is 40 years, you know, you have expertise and experience beyond that current role that you happen to have right now. And it might not 100% reflect the kind of work that you’re doing and your expertise. So the title should be something that’s meaningful, and elevates you to the expert that you are above and beyond the role you’re doing now. And please don’t make your summary.

First of all, don’t leave your summary your about section empty. But certainly don’t just copy paste some text from the website of your company. I mean, if it’s your own company, then I’ll give you permission. But please don’t hide behind the big corporate entity. Your summary section, your about section is about you again, your expertise, your skills, and so on. So these are basics, you know, professional photo title that’s meaningful, that positions you as an expert, and then the about section that, you know, again, is a topic for another conversation, I’m pretty sure I have an episode on that, and I can send something to you. But it should be meaningful, it should be about you. And sometimes you know a little bit of personal interest in there as well to give you some personality and to give people something to connect with. But certainly the bare minimum is to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Maintain your profile. Secondly, maintain your professional network. So that means while we’re on LinkedIn, connecting with people, you know now and then checking in a few times a week commenting on other people’s shares, you know, sharing articles that are relevant so you’re in in people’s feeds and therefore in people’s minds as somebody who operates in this particular industry.

So we’re talking about your current industry, right because you have no plans to leave. So we’re not going to try to position you in a different industry, but connecting with people on LinkedIn and commenting, sharing, and so on. And then also, by all means in person, going for coffees, having some calls with people checking in with those people, you know, friends, colleagues, who are important to know, you know, in a nice way, again, it sounds very manipulative and Machiavellian, but it’s just staying on top of your network, offering to help them just as much as you know, in the future, you might want to ask them for help, and just, you know, stay on the pulse as it were. So maintain your profile, maintain your professional network, and maintain and upgrade your skill set, you really have to stay relevant and competitive, don’t rely on your employer to give you certain trainings. And in particular, if you’re sort of at the top of your game and your business, maybe there’s no more trainings to do, you know, you’ve done all the low hanging fruit as a where you’ve done all the basic training programs they have, you know, if there is an option for them to pay for you to do something to have high level coaching to do it doesn’t have to be a formal training, like an MBA or something, but really thinking about what what softer skills and particular leadership skills, areas like building inclusive teams, and inspiring leadership, communication, whatever it is these things, and we’ll have an episode on this in a few weeks time, making sure that you’re not going to become obsolete in the future, you know, you’re staying competitive, you’re on top of these growing important skills, and also keeping things interesting for you. Right, so upskilling.

And then finally, this in terms of this basic piece of career christening, keep your eyes open for opportunities, it’s not to say that you’re going around saying, hey, you know, I’m looking for a Plan B, let me know if there are jobs available, because that doesn’t really work. But certainly keep your eyes open, maybe your dream job, if that exists comes along, or dream opportunity. And then you could jump on, if you wanted to certainly be open, have those conversations with people, in my experience, you know, you can have 10 conversations and only one will actually materialize. So at the early stage, certainly you’re not committing to anything, you’re just sort of listening, hearing what’s out there. And, and sometimes actually, career cushioning can mean, I think, and I’m freestyling here, being proactive, and jumping ship before you’re pushed, right. So if that amazing role came along, that you would never have imagined existed. That’s the only reason why you’d ever quit your current role. If that comes along, then you have to have your eyes open, and be aware that it’s there, right, and you need to be positioned for that opportunity. So if you’ve maintained your profile, your network, your skills, then you’re in a really good position to grab that opportunity as and when it comes.

Obviously, the moment when you desperately need that job is the moment when it’s really too late and not to be too negative, because obvious course it’s not too late, of course, you can still find something but it’ll take longer. So that’s the basics. And then if you want to get the gold star, if you want to do level two, career cushioning, then I have two suggestions for you. And it won’t come as as much of a surprise, I think if you know me, so great content, beyond maintaining your basic profile and commenting on other people and so on, you know, building your personal brand. And I say this again and again, is something that’s important. In your job, as an employee, as an expert, as much as it is, as an entrepreneur, as a as an independent worker doesn’t have a sexy does it.

So it’s actually valuable to you. And I would argue to your employer, to be positioned as an expert, maybe to go on podcast to speak to be on a panel, certainly to write thought leadership, dare I say it in your area, you know, that really positions you as an expert and can have a positive effect on your current role and opportunities, and it really reflects well on your company, you may need to check the policy. And unfortunately, I guess some employers are a bit conservative here. Or you may just need to be clear that these are my own opinions, not those of my employer, whatever it takes to be sort of operating within your contract and so on. But certainly maintaining building that personal brand is so invaluable.

Whether you want to in the future, build your own expertise consultancy, go independent or look for another job.

And even as I said in your current job, it’s so valuable for you. It brings lots of interesting opportunities, keeps you relevant at the top of your game and also I believe reflects positively on your employer as well. So creating content and building that personal brand and then even again, not a surprise, maybe even having a bit of a side hustle a bit of a secondary income stream in terms of consulting you know, selling your expertise training speaking right thing that could be on the same topic as within your work, of course, you have to look at non compete clauses and making sure there’s not a conflict of interest. And so and again, I’m not a legal expert, but checking your contract and making sure that’s all okay. It can’t then detract from your current job, you still need to be delivering results, and so on. But actually having a few opportunities to speak, to consult, maybe to write something would be super interesting for you, and would help you dip your toes into what it could be like working for yourself in the future. And again, we’ll open you up to new opportunities and connections and people and so on for for future, you know, when the need arises, or when there might be interesting things happening, and you’ll be there, having those conversations with people. So career cushioning, I hope you agree, it might sound exhausting, if you’re already doing a full time job and everything else, right. But it’s so invaluable. Unfortunately, none of us are immune, as I’ve experienced with a few close people that I know recently, and very surprising redundancies suddenly. And what you don’t want to do is regret and think oh, my gosh, I should have you know, so anything you do now will be better than nothing. And you know, don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Don’t think oh my gosh, I’ve got to now start a whole business that gives me a whole other revenue stream. No, but at least start tentatively tentatively. Updating your LinkedIn, you know, and you can turn on the privacy settings so that people aren’t informed that you’ve changed it if you’re worried about what people will think. Just maintain it. And if anyone asks you that you can just say the truth, oh, my gosh, I just realized that it was like 10 years out of date, I just thought I should update it. You know, connecting with clients and suppliers and whatever. Maintain your LinkedIn profile, maintain your professional network, maintain, upgrade your skills, stay open for those opportunities. And then as a next phase, consider creating content building that personal brand. And maybe even having a bit of an extra income stream coming in. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It’s just enough to give you a little bit of a confidence that you have something else going on. You’re not fully reliant on this one main job as I hope that was interesting. Looking forward to your thoughts on this one in terms of career cushioning. Are you doing it already? Is it something you’re nervous about? Get in touch and and we’ll see if I can help you as well to put a plan in place to build your personal brand, whether you will your departure is imminent, or you’re just you know, you’ve got that little thought in the back of your head to think Oh, I really am not in a good place if that were to happen. So what can I do to position myself more effectively? Thanks so much for listening. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.


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