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What is career cushioning and how it can protect you from potential layoffs?


In the current economic climate, “career cushioning” is a trend that is seeing rapid growth in popularity. In fact, according to Google trends, search terms around career cushioning have increased by 5000% in the last 12 months.

Brad Goodwin, Content Lead at Lensa, explains what this means: “Career cushioning is a way to protect yourself if you are laid off. Instead of simply looking for a new job, employees who “career cushion” are searching for a backup plan without intending to leave their current role.” Goodwin continues: “Just like having some money put aside in case you have to go without a salary for some time, career cushioning works to ensure that you don’t spend too long looking for the next job that pays your bills.”

Lensa reveal their expert tips for career cushioning

1. Networking is still key – and it does not have to be hard

“If you are personally acquainted with the company, there is a higher chance that you will be hired quickly, bypassing some initial stages of the hiring process, thus not letting your rainy day fund run dry,” says Goodwin. Some people find the idea of networking very stressful as they think about how they feel uncomfortable about going to events and trying to strike up a conversation with strangers or messaging people they don’t know on LinkedIn.

However, many tend to forget that networking is a much broader concept and that strengthening your network is not only about making new connections, but also nourishing existing ones. For example, you can reach out to a former colleague or a university friend and suggest a catch-up – it will allow you to see what others in your network are up to and help you strengthen your relationships with them.

In tough times [we] rely on communities, and job search is no different. Remember that networking is not about reaching out to someone once to ask for a job, but rather, it is about being aware of those in your professional circles and maintaining contact with them.

2. Keep an eye out for changes in the industry 

When the economy takes unexpected turns, the market has to adjust, which can create new occurrences in the landscape of the industry, which can turn into opportunities. “You want to make sure that you stay on top of things and follow all the emerging trends in your industry so that you are ready to take advantage of them should you need to look for a new job,” says Goodwin. Perhaps your skills could be used in ways or jobs you hadn’t considered before.

3. Go the extra mile

Think about how to position yourself well in the current job market, especially since other candidates across the country will be doing the same thing you are doing – looking and applying for jobs while those jobs become more scarce.

Instead of just looking at new jobs, consider improving your skills to make you a stronger candidate is one of the things you can do to cushion your career. Does the company you work in right now offer training opportunities? Now is the time to start taking advantage of them. And soft skills should not be overlooked – over 80% of hiring managers report placing great importance on candidates’ soft skills.

4. Take it one step further

If you have a passion project or work-related interests outside of your current job, you might want to consider turning them into a side hustle. Having a project that contributes to your income can give you a sense of security in times of uncertainty while also providing extra value to your resume.

What are the risks or disadvantages of career cushioning?

“While this practice can be helpful in the current economy, it should be exercised with caution.” say experts at Lensa. “Career cushioning is meant to provide a ‘plan B’ as opposed to replacing your current role. It is important that your search for other options does not take away from your current role, and that you do not lose sight of its responsibilities.” Goodwin continues. After all, stability is what one seeks in times like these, and retaining your current position is what will get you closer to that goal.

Be mindful of your mental wellbeing – career cushioning is supposed to be a way to make you feel more secure, not worse, so do not let yourself stress about it. If you do not see many jobs that are relevant to you listed this week, try again next week and then take it from there.


Our print magazine’s careers columnist Adam Fidler talks about taking ownership of your career goals.