Tech Leaders: Do These 6 Things to Recession-Proof Your Career
The tech industry is going through some things.
This is expected — and long overdue. Depending on how you measure it, the most recent tech boom lasted 10 or maybe 12 years. The party only stopped when the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates, slamming the brakes on the easy-money era that fueled eye-popping (and in many cases questionable) startup valuations.
But the boom lasted long enough that many midlevel tech managers today — and even some precocious tech executives and founders — have never experienced a true secular downturn. If you’re among them, you’re probably nervous (or worse) about what the near future holds.
Doing these six things won’t turn the industry around, of course. But they’ll put your career on sounder footing until it does.
Build Out (Or Shore Up) Your Digital Directory Presence
Start by making sure you appear in the right places online.
The highest-ROI way to do this is to get listed on free, high-visibility digital directory sites focused on the tech industry.
Crunchbase is probably the best-known of these, along with Angel.co (which has seen significant, not-all-great changes in recent years). Crunchbase is useful and information-dense, its listings are part CV and part value statement for the featured individuals and/or organizations. The Crunchbase page for Steve Streit, founder of Green Dot and early fintech pioneer, is a great example: a detail-rich encapsulation of a three-decade career in a format that takes all of 30 seconds to absorb.
Join the Conversation on LinkedIn (Yes, Really)
LinkedIn features plenty of shouting into the void. Bypass all that by joining relevant LinkedIn groups — the more niche, the better. LinkedIn suggests “open” groups for you to join, but the best are often invite-only, so be prepared to work your contacts and perhaps pull a favor.
Hold Yourself Out As a Thought Leader (Even If You’re Temporarily Out of the Game)
LinkedIn is also an excellent place to publish thought leadership content. Be wary of trying to go the “influencer” route though. Remember, lots of other users are shouting into the void here.
Focus instead on cultivating deep engagement with core connections. These are peers you actually know IRL, not randoms whose connection requests you accepted 10 years ago.
When the time is right, add a follow button to your profile and start building an audience beyond this core group.
Hit the Podcast Circuit, Or Start Your Own
Yes, “start your own podcast when all else fails” is a cliche. But it’s a reasonable and possibly fruitful one. Maybe you don’t have the juice, but you won’t know until you try.
And if not? Trust your expertise to catch the eye of other podcasters, especially newer, under-the-radar ones eager for guests. They need you just as much as you need them, if not more.
Build Out Your Non-LinkedIn Social Presence (Including YouTube)
LinkedIn should not be the only social media property you cultivate a professional presence on, or even the primary one. A strong Twitter game, a respectable Instagram account, and a halfway decent YouTube portfolio are all helpful too.
A word about YouTube, since it’s scary for some: You don’t have to be a god-level video producer or even offer any sort of structure for your viewers. Case in point is this delightful outtake from Google search guru Matt Cutts’ YouTube portfolio, on a relatable subject that has basically nothing to do with his day job. TL;DR: think outside the little red box.
Help Others Help Themselves
Helping yourself feels great. Helping others feels even better — and can help you indirectly.
No matter where you are in your career, you’ve got juniors on your heels, and your support can make all the difference for them. Offer no-strings support, be it structured coaching sessions, informal “always there if you need me” retainers or something in between.
Do this consistently enough and you’ll develop the sort of helpful reputation that gets people noticed in a notoriously fickle industry.
Don’t Let a Downturn Go to Waste
Economic downturns often bring professional downtime. That’s a big disappointment for high-achieving techies — but also an opportunity to position for what comes next.
Whether you’re still working full-time or find yourself between roles, each of these six strategies is a high-ROI investment in your professional future. Knitting them together are two simple themes: contributing to the conversation in the industry you love and adding real value for those around you.