6 simple and easy ways to kickstart your career during an economic downturn

A woman is looking off into the distance in an urban location.

Starting a career is never easy, and it can be tougher as the economic outlook doesn’t look terribly promising.

Now that the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, it seems certain that a full-blown recession will hit both the United States and the United Kingdom. So, how does one start a career during an economic downturn?

We’ve gone ahead and put together a list of tips and suggestions for all those entering the workplace as these “uncertain times” continue to drag on.


Write a strong CV and cover letter

A woman wearing a mask is working on her cv.
Creating an engaging CV and cover letter is the first step in standing out in the talent pool. (Getty Images)

Looking for work during an economic downturn means the job market is tight – more candidates are competing for the same job. There is no better way to stand out in the candidate pool than a strong cover letter and CV. 

A strong CV will highlight your past work experience, achievements and skills. For those creating CVs fresh out of university, it’s a good idea to include clubs and groups you were involved in. For example, if you were involved with your uni’s LGBTQ+ club, feel free to speak about it as it is also an easy way to be ‘out’ in your CV, but only if you are comfortable with it.

When it comes to listing skills, technical skills are great but don’t forget to include soft skills. Including soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability shows hiring managers that you know how to do the work and that you are enthusiastic and easy to work with.

A cover letter is an added support that should be sent along with your CV. It will show potential employers your interest and you can use it as a personal way to highlight your skills. When creating a cover letter, consider these tips:

  • Personalise it! For many in-house recruiters, the ‘To Whom it May Concern” introduction can be a bit off-putting. Many employers will name the hiring manager in the job advert, and thanks to LinkedIn, it’s easier than ever to find out who will be reading your cover letter and CV.
  • Scan the job advert for some particular details for the job, including the skill set needed, and mention those terms in the cover letter.

It’s important to note how AI and ChatGPT have impacted the CV writing process. Currently, there is no one singular platform or software that can accurately detect if something was written entirely by AI. If you wish to use AI to assist in your CV or cover letter, make sure to give it all the information you want displayed otherwise you run the risk of the results being inaccurate or ChatGPT telling little white lies about yourself.


Involve yourself with professional and personal networks

A women is in the center at networking event.
Developing a professional network can help establish yourself in your new career field. (Getty Images)

There is no better way to inspire yourself in your chosen industry than by involving yourself with professional networks. Every industry has a variety of professional networks at local, national and even global levels. 

Social media is a great place to research and join industry-specific networks. Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit and Twitter can serve as a way to show interest in your field and get you noticed by people already in the industry. LinkedIn offers a great option of displaying that you’re ‘open to work’ right in your profile. 

Also, consider attending physical meet-ups and gatherings as well – it’s a great way to meet other peers and potential bosses. For the LGBTQ+ community, there are many industry-specific groups where like-minded people can connect and network around the industry they love. 

The term ‘nepotism’ is being tossed around a lot lately, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you have a family friend or favourite professor in your industry, don’t be afraid to tap them for job leads and other people to connect with. As your career progresses, you’ll notice that many new opportunities come from word of mouth. Keep that in mind and remember to pay it forward!


Find a mentor

Two people are having a discussion.
Finding a mentor that can guide you along your career journey can be a great benefit. (Getty Images)

Cultivating a relationship with a mentor who can lend insight and help guide you along the workplace is a great way to kickstart your career. Ed Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of online mentoring platform PushFar knows just how important mentors can be during this current economic downturn, especially for the LGBTQ+ community.

He explained: “Mentoring can help in many ways, by finding someone who can help you to develop, progress and grow your career, as well as having someone who can share their own mistakes and learnings with you, to save you from making the same ones!

“But the biggest factor is confidence building. Within the LGBT+ community, a lot of what we lack is confidence to be ourselves, and this can impact our confidence when putting ourselves forward within our careers.”


Consider freelance and temporary opportunities

A man is on a video colleague with colleagues.
Taking on freelance work is a great way to build up experience. (Getty Images)

If you’ve been searching for full-time roles – sending out dozens of emails and have yet to get that offer – consider taking up freelance or a temporary opportunity. Both options will give you some on-the-job training and experience which you can then talk about in your CV and cover letter. This will help you stand out from the crowd, especially if you are seeking an entry-level role.

A temporary role will generally be on a short-term contract basis, but it’s a great way to experience life in your chosen industry and build up your network, which could potentially lead to a full-time role in the future.

Approaching freelance work is a bit more daunting but can be just as beneficial as a temp gig. Working as a freelancer can be a great way to build up your portfolio while earning some decent money. You could discover that you really enjoy the ‘hustle’ of the freelance world and eventually start your own business.


Start upskilling right away

A woman is smiling and taking notes.
Continuing to learn post qualifications shows employers how adaptable you are. (Getty Images)

It’s never too early to continue to learn new skills. The world of work evolves rapidly, especially when it comes to technology, and being up to date with all the trends makes you more attractive to hiring managers and recruiters. 

There are plenty of ways to continue to learn without needing to take on a second student loan. Online learning platforms like Udemy, Skillshare and Linkedin Learning offer courses to beef up your knowledge at minimal costs. If you’re looking for free learning there are thousands of YouTube tutorials, newsletters, blogs and podcasts in every industry where you can easily gain insight and learn new skills.


Don’t get discouraged

A woman is smiling into the camera.
While there is an economic downturn, the job market is still favourable. (Getty Images)

The idea of starting a career during an economic downturn can be daunting, but don’t let it get you down. While the headlines in the mainstream media constantly talk about economic uncertainty, the job market in the UK is still promising for those looking for their first role. 

Terry Payne, Global Managing Director of APSCo Inclusive+ accredited recruiter, Aspire, believes this to be true. “There are more job opportunities in the UK than ever. Businesses are suffering from skills shortages – whether from Brexit or as they look to accelerate growth following the pandemic – which means there’s a huge demand for workers. This can only be a good thing for anyone gearing up to enter the world of work.”

And even if we enter a full-blown recession, Payne doesn’t think that will tarnish the dreams of the Gen Z workforce: “If past recessions have taught us anything it’s that downturns can also be a catalyst for entrepreneurism and innovation. A big trend emerging is the rise of the side hustle – driven by people exploring ways to boost their income amid the rising cost of living.”

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