They finally said it – the “R” word. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research the U.S. has been in recession since December of 2007.
It’s a bit anti-climactic, seeing as we’ve been hearing about the financial crisis from every major media source for months. But stock indexes continue to slide and the unemployment numbers are getting worse.
So in this age of uncertainty how should someone react who simply wants to collect a few greenbacks in exchange for their brilliant programming acumen?
You could hide under your imitation Aeron and hope no one notices, or you could start pursuing ways to recession-proof your career.
1. Volunteer to Lead a Big Project
The opportunity to lead a project may not be available to everyone, but if you have serious concerns about losing your job it’s a sure-fire way to make yourself almost irreplaceable.
No manager in their right mind would fire the technical lead of a big software project. And if your manage isn’t in their right mind, it’s probably time to find another job.
2. Show Up Early, Leave Late
I’ve talked about how crunch time should be the exception in software projects. But desperate times may call for some extra hours.
I know, I know…it sounds like you’re giving in to “the man,” but let’s be honest: your company has more to worry about right now than keeping you happy. Realize it’s only temporary, and a better way to spend your time than looking for a new job.
If you were a manager forced to layoff 10% of your team, who would you let go?
The average U.S. recession lasts 10 months and we’re supposedly 12 months into our current situation. If you were laid off next week how long do you think it would take you to find a job? A month? 2 months? 4 months?
How much would an extra $1000 or $2000 per month help during that time?
MicroISVs are a fantastic way to create recurring income that weathers tough economic times, especially if you have a niche product and you’re ruthless about automating everything.
I recently wrote about the challenges of launching a microISV, but I’ll be talking more about how to get past these difficulties in a future post.
If you have the chance think about taking on side work.
Right now companies are cutting costs and letting go of their $125/hour development shop. A lot of contract work is out there looking for mid- to low-cost providers. Keep your feelers out for contract work.
While moonlighting is not a sustainable option, if you start during a recession you’ll find that one of three things will happen:
- You’ll get so much work you’ll be able to quit your job and consult full time. Lucky you.
- You’ll make some money and won’t get laid off. When the recession is over you can buy an iPhone, a Kindle, and go to Cancun.
- You’ll make some money and get laid off and be really glad you have the extra cash.
5. Become a Popular Blogger, Author, Speaker, Podcaster, etc…
In good times and bad, being a superstar is a good way to keep your job.
It’s hard to fire a developer with 10,000 podcast listeners, not because she might say bad things about the company, but because co-workers look up to her as an alpha-geek. Fire her and morale will take a big hit.
6. Become a Trainer
It’s generally accepted that recessions boost college enrollment. But companies that perform technical training also see a jump as laid off workers go back to the classroom to update their skills.
Back in 2001 I worked with a consultant who was a developer when times were really good, and a trainer when times were really bad. He did a little of both during the rest of the time to keep himself interested, and maintain his skills in both arenas.
If you have the gift of teaching, now is a great time to pursue it.
7. Write Technical Articles
Not only do technical articles help with your alpha-geek status (see #5), but you can make a little coin along the way.
Surprisingly enough, articles for programming magazines can bring in several hundred to a thousand dollars each, depending on length.
8. Work for a “Recession-Proof” Company
Granted, no company is completely recession-proof, but sectors like health care, pharmaceuticals, defense, government, and consumer staples do well in good or bad times.
Boring programming jobs? Indeed. Stable in a recession? You betcha.
Coinstar, and companies like it, do well during recessions because people start cashing in their unused change.
Walmart, Target and other discount retailers also fare well, since consumers tend to ease back on luxury items and head to the discount stores.