Career cushioning is the latest workplace trend which involves creating a backup plan, a safety net, or an alternative option to your current job without actively looking for another job, so you are prepared for potential unemployment due to reasons outside of your control. (Hive, 2022). It can be anything that you do to prepare for your next role, for example, seeking out new skills to make yourself more employable, reaching out to your network to see what jobs are available, and updating your CV. The term was derived from the domain of romantic relationships, where cushioning is a dating strategy where individuals entertain other romantic options while still in a committed relationship, to soften the blow of a possible breakup (Forbes, 2022).

The reason why career cushioning is on the rise is that employees are increasingly concerned about their jobs, Jill Cotton, a career expert at Glassdoor explained. “Faced with a looming recession, discussion around layoffs and being made redundant has soared on Glassdoor. In response to the worsening economic uncertainty, workers are getting jittery, and career cushioning” (Stylist, 2022).

 

What is the best way to start career cushioning?

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel the need to start career cushioning, here are some tips on how to start:

Assess your skills

Take some time to assess your transferable skills, which are skills that you have developed in your current job or past jobs, that can also be used in a new role or industry. By identifying both your hard and soft skills you know what you have to offer, and you can pinpoint any gaps you can work on. You can then focus on upskilling by pursuing online training courses and certifications, etc to ensure you have the skills that are in demand now and in the future.

Stay connected with your network

Networking isn’t something you should start doing when you lose your job and actually need your network, says Leah Lambart, career coach at Relaunch Me. Ideally, your network should be nurtured so that it is established when you need to tap into it. “Staying in touch with past colleagues who have moved onto other roles is a great way of keeping your network warm,” she says. “Likewise, using LinkedIn to stay in touch with people in your industry or potentially using it to build a new network in other areas of interest is a great way of career cushioning” (The Latch).

Refresh your CV and LinkedIn profile

Ensure that your CV and LinkedIn profile reflect your latest work experience and skills so that recruiters will be able to see that you would be a good fit for certain roles. Furthermore, career expert, Charlotte Davies advises that you put relevant skills and keywords from job descriptions that are of interest to you in your profile, as this can further boost your visibility (Stylist, 2022). You should also highlight your soft skills (e.g. creativity and communication) as this will help others understand more about you as a person.

 
The issue with career cushioning

While career cushioning can offer many benefits, there is also the risk that always having other opportunities in mind will make you less satisfied with your current role. This may cause you to have a ‘grass is greener’ mindset, and lead you to lose your motivation for your current job (Hive, 2022). Additionally, it is important that you recognise when career cushioning is turning into a full-on job search that consumes your time and energy – and if you see that transition beginning to happen, you should question why. A desire to get out of your current position suggests that something needs to change. Career expert Charlotte Davies, recommended that you “keep looking for the joy that you felt when you first took the role, and if you can’t find it, perhaps you need to be job hunting rather than career cushioning” (Stylist, 2022).

 

In conclusion, career cushioning can offer many benefits as it provides you with peace of mind during a time of uncertainty, and even if you don’t end up needing that backup plan, taking some time to focus on upskilling and nurturing relationships with your network can be very beneficial for your career progression.