The Emerald Resource Group Blog

News, advice, and insights for job seekers and employers.


How to position yourself when a recession is looming as a network engineer / system administrator

Note: We do not get any form of payment if you choose to buy any books or courses recommended below. Our recommendations are purely based on what we believe to help network professionals secure and grow their careers.

Recessions are difficult to predict and oftentimes start before most people realize they are coming. Network professionals are generally recession resistant as client’s always need their network up and running smoothly. However, when cuts need to be made there are ways to best position yourself for a soft landing.

In my 30 years of IT Recruiting experience, I have noticed some solid steps one can take to reduce the chance of losing your job.

1. Be flexible

During a recession and a pandemic, there is a lot of uncertainty going around. Don’t get caught up in the negativity and water cooler conversations. No one can be quite certain what even next week will look like. It is important to be flexible at this time. Some ways you can do this are asking for extra work or making it known that you are willing to consider relocating to a new division, office, or city. By asking for additional work, you show to your supervisor that you can handle stress and that you are a “go getter”. Make extra sure you are doing quality work to show your value to the company. Additionally, by making it known that you are open to considering relocation, you demonstrate that you can adapt to changing times and can take on the potential challenges to come in a recession and ongoing pandemic. Certainly, most people would prefer not to uproot themselves and their families, but in uncertain times it’s best to remain flexible.  

2. Develop complementary skills to your position

In most recessions, positions are combined in order to achieve a reduction in headcount. Consider training yourself in peripheral areas related to your position so that you can be more versatile. So when the amount of work to go around decreases because of lost business, you have the skills necessary to pick up additional responsibilities. For example, it’s not uncommon in recessions for specialized tasks such as security, telecom, and storage to be combined into one role. You might consider learning some of the tangential skills before reductions in staff start. Learning skills that complement what you are already doing in your current role adds more bang for the company’s buck by keeping you on.

3. Position yourself on a well funded and high profile project

There’s always one to two mission critical projects that have to get done regardless of where the economic cycle is. In addition to developing a complementary skill set, I recommend positioning yourself on a well funded and high profile project that has a very low probability of getting cut. Easier said than done, but if you leverage your skills, experience, and relationships you’ve been building, you will be in a much better position than others.

4. Relationships matter

Now might be a good time to take your supervisor or boss out to lunch. As the saying goes, relationships are everything. If you have a genuine relationship with your superior coupled with outstanding work, it is going to be hard for them to pick you to be laid off when the time comes to make cuts. 

Oftentimes it is the business personal and executives that are making decisions related to head cut. It is important to develop and maintain genuine relationships with them as well not just the IT department. 

5. Join networking groups related to your position

Find networking groups related to your position. LinkedIn is a great way to discover groups in your area. Another great site to use is meetup. Meetup allows you to join networking events based on your job title and your location. By becoming involved in these, you are making friends with people that might have an opening in their company. These groups are also useful for learning more about your market and what the overall landscape looks like for your profession such as which companies are making cuts, what technologies are in the most demand, etc.. All this information can help you have a more targeted and effective job search.

6. Update your resume and LinkedIn

In the best or worst of times, you should always have an updated resume. You want to be able to act swiftly when opportunity knocks. Make sure to include achievement and what the benefit was to your company. Provide enough detailed information to give hiring managers and recruiters a detailed summary of what technologies you implemented and what was the overall effect on the business. A rule of thumb on the number of pages a resume should be.  Less than 5 years of industry experience should be kept to 1 page, 5-15 years of experience try to keep the resume to 2 pages, and 15 year or more of experience should be about 3 pages long. By having both your resume and LinkedIn profile updated you put yourself in a great position to quickly act on opportunities that come your way whether it is through a friend, a past colleague, within your own company, or a recruiter.

7. Update recruiters you have worked with in the past

Even in these turbulent times, there are many companies hiring. Keep in contact with the recruiter you have worked with in the past. Recruiters are in the market 24/7 and can give you an realistic outlook on landing a job should something happen at your current company. By doing this you will stay top of mind with the recruiter so that when they get a position that fits your criteria and experience you are the first one they call. Here at Emerald Resource Group, we welcome exploratory conversations with IT professionals. If you are questioning things that are happening at your company and you want to get ahead of the curve, feel free to reach out for a quick exploratory conversation! It’s always less stressful knowing all the facts about the market.

Something to consider…

Company’s use recruiters when the position is critical to their organization. If a company engages a search firm to help them find an important hire, they are committing to both the person’s salary for the position and the recruiter’s fee. A study in the Wall Street Journal showed, over the past 20 years, that candidates finding their positions through a search firm are two times less likely to be downsized even when others with a similar background have been with the company longer.

We have found this to be true as well. The network professionals that we have helped over the years have a much longer tenure with their organization and were more likely to be kept during a reduction in staff.   

But the longer you’re at a company the safer your job is right? In my experience this isn’t necessarily true. Why is that?

Most companies don’t want to furlough or lay off a talented skill set that they have just made a big investment in and was difficult to find in the first place. Also, oftentimes the reason why they use a search firm to bring on great talent is that they could not find it on their own. 

If you’re interested in learning more about network engineering opportunities that are recession resistance, please reach out to me!