'Career cushioning,' latest workplace trend, has employees trying to protect themselves heading into 2024


The unpredictability of the state of the American workplace continues to be on the minds of employees as the New Year of 2024 beckons.

The response to this instability of job security has created a workplace trend known as “career cushioning.” 

Workers are setting up Plan B initiatives — so that if they should be downsized by their companies, they’re prepared for it.

Here’s more on this emerging trend.

What exactly is career cushioning?

Career cushioning is a strategy in which employees add security to their careers by taking proactive steps like attending networking nights, updating their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and perhaps even applying for jobs.

That’s according to Taylor Queen, HR adviser with Insperity in Orlando, Florida.

“Although ‘career cushioners’ may not want to leave their current position, they decide to get a jumpstart in case their role should change or be eliminated,” he said.

The concept of career cushioning, while not entirely new, has gained momentum lately — it’s been accelerated by the increasing prevalence of remote work and other developments. Shutterstock

Why is this trending? 

Though the labor market is tight, some metrics like the LinkedIn Confidence Index showed that less than half of employees said they were prepared for an economic downturn in October 2022. 

“Even if the economic outlook has improved since then, workers might be motivated by the talk of a recession to career cushion,” noted Queen.

The frequency of career cushioning is also dependent on the industry, as some sectors have become more prone to layoffs, he added.

Why do employees create backup career opportunities?

Those who are worried about their jobs are being proactive, say experts. 

“Being proactive, especially for those in more competitive industries, can lessen the downtime between positions if they are laid off or their position is eliminated,” continued Queen. 

Actions like attending networking events and keeping a fresh resume are always good lifestyle strategies, even for those who feel secure in their roles. 

“Late-career professionals may focus on career cushioning to ensure a smooth transition into retirement or to pursue encore careers, emphasizing stability and financial security,” said one hiring expert. Shutterstock

“If the networking efforts lead to an interview, some may decide to make the career leap prior to any layoff announcements made by their organization,” he said.

Is this trend more prevalent with late-career employees?

Joe Galvin, chief research officer with Vistage in Stamford, Connecticut, told FOX Business that career cushioning can happen at any point in an employee’s career and is not exclusive to a specific age group. 

While it’s challenging to generalize, certain trends and considerations may be observed across age demographics, he said.

The frequency of career cushioning is also dependent on the industry, as some sectors have become more prone to layoffs, said one expert. Shutterstock

“For example, younger professionals may be more inclined to engage in career cushioning as they explore various industries, job roles and skill development opportunities,” said Galvin.

“On the other hand, late-career professionals may also focus on career cushioning to ensure a smooth transition into retirement or to pursue encore careers, emphasizing stability and financial security.”

Is the trend fueled by the end-of-the-year timing?

The concept of career cushioning, while not entirely new, has gained momentum as of late, accelerated by the increasing prevalence of remote work, the widespread use of platforms like LinkedIn, and increased access to professional opportunities, said Galvin. 

“This trend is essentially a response to the evolving nature of employment dynamics,” he noted.

“Individuals are becoming more deliberate in diversifying their skills and networks, recognizing the need to navigate the current professional landscape with agility,” he said. 

“This trend is essentially a response to the evolving nature of employment dynamics,” he noted.

“Individuals are becoming more deliberate in diversifying their skills and networks, recognizing the need to navigate the current professional landscape with agility,” he said. 

In such an environment, workers are finding it necessary to hedge their bets, understanding the importance of self-reliance and the limited expectation of long-term commitment from their employers, Galvin also said. 

“This is particularly evident in industries like tech, where the tendency to over-hire and subsequently over-fire has become a prevalent pattern — reinforcing the importance of individual agency in shaping one’s career trajectory.”



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