Amid the daily din of news about a possible economic downturn, U.S. workers are left wondering what to do if a recession hits. What's the best business to be in during a recession? Are some industries safer than others? Experts say there are, in fact, some recession-proof jobs that may be a better bet.
In the wake of the housing crisis, news abounds of a looming recession, with regular reports of financial gloom. It's no wonder workers are fretting over finances and the employment outlook for the coming months, as a recent Hudson Employment Index shows.
Best Businesses During a Recession
Even during boom times no job is fail-safe. But some industries are safer havens than others, experts say, such as healthcare, the federal government, clean technology, information technology, and sales and marketing.
"I think the recession-proof jobs are where people need the goods and services regardless, like healthcare and pharmaceuticals. People are getting older, people are getting frailer, and demographics of the population are aging. Biosciences, physical therapy, occupational therapy-those are jobs that are as recession-proof as they come. They also require specialized skills," says Jon Bender, managing partner with PrincetonOne, a New Jersey-based recruiting firm.
Sales and marketing positions and others supporting them are fairly sturdy, according to Kevin Donlin, author and creator of The Simple Job Search system. Anyone who makes or saves money for a company will be relatively safe, he says. Federal government jobs also may be worth considering.
"Uncle Sam hires approximately 2 percent of America's total workforce and the pay and benefits are outstanding. Few feds lose their jobs during a recession and most downsizing in the federal government is based on attrition, not filling vacant positions, rather than letting people go. I know firsthand; from 1969 through January of 2005, I worked for Uncle Sam and went through a number of recessions and agency reorganizations during that time," says author and retired federal employee Dennis V. Damp.
With baby boomers leaving government jobs, there are many opportunities to land these positions, Damp says, noting the best time to act is before a recession.
Surviving a Recession - What to Do if a Recession Hits
During a recession isn't the best time to take charge of your work life and make drastic decisions, experts agree.
Marc Karasu, a career coach and former vice president of advertising and marketing at Yahoo! HotJobs, says workers should concentrate on their current job and highlight how they've exceeded expectations.
"Self-promotion is a fine thing, and there's nothing wrong with letting your superiors know in a professional and intelligent way that you're adding value. If you can, start demonstrating the value you add to a company through your annual performance review," Karasu says. "Also, meet with your boss and say where you are doing good, where you can improve. Bosses like to see people come to them proactively. The key is to do it today before a recession, so you don't look desperate."
Career expert Les McKeown says it's more difficult to identify recession-proof jobs or industries than it was 15 years ago, so workers trying to build a career must establish their own individual security.
To do that, McKeown says, they must prove that it would cost their employer more to let them go than it would cost to keep them. Ultimately the employee is seen as someone who would flourish no matter where in the company he or she lands. "At the end of the day the only way to make yourself recession-proof is to make your opportunity cost as high as possible. [You want employers to] say, 'We can't let Jane go because we can put her anywhere,'" McKeown explains. "You must have a personal ability to add value. If you can do that, then you're as recession-proof as anyone."
Kristina Cowan is the senior writer for the AOL Salary Center and PayScale.com. She has over 10 years of journalism experience, specializing in education and workforce issues.
Copyright 2008 PayScale, Inc.