How to survive a recession: Six tips for Gen Z and those who haven’t faced one before

I graduated in the midst of the 2009 recession, and I remember how challenging it was to find a full-time job. With my networking skills, I was able to land a full-time role in the hospitality industry. Although I didn’t have much invested in the stock market in my early 20s, I still anxiously wondered if and when my portfolio would rebound. Plus, with so many layoffs happening around me, I felt I needed to work even harder to keep my new job. 

Here’s what I learned living through that recession. I hope these lessons help you prepare and protect yourself to weather the storm ahead.

1. Contribute to your rainy day fund

Unexpected events can happen anytime: Your car breaks down. An appliance needs replacing. Medical expenses pile up. More commonly, you get laid off by your employer. All of these unpleasant surprises have happened to me. In those instances, having an emergency savings fund helped me cover the necessary expenses. I’m thankful I had extra savings set aside for precisely this purpose.

The general guideline is to have an emergency fund that can cover expenses for three to six months. Save more money if you can, especially if you are facing uncertainty about your future. It’s best to put your money into a savings account that you can easily access. If putting aside that much sounds too intimidating, start off with small and regular contributions, and then work your way up to saving more.

Video: Why open a high-interest savings account?

2. Update your resume

An economic downturn typically means a slowdown for businesses and, eventually, layoffs for employees. Last year, we witnessed massive layoffs in the tech industry. Major companies including Amazon, Facebook and Shopify reduced their staff and provided severance packages. 

If you work in an industry that may be affected by a recession, take this opportunity to review your resume. Add in recent accomplishments from your annual performance review or new courses you’ve completed. You might even consider using your polished resume to find a new recession-proof job.

With a tight job market in Canada and low unemployment rates, you can use “career cushioning” to land your next job. This fancy new buzzword refers to lining up your next job while holding onto your current one. Assess your current skills against those that are in demand for your industry, and keep your network (from your past and current work experience) alive.

If you’re looking for your first job out of post-secondary school, highlight the student organizations you’ve participated in, volunteer work you’ve done and internships or co-op placements you’ve completed. This will make your resume stand out from your graduating class.


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