THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Four tips: How to recession-proof your career

I recently wrote about recession-proofing your life. Well, it's time again. You don't need to be an economist to know that if people are talking about recessions, you should do some thinking about what you would do if one occurs.  

With unemployment on the rise and consumer confidence plummetting, here are four ways to prepare for a souring job market:  

1. Specialize

People think that if there are fewer jobs, a wide range of skills makes someone more employable. But that's not the case. In a tight job market, employers can hold out for the perfect fit. And if you're not clearly defined as a specialist, then you're not going to be a perfect fit for anything.  

Researchers have found that you get the most benefits from specializing after you have three to five years of experience under your belt. So don't specialize too early– because you won't have learned enough about what you want. But if you have a few years of experience, and you see layoffs looming, try to get on some focused, short-term projects that will allow you to market yourself as a specialist in something when you have to get your next job.  

  2. Do something great– right now

Most people have been participants in the last decade of manic job hopping– which means most people have followed a pattern of performing well at a company, writing those achievements on their resume, and then making the next hop. This works in a job market where you can control when you leave.  

But if you get laid off before you accomplish something significant, you'll end up with a dark spot on your resume– a place where you didn't do anything particularly notable.  

So do something now, fast, that you will be able to quantify as an achievement on your resume– as in completed X project in X percent less time than anticipated, or saved X dollars by working twice as fast as normal.  

3. Consider graduate school

There's a reason why so many Generation Xers went to graduate school: There were few jobs in the early '90s. In a down job market, grad school is a way to enhance your skills when there are no available jobs that will do that.

  One of the most popular choices is law school because a law firm provides a clear path (and an A in organic chemistry is not a pre-requisite). I have never been a fan of law school as a fall-back plan, because 44 percent of practicing lawyers recommend that you do not go into the field.  

That said, law firms have become much more accepting of peoples' personal lives since the last recession. Many law firms have retooled how they operate to give people more time to have a life outside work, and they have changed their policies to accommodate different stages of life.  

Grad school is a treacherous route, though: be careful about spending money for a degree with no career path to follow it. But also, be careful of investing in a career path you wouldn't want to follow.  

4. Focus on the quality of work and quality of mentoring

The hardest thing to do in a bad job market is to keep your learning curve high. If the market goes sour, instead of focusing on the perfect industry or the perfect company, focus on developing new skills. And then refocus your career into a more suitable industry or location when the job market gets better.

By cultivating a great mentor in your current job, you can make your job a spot where you can wait out an economic slump should one come. So instead of focusing on the negative predictions of economic doom, focus on the positive conversations that build a solid mentoring relationship, and you'll weather the storm better because you won't weather it alone.