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Episode #133

Recession-Proofing Your Academic Career

Have you been cautious and fearful of how the recession everyone seems to be talking about these days is going to affect you? Both personally and in your career, it can be overwhelming to think about and prepare for your life in the midst of an economic recession. How can you build a cocoon around yourself, so that even when the economy’s bad, you feel confident that you’re not going to lose your job (unless you want to?)


Welcome back to the podcast after our summer-long sabbatical! We as a team are rested and excited to return to recording and publishing podcasts this semester. Moving forward, you can expect to hear 1 new coach a month on the podcast. In this episode, we will be discussing how to recession-proof your career both from your perspective and from your university’s perspective. The need for this conversation is so timely, and it is our hope to give you practical tips and encouragement on how to navigate your academic career in the months to come.


Reflections on Sabbatical:

Overall, our team had a lovely, restful sabbatical, starting with a team retreat. But I came away remembering and realizing that the transition into taking time FULLY off is hard. I didn’t necessarily want the sabbatical to be without any work at all, but I wanted it to be without being scheduled. It took several weeks to transition into this way of being, and that’s something I want to be more mindful of when I do my next sabbatical. 

3 Keys to Recession-Proofing Your Career:

1. Dissociate your career decisions from your institution’s tenure and promotion requirements

Instead of making sure you meet your institution’s tenure and promotion requirements, pull apart your career decision-making from your university’s tenure and promotion requirements. If your approach to getting tenure or promotion, starts with the information your institution provides you, you’re starting at the wrong place.

Base your decision-making on what you want for your career, on what your academic mission is, and on what the milestones are that you want to hit. Don’t base your decision-making on tenure and promotion as a milestone alone.

Ask yourself these questions to design your own career:

-What are the milestones you want to achieve or reach across the trajectory of your career?

-What’s the impact that you want to make?

-Who are the people that you want to affect?

-How do you want to feel in your own job?

Focus on yourself, your goals, your values, and your unique contribution. When you do that, that is going to have a much bigger payoff in your career and in your life than trying to check the boxes that your institution might not even have written down on a paper for you.


2. Build a CV that’s aimed at mobility

Universities have this illusion of permanence, but they are not permanent. I know from personal experience that even amazing, tenure track jobs have the ability to change right out from under you. It can also be smart to think about the reality of something changing with or happening to your spouse, and whether you may need or want to move. Many times, we can plan for a 30+ year career, but for one reason or another, the reality changes. Being able to shift and change with it is the goal here.

So, what is a mobile CV? A mobile CV is a CV with publications on it published thoughtfully, not frantically. We discuss this in the Amplify program in depth.

Having a mobile CV means building a career on a solid foundation that you could go be a professor anywhere you want to be.

If this conversation is inspiring to you, write to us at or to inquire about joining this year’s Amplify cohort!


3. Make Career Decisions That Make You Happy

You are not going to last through rough career times if you hate your job.

Take back control of your career and do the career design work in our Amplify program, so that you make the everyday life of being a professor pleasant and joyful.

You don’t want to be suffering through hating your job at the same time that you’re in a recession, because you don’t want to feel stuck out of fear in a job that you hate.

If you don’t learn career design and listen to your inner mentor, you might build your CV and move to another university and have the same problems that you’ve always had, because the change is actually about you. It’s not about the container which you’re doing the work. 

Recession Proofing Your Career From Your University’s Perspective:

Universities are also trying to recession-proof themselves. And what that means for you is that they need to retain you, and you need to be happy. They need to be actors in teaching you and supporting you in how to create the career that you want.

If you burn out as an academic in the midst of a recession, your university is going to lose money by having to replace you because you moved on to somewhere else. They don’t want to have to do this. They’re going to lose way more money if they don’t retain you than the cost of the programs that we offer like Amplify.

It’s in your university’s best interest to retain you.

One of the things that you might think about as you’re thinking about recession-proofing your career is asking for professional development funding. Don’t be afraid to ask for this funding! They need you in order to keep up with the ever-evolving higher education world. So they should invest in you.


Next Steps:

Remember, we are heading into a recession. If you hate your job, you’re going to hate it more during a recession. So if you can, we would love to teach you inside of our Amplify program. We would love to talk to you about career design there. Enrollment has already closed technically, but we have some space, so on a case-by-case basis, we will consider adding people last minute. So sign up RIGHT NOW if you’re considering it!

You can also pick up my new book, Making Time To Write, which is now available in print!


Key Quotes:

“Your career should be designed by you.”

“What your university is saying you have to do to get promoted shouldn’t be the motivator of your decisions.”

“You shouldn’t just be pursuing what the university says you should pursue. That’s not the focus. Dissociate those two things. That is going to give you a career that can outlast a recession.”

“Start to use your own joy as criteria for decision making.”

“We will be such better knowledge makers when we are enjoying the knowledge-making and we are enjoying the career.”

“If you change universities, and you haven’t done all the other work, you’re gonna have the same problem at a different university.”

“You are the exact people who your university needs to face the next phase of higher education and be successful.”


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