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5 tips on how web devs can survive (and thrive) during a recession

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This article was originally published on .cult by Tim Noetzel. .cult is a media platform for untold developer stories, where developers can read content around the softer side of development and watch documentaries about the tech they love. You can read this original piece here.

In COVID-19 times, the signs point to one thing: we’re heading towards another recession. And as a developer, you might be wondering what this means for your job. Here are 5 tips on how to survive (and thrive) in an economic downturn.

Unemployment is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, the stock market is taking a blow, and companies are starting to cut corners to save money. All the signs point towards one thing: we’re heading towards another recession.

If you’ve been working in web development or design for a while, you know that ups and downs are a natural part of business. No industry is safe from the impact of a recession, but some are more resilient than others. Job security for developers is typically high, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be immune to layoffs or salary cuts.

So what can you do to keep your head above water in this economic downturn? Here are five tips to survive—and even thrive—during a recession.

1. Diversify your skillset

When the economy is booming, specializing in a particular aspect of web development can help boost your income and create more value for your employer. According to Payscale, specialists earn as much as double what generalists do.

But in an economic downturn, this script flips on its head. As companies downsize and tighten their belts, they tend to rely more on team members who can act as jacks of all trades. The more versatile you are, the more valuable you’ll be during a time of recession.

Now is a great time to widen your horizons and take on new skills. Classes at FreeCodeCamp, Treehouse, and uDemy are often good starting points.

Learning a new skill takes time, but it can boost your value to employers or clients, increasing the likelihood that you’ll stay employed during times of economic difficulty. As you level up your skillset, consider adding new work to GitHub and listing your new proficiencies on LinkedIn.

2. Focus on goals and produce results

You’re obsessed with your craft and the quality of your code, and rightly so. But your employer cares about their business. And when money gets tight, the non-essentials are the first to go.

At home, this might mean cutting back on takeout dinners and movie tickets. For your employer or client, however, it means dropping any expenses that don’t produce a valuable return on their investment.

Make sure that’s not you.

Take a moment to reevaluate your work in light of your company’s or client’s business goals. What kind of results do they expect from you? Do you deliver those benefits? Are you contributing meaningfully to the bottom line?

Focus on making a material contribution to the company’s short-term and mid-term goals. To reinforce your value, seek out concrete indicators of the results you deliver, like site traffic, user engagement, leads, or sales. Once clients or employers see your value, they’ll be much more likely to view you as essential, even when the budget starts to shrink.

3. Budget your time and manage your cash

When money becomes tight, it’s more important than ever to focus on efficiency.

If you’re a salaried employee, wasted time means your work output suffers. You become less valuable to your employer as a result.

If you’re a consultant, inefficiencies mean fewer clients and less income. The more efficient you are with your time and energy, the more cash you can save for the next downturn.

Try using a time tracker to hold yourself accountable and keep a record of the hours you work each day. Note how much time you spend on productive, creative work—like coding new features or squashing bugs—versus project management, meetings, and other tasks.

If you’re a freelancer, a good accounting tool can help you manage your budget, track your expenses, and maximize your efficiency.

4. Make yourself visible

If you’re like most devs, you probably avoid meetings like the plague. But being in the right meetings and working on important projects is an effective way to ensure leadership knows you’re making an active contribution. Aim to make an impact not just on your manager, but on their manager.

If you’re working from home or working on a freelance basis, you might be feeling a bit invisible. But active participation and engagement don’t take anything too complex.

Making yourself visible—even by simply being active in Zoom meetings or on Slack—can help you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on. Better yet, it will keep you relevant and top-of-mind with those you work with. You never know when someone might need your help. Make sure you’re at the top of their list when the time comes.

5. Make people’s lives easier

Teammates and clients prefer to work with people who solve more problems than they create. So above all, you need to make people’s lives easier.

Complete your work thoroughly and on time, and do a bit of light QA before you check in your code so you can uncover and fix any obvious issues. Listen when others need to vent. And take the initiative to pick up more work, especially tasks that might ease the burden of overworked teammates.

While all of these might seem obvious, you’d be surprised how few devs make the effort. Doing so goes a long way to moving you from optional to essential.

The most important thing you can do during a recession is to evaluate your work and your strategy for keeping it. Just a few changes in how you operate can make you recession-proof, and even help you thrive during an economic downturn.

By helping others during a recession, you’ll be helping yourself too. Positioning yourself as an industry leader, a hard worker, and a resilient contributor will help you emerge from the recession stronger than ever.

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Published June 24, 2020 — 08:58 UTC

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