Get a Recession-Proof Job in 2023 With This In-Demand Skill

Doug Staneart  |  August 8, 2020
last updated

Leadership Skills Help You Get Ahead Even if you have one of the most recession-proof jobs in the market, you’re still at risk if you can’t prove that you are recession-proof. The best way to do that is with high demand leadership skills.

When economic waters get choppy and companies start battening down the hatches, it’s not the employees who can merely perform a task who survive the storm—it’s the indispensable leaders who navigate through it. These are the people with an arsenal of soft skills that not only make them invaluable during tough times but also become the linchpin that holds the team, and often the business, together. Whether it’s economic downturn, a drastic industry change, or a global pandemic, crises are the ultimate proving ground for leaders.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only the essential services of social workers, mental health professionals, police officers, healthcare professionals, and others that survive turbulent economic conditions. You also don’t have to copy software engineers or become an expert in information technology. Sometimes, it’s less about the job and more about the recession-proof skills that will help you land an essential role and allow you to soar during tough economic times.

I’m a living testament to this truth. Once an individual with limited prospects and even less direction, leadership training served as my north star, guiding me through tumultuous times. It didn’t just land me a job; it skyrocketed my career, propelling me into the millionaire stratosphere. How did I manage such a transformation? The answer lies in mastering key soft skills that make one indispensable—skills that I’ll not only detail but also offer actionable steps for in the second half of this post.

Life Lessons That I Learned from My First Leadership Course

I took my first leadership training course back almost 20 years ago. It did more for me than all of the education in earning my high school diploma or college degree, where I worked tirelessly to impress college professors and become “ready for the job market.” This single class created higher demand for my work than all of the seminars that my former employers provided me. In fact, I got more benefit from that course than all of the conventions I went to and all of the books and trade journals that I have read.

I have to say that the very first leadership seminar was, by far, the most valuable training I ever received. We all have those “One moment in time” situations that change the whole direction of our lives. For me, this was my moment. Here’s what I learned, and I hope that you get as much value out of it as I did:

I grew up in a very poor, rural town in Arkansas.  Even though I was poor, I was taught that education was the key to getting out of poverty. So I worked my way through college and qualified for a couple of scholarships. I also took out massive loans hoping that, someday, my education would make me rich.

Was Higher Education the Key to Getting Out of Poverty?

Not quite… Despite what financial experts may promise you (and what job seekers desperately believe), a bachelor’s degree is not always a safe bet. It can’t promise you the best jobs, greater job security, or greater stability.

A couple of years out of school, I was making a lot less than my friends who got new jobs right out of high school. I had a ton of new expenses like insurance, rent, car payments, and college loans to pay back, too. Then, during one tax season, I realized that the amount of money that I was pulling in after taxes was less than the minimal expenses that I had. The more I ran the numbers, the more I realized that I was going bankrupt, one paycheck at a time.

That’s when I got angry. I was told that I would be wealthy if I went to school, but I was actually getting poorer every week. I’m sure you’re beginning to see how this situation was not going to help me, even if I did have a recession-proof job. In fact, it was proving to be a higher risk decision, especially if the state of the economy were to plummet. I figured that there must be a better way, though, so I started looking for people who were succeeding. As I found them, I started to try to model what they were doing.

Good Training Is an Investment in Your Future.

That’s when I invested in my first “leadership course.” The tuition was $795, which was about half of my monthly salary at the time. I was terrified to “spend” the money, thinking that maybe I should give up and go back to the job search for a career change. But the coach who was leading the program guaranteed me that the course was an investment and not an expense. She was right. Within six months of taking the class, I had tripled my income. Within a year, I had doubled it again. It was slow and steady, but within 10 years (before I was 35) I made my first million dollars.  (By the way, it only took me another six months to make the second million.)

Here’s what I figured out and what has helped me and thousands of others get to a higher level of financial success. Knowledge is vital to getting ahead, but it’s just the ticket to get into the game. What you DO WITH the knowledge is much more important to your success. The most highly sought after skill in business is not accounting, or engineering, or computer skills – it’s public speaking. And it can be learned by people of all skill levels. Folks who reach the highest level of every institution typically know less about the day-to-day operations than the newest employee. However, they tend to excel at leading and motivating people. The very best leaders in any organization are not the people who grow their own stature. They are the people who grow other leaders.

Once I figured this out, I realized that just about everything that I was doing to get ahead was absolutely wrong.

To Be a Great Leader, Teach the People Around You Secrets to Success.

For instance, I used to work from early morning into late in the night to make my productivity high for the company. I was working really hard, but I never got promoted. The reason why was that I was so productive, the manager couldn’t afford to promote me! If he did, he’d have to hire two people to replace me (and that’s not the kind of high job security we’re looking for). Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying sluff off and you’ll get promoted. Instead, I started to teach the people around me how to do what I was doing to increase their own productivity. Many hands make light work.

When the next promotion came around, I was the obvious choice. In my early days, I always wanted to make myself look good and make my “competition,” my coworkers, look bad. I figured that was an effective way to get ahead and prevent any sort of job loss.

Instead, that just made fewer people trust me, and when I needed my coworkers’ help, it was very challenging to get it. After the leadership course, I realized that people who build up their coworkers are seen as “natural” leaders. So I took a different approach with remarkable results.

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “The Minimalist Guide to Leadership Skills“.

A Few Soft-Skills that Will Help You Snag Recession-Proof Jobs

These are the skills that will help any person in any industry get ahead and hopefully stay ahead during any economic situation. I’ve also included some practical tips that you can start applying today to make a difference.

Public Speaking and Communication Skills

The ability to articulate your ideas effectively is more than just a “nice-to-have”—it’s an absolute necessity in the modern business world. It’s also highly versatile, as it’s useful in all career paths and career fields. Imagine walking into a boardroom, poised and unflinching, as you lay down an idea that could potentially save your company millions. The better you can communicate these ideas, the more likely they are to be adopted. Public speaking isn’t just about sounding smart; it’s about conveying your point in a relatable and engaging manner. Your confidence will serve as an undercurrent, making your arguments more persuasive and your points more impactful. This ability, above all, can help prove your worth in holding a recession-proof job.

  1. Practice Active Listening: Spend a day focusing on really listening to your colleagues, rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. This will help you respond more thoughtfully and improve your overall communication.
  2. Elevator Pitch: Craft a 30-second summary of your current project or idea. Share it with a colleague and ask for their immediate thoughts. This will help you hone your ability to express complex ideas succinctly.
  3. Join a Meeting: Volunteer to lead a section of your next team meeting. It can be something as simple as summarizing the project updates. The point is to get more comfortable speaking in a group setting.

Conflict Resolution Skills

In the high-stakes arena of business, tensions are bound to arise. Anyone can pick a fight or escalate an issue, but the truly successful individuals know how to bring conflicting parties to a resolution. The magic lies in creating an environment where each party feels heard, understood, and—most importantly—like they’ve “won” something. Effective conflict resolution can transform a hostile environment into a harmonious one, making it easier for the team to focus on achieving common goals.

  1. Open Door Policy: Make it known that you’re open to hearing conflicts or issues within the team, encouraging open dialogue.
  2. Neutral Ground: If you sense a conflict brewing between team members, offer to mediate and choose a neutral setting for the conversation.
  3. Be the Example: The next time you’re in a disagreement, employ active listening and try to understand the other person’s point of view before asserting your own. Demonstrate the resolution skills you wish to see in others.

Building Leaders

A mark of a true leader isn’t just personal success; it’s the ability to uplift those around you. You’re not just climbing the ladder alone—you’re bringing others along with you. Whether it’s by mentoring, sharing knowledge, or creating opportunities, building leaders within your organization can have a multiplying effect. The more capable people around you, the greater the collective achievements will be. Leadership is not a zero-sum game; in fact, helping others climb can give you a better grip on your own ascent.

  1. Delegate Wisely: The next time you have a non-critical task, delegate it to a junior team member who shows promise. Make sure to provide them with all the resources they need to succeed.
  2. Offer Mentorship: Open up slots in your calendar specifically for mentorship. Invite team members to book a 15-minute slot to discuss career growth, specific skills, or any challenges they are facing.
  3. Celebrate Others: Publicly acknowledge and praise the achievements and good work of your team members in meetings or via company communication channels. Recognition boosts morale and encourages leadership qualities.

Problem Solving (in groups)

Solving a problem solo may give you a sense of achievement, but if you can’t get your team on board, the solution might as well not exist. The ability to collaborate on problem-solving not only leverages the collective intelligence of the group but also ensures buy-in from team members, making the implementation of solutions far smoother. This kind of consensus-driven problem-solving helps avoid the dreaded “not invented here” syndrome, where people are reluctant to adopt ideas they didn’t come up with.

  1. Brainstorming Session: Schedule a brainstorming session where every idea is welcome. The goal is quantity over quality, as this often leads to innovative solutions.
  2. Collaborative Tools: Utilize project management and mind-mapping software to track group ideas and solutions, making it easier for team members to collaborate.
  3. Pilot Programs: Before implementing a major change, try a smaller-scale pilot among willing team members to test the solution’s effectiveness.


Ideas are the currency of the 21st century, but an idea is worthless if it stays locked in your head. The skill of persuasion transforms an abstract concept into a shared vision. It’s not about manipulation but about presenting your ideas in such a compelling way that others naturally want to come on board. In business, the ability to sell an idea can be just as crucial as the ability to create it. Whether you’re pitching to investors, negotiating with suppliers, or rallying your team, the power of persuasion is a vital asset in any toolkit.

  1. Know Your Audience: Take some time to understand who you are trying to persuade. What are their concerns? What language do they best understand? Tailor your arguments accordingly.
  2. Facts and Stories: Support your ideas with both logical facts and engaging anecdotes. This dual approach will make your argument more compelling.
  3. Follow Up: After you’ve made your initial pitch, don’t just let it sit there. Follow up with additional information, offer to answer questions, or suggest a smaller commitment as a first step toward the bigger idea you’re promoting.

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Build Your Next Generation of Leaders“.

In times of crisis, the landscape of opportunity doesn’t dry up; it simply shifts toward recession-proof jobs. Those who are adaptable, skilled, and forward-thinking find ways to thrive even when the odds are stacked against them. I’ve shared my journey from aimless wandering to focused leadership, not as a self-indulgent tale, but as living proof that the right set of soft skills can make you indispensable in any economic climate. We’ve also explored actionable steps to hone these skills, steps that you can implement in your workplace today. The world is ever-changing, and uncertainties are a given. But armed with these invaluable skills, you won’t just weather the storm—you’ll lead others through it. So take action today, and become the indispensable leader that every crisis needs.

author Doug Staneart
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Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
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