‘Career Cushioning’ for job uncertainty

K Raveendran
Between what is described as the Great Resignation in the West, standing for the trend of high attrition rate of employees at one end of the spectrum, and the fear of large-scale layoffs at the other, the high-tech job scene presents a picture of total chaos. More importantly, the latter is more widespread in developing countries like India and the biggest irony is that those whose services are being dispensed with are the ones who need the jobs most.
Flexibility in the job has been found to be one of the most important factors that bind employees to their employers, particularly in the US and other western countries, who are struggling to retain and find the right kind of staff. The pandemic and its aftermath have made it a lot easier for employees to shift jobs. According to McKinsey, in the US alone, four million workers are quitting their jobs every month and it has become a real task for employers to attract talent back into the workforce.
Financial, tech, logistics and shopping majors have been announcing massive layoffs in the wake of recession eating into their profits, putting the fate of thousands of employees across sectors and industries on the block. The latest to join is Microsoft, which has announced a reduction of 1 percent in its staff strength, which means thousands of its employees will suddenly find themselves out of work as well as the right to live in their respective countries of posting.
It makes distressing reading that each day thousands of jobs are being eliminated. Facebook’s Meta and Microsoft are vacating office buildings in Seattle and Bellevue in Washington State as layoffs reduce the need for office space. In many cases, the victims come to know of their fate only through emails.
Given that people of Indian origin account for a sizeable size of high-tech job market across the world, the decision by tech majors to lay off employees would mean displacement of thousands of Indian families living in the US, UK and other European nations. And with domicile rules being implemented vigorously by the respective governments, these families are suddenly faced with a situation in which they have to move lock, stock and barrel, upsetting all their plans as well as the education of their children.
Ecommerce giant Amazon has announced its biggest staff cutting exercise in history. Out of a total of 18,000 jobs eliminated, a thousand are in India. The company had announced 10,000 job cuts in November last year. While the company says it does not underestimate how much the decision affects those who are impacted, that is no consolation for the victims, who suddenly find themselves without an income.
The line-up of job cutting companies include Google, HP, soft drink giant PepsiCo, financial major Goldman Sachs, Salesforce and many more. India-based companies such as PayU, Zomato, Swiggy etc have also announced staff cuts to stay lean so as to tide over the loss of business due to recession and other factors. The newly-displaced employees may manage to find alternative work, but often they have to agree to terms that are way below what they were entitled to in their previous role. In many cases, they have to accept beginner’s compensation as experience ceases to command any premium.
This has given rise to a new trend in the high tech job sector, which is described as ‘career cushioning’. In view of the great uncertainty about the future that prevails across sectors and industries, employees are scouting around for options even when they are in the service of the current employer so that they have something to fall back upon in the event of a drastic decision by their company. Of course, this is done discreetly so that no one gets wind of it.
Some have gone a step further and are doing it openly. Amazon employees, for instance, have reportedly started posting publicly that #OpenToWork on LinkedIn while still serving with their current employer. This would mean that the bosses get to know of it, but it is acknowledged that desperate situations demand desperate responses.
It is perhaps easier to get a job when one is already employed and hence the significance of career cushioning. The realisation that one is not needed by his or her company damages the prospects of alternative employment and therefore it always better to start hunting when things are more favourable. In this sense, career cushioning is catching on in India just as employers are coping with the continuing Great Resignation in the West. (IPA)