The Future of Work

How Accountants Can Prepare for Uncertainty or a Recession in the Workplace

About the Author: Katie Thomas, CPA, is a content creator, 2021 40 under 40 CPA Practice Advisor recipient, and the owner of Leaders Online, where they help accounting professionals increase their impact, influence, and income through thought leadership and digital marketing. Feel free to visit Leaders Online or connect with her on LinkedIn to get in touch with Katie. 

Uncertainty is a major concern in offices worldwide. Professionals are worried about their livelihoods during a possible recession and that they may be let go from their positions. It’s a scary time for a lot of people. Even if you’ve been through turbulent times in the past, it’s always a major concern when there are talks of economic uncertainty.

However – preparing yourself for a volatile business environment and repositioning yourself to be a more strategic value-add in the workplace is something that may:

  • Help your career weather the storm
  • Enable you to take advantage of opportunities that arise within the organization if it restructures

A little preparation can go a long way in helping boost your job security while also giving you confidence that you have a role in the workforce.

How to Prepare for Uncertainty or a Recession in the Workplace

More than 7-in-10 economists in a recent survey believe that by mid-2023, the United States will be in a recession. As troubling as this may be, there are several steps you and your team can take to both survive – and even turn a positive outcome amid uncertain times:

Demonstrate Your Value

Whether you’re concerned about the future state of your role or simply want to become more confident in the security of your role, now is the time to demonstrate your value. Make yourself indispensable to the company. 

First, take a moment to consider how you’re contributing to the organization right now. Write down your skills, expertise, experience, and your desires. 

  • What are your responsibilities? Are you going above and beyond?
  • When you think about where you want to be in the future, are you taking steps today to get there? If not, how can you start doing so?

Make sure that key people in the organization know about the problems you’re solving, the hard work you’re putting in, and the skills you bring to the table. Managers are busy, and it’s not uncommon that they haven’t taken the time to consider all the things we are doing or how we’re contributing. For example, day-to-day, you may find yourself managing your manager – bring this to the table and speak up about all you’re doing. 

If you’re not sure how to demonstrate your value or you’re not going above and beyond, consider putting yourself in the mind of your boss’s boss.

Think Like Your Boss’s Boss

Thinking like your boss’s boss is a great way to add value to your organization and truly step up your role. Here, you’ll want to do a few things:

  1. Begin standing out. You need to stand out from the crowd rather than blend into it. How? Make your presence known. You need to find key ways in the company that you can leverage to stand out. The next few points will help.
  2. Think greater than your role. What’s your current role? If you’re a controller, think like a CFO. If you think outside of your role, you’ll be noticed and engaged with the business in a way that is hard to replace, especially when retention issues exist in the workplace.
  3. Improve the company. You’re trying to stand out and become greater than your role. The next step is to be an innovator and find ways to improve the business. Accountants have so much information at their fingertips. Discover ways to streamline processes or save the business money, and you’ll become an extremely valuable asset to your employer. Investing in technology that automates manual processes is a great place to start.
  4. Remove redundancy. Review the organization’s broader function and analyze it for redundancy. If you find redundancy, devise a plan to eliminate it. Your strategy can help you move into an invaluable advisory role.

A staggering 85% of employees are not engaged in their workplace. If you start becoming engaged, you’ll be surprised at how your employer will respond.

Broaden Your Skills

On top of standing out in your current workplace, you’ll also want to broaden your skills. For example:

  • Master any gaps you have in your current role
  • Build advisory skills
  • Gain industry-specific skills

Broadening your skills will help you impress your current employer and make you more “hireable” to future employers. Focus on both soft and hard skills. Hard skills are your accounting specializations and industry-specific skills, but soft skills include:

  • Time management
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Etc.

The World Economic Forum recommends these soft skills and more for 2025

Not sure where to turn to start broadening your skills? Outlets like Coursea or FloQademy can be a great place to start. Harvard University also offers some free courses online. If you prefer an in-person option, check out a local college campus and see what they have to offer. 

Network, Network, Network

Networking is crucial in business. It’s not about what you know, but who you know and who knows you. In times of uncertainty, it’s important to strengthen your network and expand it if possible. 

Now is a good time to double down on both your external and internal networks. You want the company’s teams to be on your side and to have positive, fruitful relationships with key players in your organization. At the same time, it’s important to focus on strengthening your external network because it is invaluable.

Why is your external network so valuable? Many of these connections can help act as mentors during tough projects or technical issues. In the unfortunate event you are let go, one of your contacts may have a great opportunity to get you back on your feet. That being said, you don’t have to be let go to find benefits in building your external network. If you stay at your organization, the contacts in your network may have solutions to help you solve problems or connect you with people who can help. Bottom line: your network matters. Don’t overlook it. 

Build Your Personal Brand

Building your personal brand benefits both you and your organization. Your personal brand is the image you project to the world, and it can be a valuable asset as you navigate uncertainties in the workplace and marketplace.

When you build your personal brand, you do a few things.

  • You open the door to many opportunities. These opportunities could be new jobs, speaking gigs, expanding your network, or connecting with new mentors. It can also help build your reputation as an experienced professional. Having a solid personal brand can serve as a security blanket of sorts. If you are let go from your current organization, you have an established reputation and may find it easier to land a new job.
  • You become an even greater asset to your organization, and you also become a representative of your organization. People who view you as an industry expert will also associate you with your organization and may be more likely to do business with your employer.

You can begin building your professional brands in a plethora of ways, a few of which include: posting on social media, being a part of podcast interviews, and attending networking events. 

Most Importantly – Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Creep In

It’s easy to lose yourself in worry during recession talks, especially if you love your job and the organization that employs you. It’s normal for accountants to fall victim to imposter syndrome, where they start doubting their abilities and feel like a fraud. But your work brings incredible value to your employer, and during uncertain times, your expertise can help your organization weather the storm.

The tips above can help you demonstrate your value and indispensability, giving you peace of mind during uncertain times. While these tips are geared towards accountants, they can generally be applied to almost all professionals.