Career Cushioning

Career Cushioning Today Extra Channel 9 with David Campbell and Sylvia Jeffreys

Career Cushioning

By Sue Ellson

Carina Stathis first alerted me to this topic based on an article she had seen on the UK Stylist website and she asked for my comments. Her interview on ‘The rise of ‘career cushioning’: Everything you need to know about the controversial new workplace trend gripping Australia‘ is now online.

The story was then picked up by Channel 9’s Today Extra program and published at

Video Transcript

Well with the cost of living continuing to rise many Aussies are seeking job security more than ever. Now a new workplace trend has called has taken off uh helping a number of employers keep their options open it’s called Career Cushioning that’s what you were trying to say I was trying to say and to tell us more we’re joined by career expert Sue Ellson in Melbourne so good morning to you. We know all now about Quiet Quitting but tell us about Career Cushioning. What is it?

Yes, well I guess it’s the next phase in all of this you know concern about work and what should I be doing with my life but it’s basically developing a plan B which is something we’ve all known about for a long time but it’s a little bit more assertive than that because people are actually preparing for the time when they do want to move into something that’s perhaps more aligned and they’re thinking very carefully about how they can make that happen.

Right so the whole idea is to build on your value as an employee so why is that important?

Well we’re very much living now in a values-driven environment where there needs to be values to the employer and values from the employee and a lot of people are concerned about making sure that their life is meaningful and it is aligned. Now if you have good skills, knowledge and networks then you are actually going to be always employable if you can then also have those personal skills you’re going to be able to integrate well in a new workplace and then technical skills are always in demand so having all of that up your sleeve is is really going to be helpful to you.

Okay how can people start cushioning their careers?

Yes well it’s probably time to update that resume and CV it’s time to build your relationships and not just at work although that is very important but also outside in your profession or industry maybe quick to have a quick chat with some recruiters who’ve been in the job for longer than three years and keep those relationships uh you know be ready for that passive approach that you might get from someone.

Well Sue take us through the positives and the negatives is there something we should be mindful of with this?

Yes well you know positives mean that you’re going to be constantly looking for new opportunities to learn and grow and to develop yourself both internally in the job and externally with additional training you will be able to self-manage your career you’ll be developing your own sort of self-management risk insurance policy but on the negative side of things you’ve got to be careful that A people don’t find out that that’s what you’re doing they’re going to you know have that spidey sense about it but also if you accidentally do let them know that could hinder your career and then if if the worst comes to the worst look if you’ve got that plan B you’re going to reduce the skills gap you’re going to be able to get into something quicker and overall I’d suggest it it’s really good please don’t rely on anecdotes from friends and family who say oh you should do this but try and you know be be careful get your offer in writing.

Yeah they have the best intentions for instance


Thank you so much

Thank you Sue we appreciate it.

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Other Articles

On 2 February 2023, Lauren Ahwan published Career Cushioning in the Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser and The Courier Mail

On 4 December 2022, this article by Jack Evans on ‘‘Career cushioning’: How half of Aussie workers are making an ‘insurance policy’ as uncertainty looms’ on provided more detail about the statistics collected by in August 2022 (here is the archive link in case the link is re-used for the next report).

On 10 November 2022, Jack published this piece on ‘Death of WFH?: Data shows bosses want an end to flexible work arrangements‘ which also discussed other aspects of the LinkedIn report.

29 November 2022
New trend ‘career cushioning’ sweeping Australian workplaces

Career Cushioning Details

As with most of the requests I receive from journalists and broadcasters, I provide some additional content that you are welcome to read.

Career Cushioning is the employee side of the equation opposite the decision-maker or recruiter who is sourcing passive candidates. Passive candidates are not necessarily looking for work, but because they have good quality skills, knowledge and networks, they are prime targets for a head hunter or someone searching for them online. To be ‘found’ they do need to be either well known directly or have a search optimised LinkedIn Profile or Online Presence so that they can be found when a person completes a search.

The reality is that most of us will face a retrenchment, redundancy, reduction of hours etc throughout our working life. When this happens, we suddenly realise how precarious it is to have a job today and no job tomorrow, so we start strategizing on how we can make sure we can maintain our income.

Ideally, we should have excellent financial literacy skills so that we are constantly building assets and ultimately wealth and have a minimum of three months income sitting in our bank account to survive a career gap, but a lot of people are caught in the pay check to pay check cycle.

Side hustles are a great way to have an additional source of income, but some people do not want to be self-employed to any extent (or they don’t have the time because of other commitments), so career cushioning ensures that they keep their network alive even when they are not looking for the next immediate opportunity. If they are front of mind with a select group of people and an offer comes up, they can choose whether or not to take it, but also, if the worst happens, they can reach out to the well-established relationship-based and well-informed network and move on to a new role much sooner.

This is vital as up to 90% of jobs are never advertised, so staying ‘in the loop’ is vital and personal referrals are one of the best ways to secure a new role.

I personally encourage everyone to connect with everyone they meet, either personally or professionally on LinkedIn.

A person who arrived in Melbourne from Brazil went to a barbeque on the weekend, met someone there and ended up working at the same employer within two weeks! It pays to let people know what you can do and the value you bring rather than just explain your job title and employer name. Putting this information online means that you can be found 24/7/365.

If you add in some extra information like ‘I love working in the XYZ industry in ABC location’ you can give people clues as to whether or not to approach you. State what your future plans are as you never know who may read it and offer you something more aligned, ideally close to home with great working conditions and workplace culture too!

Several years ago, large companies provided in-house career development opportunities to help you progress through the organisation. This responsibility has more recently transferred back to the employee, so the savvy people know that they need to be well connected, well trained and high performers if they want to remain employable throughout their working life.

Personally, since completing my university studies, I have continued learning by attending up to four learning activities every week ever since. It means that despite my age, gender or circumstances, I can always pick up gigs from a variety of different clients and this is where I believe the future of work is heading – where there will be more gigsters who use technology to attract aligned gigs as technology will be much more integrated in workplaces and people will either work less total hours in one workplace or more varied hours in multiple places.

Likewise, with the rate of change of technology, the people who stay up to date will be more likely to be in work and those that don’t stay up to date will sadly lose work.

I have also seen a trend where more people are choosing values-aligned work rather than high-income work and this is a slightly different type of career cushioning as there are decisions that the person needs to make as something that is more values-aligned may have a different suite of benefits to something that they happened to secure along the way.

It is great to see more people living a life of intention and making conscious decisions about how they can align themselves with the right opportunity. I am not an advocate for job hopping for the sake of it, or applying for jobs for practice as this is very distracting and a time waster for the employer, but learning the skills to get a job as well as the skills to do a job is essential in a world where everything is changing at a faster time than any previous time in history.

‘Career Cushioning’ is a term we haven’t heard before, talk us through this.

  • workers are increasingly worried about their jobs and looming recession
  • employees quietly scoping out a ‘plan B’ in case they lose their job
  • recognition that your current job probably won’t be your last
  • regularly updating your CV and LinkedIn to keeping in contact with recruiters and potential future bosses
  • form of self-insurance

There has been a lot of talk about a skills shortage, so why do you think people are doing this as well?

  • VUCA Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity
  • future generations 18 jobs over 6 careers
  • average tenure in Australia now 2 years 9 months
  • 74% of students believe that life-long learning will be essential for them to future-proof their career

The whole idea is to build on our value as an employee, why is this important?

  • values-driven generation goes both ways
  • want purpose and meaning in their work (72%)
  • work aligns with their core values (68%)
  • 61% fear being stuck in a job that they don’t enjoy or find fulfilment in
  • good skills, knowledge and networks always employable
  • good personal skills quickly integrate
  • current technical skills always in demand

So what are some of the benefits of ‘Career Cushioning’?

  • reduces date gaps between roles
  • already prepared for passive offers
  • keeps you focused on continuous improvement
  • always good to have back up options

We all want to ensure job security, how can people ‘cushion’ their career?

  • maintain relationships in your industry or profession
  • keep learning on the job and externally
  • know thyself
  • manage your career

Talk us through the positives and negatives – is there anything we should be mindful of?

Positives of ‘Career Cushioning’

  • focus on continuous improvement
  • already prepared for passive offers
  • form of self-insurance and risk management
  • reduces date gaps between roles
  • always good to have back up options

Things to watch out for

  • becoming distracted from your current role
  • accidentally finding out you are shopping around
  • relying on anecdotes not facts
  • fear based decision-making
  • insufficient due diligence

Statistics quoted above are from the McCrindle Future of Education Report 2021

What can you do now to complete ‘Career Cushioning?’

  • update your resume and fully complete and search engine optimise your LinkedIn Profile
  • reconnect with people you know and re-establish your relationships with your VIPs
  • spend some time evaluating all of the positives and negatives of where you are (check-up not check-out)
  • look at what professional, technical and personal skills you could improve (even if you start by watching YouTube videos)
  • analyse your options – for work or enterprise – but make sure you fact check any options – dig a lot deeper before you think you can work from a laptop at the beach
  • reflect on all of your achievements to date (and make sure they are recorded on LinkedIn) – most people don’t do this very often and forget about what is good in their life
  • consider finding a professional to work through your options – could be a peer (outside where you are now), mentor (through a professional association where you are a member), careers specialist, life coach (with the relevant qualifications and background knowledge) etc (may need to pay for this assistance but can shortcut time spent finding and selecting a way forward)
  • consider completing some micro credentials or paying for an experience in a new sector to make sure it is the right fit (I once recommended flying lessons before someone chose a professional pilot license course)
  • be realistic – most people overestimate what they can do in the short term and underestimate what they can do in the long term (I usually recommend that you allow two years to make a significant change because this takes the pressure off but gives you time to start the steps now)
  • save more and spend less so you have a financial buffer of at least three months income in case the situation becomes urgent and you need to make a sudden change or something sudden happens to you
  • don’t share your story with people who have a fixed mindset and will only tell you what they would do based on their experience. Ideally, you would source independent suggestions from three suitably qualified people
  • don’t make any decisions when you are tired, frustrated or angry – only after careful analysis, a good sleep, delicious healthy food and maybe a nice walk! 🙂

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