Experienced PMs, how do we maximize job security as PMs during bad times?

Working in software and being a “soft” individual contributor puts a big target on product people for layoffs, in my opinion. I’ve seen layoffs before for a variety of reasons, and while I’ve been lucky enough to dodge them, I know that companies prefer to hold onto developers first and foremost. In my experience, QAs get wrecked, designers fair okay, and product people fair okay. But I’m still paranoid that PMs are not perceived as worth the cost, especially during a potentially long economic downturn.

As PMs, how do we increase job security? My first thought is working in an industry that is naturally recession-resilient. Energy, healthcare, maybe accounting/finance. Other than that, I can’t think of any way to protect oneself. I don’t believe anyone can become so valuable as to avoid layoffs entirely, especially PMs who are often perceived as not “making” or “doing” anything

Your perspective is appreciated


Gonna put this out there as a reality check… nothing guarantees job security. I have worked at some great companies but when tough times hit, they will watch out for themselves and not for you. It isn’t personal, it’s business.

The best thing you can do for yourself is network and have your cv/LinkedIn up to date. This way if for whatever reason you are laid off your job, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running on the search front.


@Donovan, To add on to this, always be working on your craft. Keep up with trends, find your niche.

A downturn sucks, and it may take a little longer to get an offer, but the prospects for solid PMs (especially tech PMs with experience) will remain strong IMO.


Experienced tech PM here. Just got laid off two weeks ago. Got massive support from my LinkedIn network, had two interviews within a couple of days of being laid off, followed one of them through to four rounds of interviews, and will start a new role in a week. There is a lot of risk but there are also a lot of opportunities.


This thread is absolute wisdom. Adding to it:

Making your lowest level of Moslov’s hierarchy of needs on something that is out of your control is a bad idea. As a PM who went homeless at one point and now making close to mid six figures I advice you to do the following:

  1. Calculate how much you need in per month in rent/mortgage payments, food, utilities, basic “subscriptions”, and maybe little going out money. Say money for a couple of beers once every two weeks.
  2. Multiply that by how many months it would take you to find a job in bad economy. I aired on the safer side in the past and put 6 months. Engineering taught me to double any number for a factor of safety. So, 12 months.
  3. Calculate that target amount. Set a cadence, a means by which you can brainlessly go towards that target. Setting a paycheck amount into a savings amount, calculating daily contribution and setting an amount a day. There are many ways to skin the cat here. Some apps that can help with this also are Digit, Acorns or Albert. All three have this passive way of putting money aside and accumulate savings pretty fast.

“A bird in your hand is better than many on a tree” don’t rely on what is out of your control. Especially your minimum human needs. Cover your butt and you will be stress free at work and will have a better mental clarity when making your next strategic move. Don’t leave that for ANY employer to decide.


@NaomiNwosu, This is amazing advice. Gaining great wisdom from the wise, experienced and seniors like you is a blessing in disguise. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.


@AhmadBashir, This was my experience when I got laid off about 8 years ago. Got tons of support and multiple offers within a few weeks. Keep that network strong and never burn bridges and people will be thrilled to offer you support when you need it.


I would:

  1. Work at a company with good financials.
  2. Work on a product that makes money.
  3. Be good at my job.
  4. Have good relationships with the people who can decide my fate.

Even solid companies with plenty in the bank are going to trim if there’s a reason to do so. Take a look at the product/team you’re on and understand the financial health of it and criticality to the core business. Are you a cost-center or R&D/experimental arm or is there substantial alignment to revenue or strategic goals for the year.

Even if you’re good at your job, being on an expendable team will not help much. You demonstrate #4 by showing that you’re adaptable, can add value to the broader company cross-functionally, not just on your team. Be more visible, take opportunities to speak, be seen as a thought leader so there’s a face/impression to a name.


There are also a lot of companies that saw a boom during the last 2 years, or even 10 years, whose products are just not going to be in demand in high inflation/recessionary environment.

Nationally, a 1 bd apartment is up 26% y/y on average. No matter how high fed interest rate hikes go, there are a lot of very sticky impacts to consumer budgets. And while a lot of people expected inflation, I believe very few projected how high and all of the potential causes while building their yearly budgets (Russia invaded 2/24).

All that to say that many companies that were in great positions at the beginning of the year may not be by end of year.


2b: Familiarize yourself with Compliance and Regulation or a niche field.


@Donovan, Any pointers on how to get started on these topics?


@Ahmad, That is a tough one. I would say learning the things that need to get done and no one likes doing. Learning about regulatory codes, international privacy or auditing is a great start. Every organization needs to abide by these items, so they tend to get attention and are rarely cut.


The next time your team gets asked to do compliance work, dig into the requirements, really understand what’s needed, and just do good product work for the requirement. These requirements are rarely cut and dry, and are too often left to engineers to muddle through.

Once that’s done, congrats, you’ve done compliance work, and you can likely get hired into a mid-level role anywhere that is willing to have you learn as you go. It’s really that simple!

A lot of people did this a few years back with GDPR - if you were involved in GDPR to a meaningful degree that experience can be leveraged into these roles.


Number 4 is one, if not the, most important that I’ve seen in my career.


@Ahmad, I agree. Far too many people don’t understand that sometimes it’s more important to be well liked than “right” all of the time. Play the game and pick your battles wisely.


One other part of item (2) is that your product has to make money even when broader economic conditions aren’t as good.

If you’re working at a payments startup, or a CPG company that relies on Afterpay/Klarna or similar you should already be interviewing. Pay attention to macroeconomic trends and see if your employer is precariously profitable.

  1. Company that’s profitable and not as much in growth stage/reliant on debt
  2. Be on the MOST important project at your company
  3. Be on the best terms possible with the people that matter. In the end humans will keep around the people they like and get rid of people they don’t like.
  4. Start sharpening your interview skills now. Even if you don’t interview, you don’t want to need 30-90 days to prep for a good company (FAANG/etc) if you are laid off with 0 days notice.
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I think the best thing you can do is have recruiters knocking at your door.


  • Demonstrate at current company how you being there creates more value. Either keeps you there or strengthens your CV
  • network: your industry, where business leaders are, where PMs are etc.
  • thought leadership: LinkedIn, blog, Twitter
  • provide value: a trick I learned from a founder is contacting a CEO or CPO and giving feedback about their product.

I can’t say I’ve done all of these. But I personally know People that have. Personally, My main leverage is my experience and keeping good relationships with recruiters