If you're looking for a truly recession-proof business, then there are a few old standards that might not be sexy, but they sure are reliable. These noncyclical businesses survive through good times and bad because they provide basic, necessary services.
Funeral services are a good example. Funeral homes see a steady stream of business no matter how the stock market is performing, although funeral directors in every state reported a significant rise in cremation requests — a far less expensive procedure than burial — during the Great Recession [source: Sack]. And since we're on the subject of death, we might as well mention the other of life's guarantees: taxes. As long as the IRS keeps things confusing, there will be plenty of work for accountants. One group that struggled during the Great Recession, however, were small, one-man accounting firms that mostly served small businesses. The big national chains were fine [source: Byrt].
Public utilities like electricity, gas and waste disposal are necessary for the clean and comfortable functioning of society. If a city government tried to save money by only collecting garbage once a month, it would cause a stink, to say the least.
Other industries that fall under the noncyclical banner are religious organizations, the military, pharmaceuticals, veterinary services and repair technicians. So if you lose your job as a hedge fund manager, you might consider a career as a vacuum-repairing priest.