So You’ve Been Laid Off…
It’s all over the news and LinkedIn and other outlets – we are in a period of significant change and uncertainty in the tech job market in a number of sectors. Whether you are in software, engineering, AdTech/MarTech or any other related industry, you have seen what’s going on and chances are (if you are reading this post) you’ve been impacted. Industry stalwarts like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce have announced significant layoffs and now you find yourself trying to land a role in a market that is suddenly bloated with experienced, talented folks such as yourself. While I do not profess to be an expert in the realm of career development, I’ve been through the wringer twice now, not including when I have voluntarily joined the open market as a free agent.
You may know many of these things already, but guidance and knowledge reinforcement is generally useful if at the very least to confirm something you’ve known and practiced all along. That said, here are some hopefully helpful tips to help you navigate this period in your career:
Reflect and Move On
You got an invite to a vague, impromptu meeting and when you joined you realized that someone from HR was also present. If your spidey sense was tingling or if you had your tinfoil hat secured squarely on your head, you suspected what was going down already and it still sucks. You’ve been let go. Shown the door. Walking papers and pink slip and all that. Going back to the cliché in relationships, no matter how gentle the, “it’s not you, it’s me,” speech is, it stings. There’s an element of shock/surprise, but mostly inevitability. Last year’s #GreatResignation is this year’s #layoffs and you’ve become an unwitting participant in an industry moment.
All this is a great opportunity to reflect, but just shy of fixation. Are there things you could have done differently that might have affected the outcome? Maybe. Do you wish you had a do-over to right some perceived wrongs? Probably. While it is valuable to reflect on what you *might* have done differently, better or whatever, it is more important to steer that reflection towards the here and now. What did you learn and what will you take with you to the next role you land? It is human to go through the various stages of grief in these scenarios, but you don’t want to find yourself in a rabbit hole of self-doubt and pity when there is important work to be done. Shake it off, rub some dirt on it and get ready to move on.
Lifestyle < Means
People talk about the importance of “living within your means,” which is great but not specific enough. Live below your means, always. The job market in general and the tech world in particular are fickle, volatile beasts. The delta between what you make and what you spend is your flotation device when those beasts rear their heads and you find yourself out of a regular paycheck. While this ventures into Personal Finance 101, here are some tips:
- Audit. To stretch whatever money you have managed to save for a rainy day (or month or a few), immediately assess what you need in your current monthly expenditures. Do you really need all those streaming services? Can you park your personal trainer for a few months during this period? For example, within days of being laid off I switched mobile providers to take advantage of a first-year offer, cut back on a cleaning service I had only recently splurged on and ended a monthly subscription service that I didn’t really need. Immediate savings from just these cuts is approximately $300/month. Not a monumental amount, but every penny counts.
- Scale back. In a similar vein to the above, consider everything that you normally do when you are employed and evaluate where else you can save. One obvious area is food and beverage; once I was laid off it was an easy decision to forego plans to eat out and instead go through the local grocery circular and plan meals to make at home with whatever happens to be on sale that week. I make coffee at home already, but if that is a regular item that you afford yourself, look to do the same. Mileage may vary with this, but again you may be able to save a few hundred bucks per month if you do it right.
- Take advantage of what is available to you. Did your now previous employer offer any perks as part of your termination, like placement services or coaching or anything else? Use it! Maybe you didn’t get anything like this, but leverage everything you have coming to you. LinkedIn (and others) offer free learning courses, and while those may not add up to certifications, by expanding your knowledge and being able to showcase that you have used this time to better yourself, you improve your marketability to potential suitors. Also in this category is everything from filing for unemployment to joining a local “Buy Nothing” group where items you may want or need are available for bartering or flat-out acquiring, for free (or close to it).
I have been a remote worker for the last four years and something I learned early on was to treat going to my home office as if I was heading into a traditional office – I cleaned myself up, put on some business casual and a pot of coffee and got ready for the day. This routine helped me mentally transition into being productive when I wasn’t really going anywhere. Working in pajamas may be a dream for some, but not for me. Regardless, the notion of a routine, especially when you are unemployed, is important. Being unemployed can be a full-time job. Not only do you have to look for your next opportunity, but there are likely a number of things to sort out as well (“offboarding,” taking care of health insurance, etc.) so it helps to build a little structure around your new life. It is probably most effective to mix up your tasks for the sake of keeping you fresh and productive, maybe something like:
- Put Yourself Out There. Dedicate at least half your day to actually finding a new role. I’d suggest breaking up this task since four straight hours on LinkedIn or various job boards can quickly lead to diminishing returns at best and burnout at worst. Use this time to refine your résumé/CV, connect with your network and see what’s out there. Maybe divide this time up between the morning, midday and evening – this is your main priority but realize when you are merely scrolling through feeds and generally not getting anything done.
- Take Care of That Thing You Didn’t Have Time for When You Were Working. You know you’ve been putting off that one project, chore or side passion for some time now and whether you are writing the great American novel or making sense of your garage (me!), now’s the time to do it. You won’t be unemployed forever, so set aside an hour or two every day to tackle that lingering item and give yourself the much-needed satisfaction that comes with accomplishing something, anything!
- Take Care of That Other Thing You Didn’t Have Time for When You Were Working. I am talking about you, yes, you. I’ve been guilty of/prone to putting a lot of things in my life ahead of myself, be it physical or mental self-care. I’ve got a limited run of health coverage before it becomes a thing so I am going to take care of some lingering issues while I have the time and means to do so. Whether you have been putting off practicing meditation or getting that annual check-up, make sure to invest some of this down time in your well-being, as last I checked it is a worthy investment.
Keep At It
Don’t get intimidated if you don’t get the opportunity you want in the timeframe you want it in. Every interaction you have with an application process or (better yet) an HR rep or hiring manager is an experience to exercise muscles that you may not have had a need for in some time. If it looks like your résumé or interviewing skills need a little further refinement, do it and then move on to the next thing. If there is one lesson you can take from the last 30+ years of the tech sector it is that it ebbs and flows. For every valley where uncertainty is king, there are peaks where demand matches or beats supply. Sure, this process is hard especially when there are bills to pay, but don’t simply wait – every day that passes is a chance to learn, adjust and move on.
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