It’s summer 2022, there are huge rounds of layoffs all across the tech industry. I know the feeling, I’ve been laid off too. Here’s how it happened to me a few years ago, and what I wish I knew.
My past layoff
My layoff happened a few years ago. I’m deliberately keeping the details vague.
On a Friday afternoon, my manager sent me a meeting invitation for Monday, at 10am. I thought “Oh that’s weird” but didn’t think of it afterwards.
On Monday, I turned up and… someone from HR was in the meeting. I instantly knew.
I remember saying “Oh… Is this bad news?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so…” My manager said.
“Is it just me?”
I was told that I was let go, along with other people in my department. My manager was explicit that I did nothing wrong. He received an email out of the blue from his manager saying “these people will lose their jobs.” So my conscience was clear. (Sometimes, managers have to choose who will be laid off, horrible stuff.)
After that, I received messages from others who were affected. One of us even saw it coming. Later, the wider team met, and we shared the news.
It sent a shock to my system that still reverberates to this day.
I wasn’t prepared for this layoff. When it happened, for the first time in my career, the thought of changing jobs felt distant.
Taboos and Shame
I’ve heard some people feel a strong sense of shame when they get laid off. Probably a side effect of attaching too much of your self-worth to your profession. I’m lucky that I never felt ashamed. It’s largely due to how my layoff worked out. It wasn’t only me who got let go, otherwise I would have felt differently.
There’s this massive taboo about looking at other jobs while having one. It kinda feels like installing Tinder while you’re with someone. “I love my job, why would I even think about applying elsewhere?” was my line of thinking. So here’s the painful lesson that I had to learn:
Always have an exit strategy.
From this point on, I’ve always had an exit strategy. Here are a few questions to help you with yours. It’s what I wish someone had told me before I got laid off.
1. Can you send an updated CV to someone tomorrow?
This is a better recommendation than “always have an up to date CV.” Realistically if you’re happy in a job, you won’t always think of that. However, you should be able to send your CV to someone today or tomorrow. That means:
- You know where your CV is
- It’s in a file format that you can open
- It will take you less than an hour to update
None of these were true for me when I got the call.
2. Online presence
Make sure your online presence is or can be updated. In other words create the accounts, or buy the domains, right now.
For devs and designers: How’s your website? Does it have 4 blog articles from 2017 on it?
For everyone else, how’s your LinkedIn? If you don’t have one, it’s not too late.
3. Have a list of companies
Every time you see a company that looks cool to you, add them in a note somewhere. In the frenzy of the layoff, you probably won’t think of every place you could apply to.
The more specialised you are, the more important this is.
So, now what?
If there are many of you, organise
Losing contact with a social group that you spend 8 hours with can be isolating. If several people are also let go, keep in touch and organise.
There are successful precedents. In 2016, the SEO company Moz laid off 60 employees. The workers made a website and took to twitter with #HireMoz, and some companies responded. In 2022, when Shopify laid off more than 1000 people, the former employees also made a website with a directory and (soon) a job board.
A layoff is a business decision that was inflicted upon you. Make sure this is clear in your mind, and take control of the narrative. Announce your layoff on social media, get ready to talk about it.
For example: “Yeah so I guess, you know, I’m no longer working from [startup x] where I used to work for 2 years. Yeah, it was a layoff.”
vs ”Myself, along with 100 other people were laid off because of bad cash flow. I’m now looking for an opportunity in [job type]”
The 2nd one will land way better in an interview. And it will help you mentally.
Take it easy
A job change is significant. Your job represents many hours of your day, and a big proportion of your social interactions. Your friends know it, your family knows it. Then, it all disappears.
Take it easy:
- Set fixed hours to apply. This depends on what works best for you. If applying on Sunday nights make you less fearful of the week ahead, then go for it.
- Talk to friends. The upside is you now have more time on your hands. Call that friend that you always meant to call. Don’t talk about the layoff, talk about your life, their life, movies, whatever.
- Understand that it might take a while.
That’s it! I will remember my first layoff for the rest of my life. It won’t be easy but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Good luck!