Tech Layoffs: How to Survive, Thrive, and Get Re-Hired
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The news of tech layoffs started surfacing in early 2022.
Peloton and Better were among some of the first to announce mass layoffs in early 2022. Peloton cut headcount by 2,800, Better by 3,000.
Then came Tesla, Facebook, Carvana, and Netflix.
The list continued to grow.
Redfin. Wells Fargo. JP Morgan Chase.
And now, according to industry insiders, Wall Street layoffs likely loom “as a two-year hiring boom turns to bust.”
While this type of news is nothing new—tech layoffs have always been and always will be a part of business—the sheer number of layoffs seems to be increasing at a rapid rate. According to Layoffs.fyi, a website that monitors job cuts, more than 21,500 U.S. tech workers have lost their jobs in 2022.
Sudden and unexpected layoffs—which most layoffs are—are gut-wrenching, and emotionally and financially draining. But it does not define who you are, your ability, or your potential, as recruiter Tejal Wagadia points out in this LinkedIn post:
The Emotional Challenges of a Sudden Tech Layoff
Getting laid off is not the same as getting fired, points out Sarah Doody, founder of Career Strategy Lab™, a UX career accelerator that helps UX professionals get hired without applying to hundreds of roles. She explains:
Layoffs happen for a variety of reasons that are out of your control. As a result, you have to consciously recognize that being laid off is not necessarily a reflection of your skills and ability to do the job. Layoffs happen due to budget cuts, company priorities, and many other factors. If you’ve been part of a mass layoff, it can be helpful to connect with other people who were impacted as a way to share stories, tips, and frustrations, and celebrate when people do start to get interviews and new jobs.
Being able to connect with people who are walking in the same situation as you can be a great coping mechanism. However, a word of caution, stay away from the negative people who seem to wallow in despair. That is not productive for you in securing your next role.
Once one finds out they are the victim of an unexpected layoff, the first natural reaction is to frantically update a resume and start posting to any and all jobs, or go out on LinkedIn and vent. Neither is the best approach.
“Job seekers should avoid the urge to update their resume and start applying to jobs,” says Doody.
“It’s likely your resume is out of date, and updating your resume while you are in panic mode will lead to stress and a resume that may not reflect the role you want in the future.”
If you’ve been laid off, the first thing you must do is ask yourself, “What do I want to do next?” That can often be a daunting question and feel like a blank canvas. If you’re not sure what you want to do next, do a quick evaluation of your last role.
“In the career coaching I do, I have my clients do a “like and loathe” exercise to brainstorm things they enjoyed about their past roles and things they did not enjoy,” says Doody. “It’s simple, just divide a piece of paper in two and create a “like” and “loathe” column.
Make sure you consider your responsibilities, team, manager, company culture, benefits, work/life balance, and anything else that comes up. After you do this exercise, you will have a clearer picture of what you need in a role to make you fulfilled both personally and professionally.”
What to Say on LinkedIn after a Layoff
According to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 85% of jobs are fulfilled through networking. As a result, the first thing you should do if you are unexpectedly laid off is to tell everyone in your network. This could be through emails you send to people as well as posts you may add to your LinkedIn profile or even professional online groups and communities you’re active in.
However, there’s a right and wrong way to let everyone know you’re looking for a new role, says Doody.
If you want to leverage your professional networking to help you, then you need to help them help you. In other words, you have to be very clear about what you are looking for in a role. An SOS post on LinkedIn that says, “Hey guys I’ve been laid off; if you know of any opportunities, please let me know,” is exactly what you should not post.
Doody explains that this type of post is too vague and doesn’t help your network be on the lookout for the right roles.
It’s crucial that you remind your network about what you do, what you’re looking for, and any deal-breaker constraints such as remote-only. Think of it like this, if you were looking for a new house and you didn’t tell people important details such as single or multi-level, school district, the number of bedrooms, you’ll either get inundated with a lot of houses that aren’t a fit or worse, no recommendations. The same applies to how you leverage your network in your job search.
Layoffs and Your Mental Health
Tech layoffs can have serious mental health consequences. That’s why practicing self-care and getting into a routine after a job loss is essential.
“You will want to ensure you begin a routine that prioritizes your health while you look for work,” says Christy Lyons, Principal at 4 Point Consulting, an organization that provides a variety of HR and talent acquisition services.
“Take a few days or a week off if you can, but once that’s over, treat looking for a job like a job. Get up in the morning, workout, get dressed, and then focus for a few hours on job searching. Break for lunch, take a walk, and then focus again, and stop at the early evening hours.”
Don’t feel like you can’t continue to do the things you enjoy just because you lost your job. So, visit family and friends. Play pickleball. Garden. Take the dog for a walk. Take that day trip. Go out to eat with your partner. Meet friends for coffee. Listen to music. Attend a concert. Don’t just cut yourself off from the rest of your world. Work is one part of your life. Not your entire life.
While finances may be a top concern when you are laid off, Lyons advises not to cut back on everything immediately. Prioritize your health and take advantage of benefits while you still have them. She says:
If you are in therapy, try to make it fiscally work and tell your therapist what happened, versus just stopping going to save money. Same with your gym or yoga or whatever membership; don’t cut out that gym membership or stop doing yoga—things that make you feel good—to save cash. Instead, tell the gym what happened, and see if you can even pick up a volunteer cleaning or front desk shift to get a free membership (a lot of small studios do this).
Also, get all of the appointments you can before your insurance expires or you go on COBRA. Get a physical, dental checkup, eye appointment, or dermatologist you’ve been meaning to see. Get it all done and quickly. Tell the scheduler that you were laid off and see if they can get you in before your insurance becomes your own expense. See if you can get 90-day packages of any medication you take so that you get it under your benefits as well.
Stay active and focus on yourself, not just your job search.
“I encourage people to find something else that gives them purpose,” says Lyons. “Find a way to connect to society and stay motivated.”
How to Get Organized after an Unexpected Tech Layoff
Doody recommends creating two categories after a layoff: Financial and Benefits and Logistics and Assistance. Then include these questions when discussing details of a tech layoff with your employer. Be sure to write down and document all of this information:
Financial and Benefits
- What’s the date of my last paycheck?
- Will I receive any severance?
- What will happen to my healthcare?
- Will I get paid for my unused vacation?
- What will happen to my 401(k)?
- How long do I have to submit my expenses?
Logistics and Assistance
- What’s my last official day?
- What should I do with any company equipment?
- Am I eligible to apply for other roles at the company?
- Does the company have any career services I’m eligible for?
- Can my manager be a reference?
Understanding Your Benefits: COBRA and Severance
If after a layoff you don’t have the option of going on your partner’s health insurance, you should explore your options to continue with your prior employer’s health plan under COBRA coverage.
COBRA gives employees and their families an option to stay on their company’s health plan for a limited period. It’s dependent on specific criteria, so you’ll need to check your eligibility, but it can be a safety net until you find your next role. COBRA is expensive—but it can be more expensive to be without health insurance.
Double-check your employee handbook for any severance or tech layoff policies. Some companies have specific amounts (one month of pay for every year of service), and some do not. If you do get a severance package, read it closely, points out Lyons. Consider consulting with an employment attorney if you are not clear on the agreement or have questions that are not answered.
“You don’t need to sign right away, and if you are 40 and older, you have 21 days to sign and seven more to change your mind by law,” adds Lyons.
Also, check your city and state laws. Some states require all PTO that was unused to be paid out, while others do not.
How to Job Search after a Tech Layoff
When the dust settles, and the emotional shock of a layoff wears off, one can get down to seriously searching for a job. Look at this time as an opportunity to find something that truly fits your goals and what you want out of work.
Mass applying to any and every job you are slightly interested in simply because you need a job is not the best strategy. Focus on the quality of the job, not the number of jobs for which you apply.
Instead of playing the numbers game, Doody teaches those in her career coaching program to apply to fewer jobs but more of the right ones and to nurture each application. One client recently applied to five jobs, got five interviews, and ended up with two job offers to pick from.
She explains why this approach works:
When you aim for a quantity of jobs applied to, you waste a lot of time finding more jobs to apply to. As a result, you are likely not doing two crucial things that can make or break your job search.
First, if you are applying to hundreds of roles, there’s no way you can tailor your resume and application for each role you apply to.
Second, applying to tons of jobs makes it very difficult to do high-impact things such as writing a cover letter, finding people who work at the company and trying to build relationships, and following up after you apply.
Also, remember, what you do next is wide open. You don’t have to search for similar jobs to what you did before the layoff. Especially if you weren’t completely satisfied in that role.
Doody thinks this is the ideal time to move in a new direction:
If you weren’t fulfilled in your previous role, feel like your skills plateaued or were underutilized, or that you weren’t paid what you’re worth, then a layoff may, in hindsight, be the catalyst you needed to get to the next level in your career. It’s so easy to stay in a role for too long, but sometimes when you are forced to evaluate your career and forge a new path forward, you may just land a better job that suits your skills, interest, values, and life better than your previous role.
After you’ve gotten over the initial shock of an unexpected layoff, you may come to realize that it was a blessing in disguise. Many people end up in roles that they are much better suited for.
Lensa can help! Check out all our resources to help you navigate your job search.