Laid off?

23 January 2023

If you've been following the news lately, undoubtedly you've heard one way or another that massive rounds of layoffs have been taking place. I got caught in one of them.1

If you're younger than I am you may never have been laid off before. That's okay.

I've been laid off a few times in my career, so here are a few things to keep in mind if this is your first goat rodeo.

I can't tell you "don't panic" because you might have very good reasons for feeling panic. I'm certainly not going to judge you for it and I don't know your situation. What I can do is ask that you take a few deep breaths and set your panic aside for the duration of this blog post. If, at the end of the post, you still feel a need to panic go right ahead.

First, being laid off won't hurt your career regardless of what folks might tell you. Layoffs are a thing that happens. They're out of your control. Folks will sometimes tell you that the weakest employees are the ones that get cut, but I can tell you from experience that this is rarely the case. When the order to lay employees off comes down the company wants to get it done as soon as possible, because it usually has to do with money. Figuring out who the weakest employees are across the company takes time, which means spending money. When layoffs happen spending more money than absolutely necessary on them is not something companies want to do. Regardless, everybody does it a little differently and unless you're in upper management you're not going to know what the criteria are anyway. For all anyone knows they rolled handfuls of dice and used the results to pick names off of a spreadsheet. So, don't worry about this.

Additionally, just about every recruiter has been laid off at one time or another. If they can't put themselves in your shoes and remember what it was like, you may not want to work with them anyway.

Second, I hope you have a brag sheet - a list of all the things you did, all the stuff you fixed, and all the other teams and managerial types that you interacted with while you were employed. If you don't, start working on one because that's the thing you're going to use to update your resume. Get your resume up to date and as polished as possible. Also, more and more job search and application services require machine-readable resumes, so if you need to retype the document to make sure it's readily parseable do so, otherwise you'll spend a very long time with each job application you file just cleaning up the text.2 I can't tell you what to do about the length of your resume because there are pros and cons to very long and relatively short (one or two page) resumes, and you never know what's going to work.

Third, cut your burn rate. Work on spending as little money as possible because you don't know how long it'll be before you find another job. Stop non-essential subscriptions, unsubscribe from as many services as you can, knock down eating out or getting stuff delivered, log out of Amazon. You need to stretch the resources you've got. If you can put off upgrades and possibly repairs to anything you have consider doing so. Just don't hamstring yourself so you can't look for a job; it sucks to have to buy a new hard drive for your computer (believe me, I know right now..) but if you honestly can't do anything if that thing's offline, you might have to bite the bullet.

If you are offered any - any - help, take it. Friends passing your resume around, folks on the social network of your choice, Slack servers for and by folks from the place you just got laid off from, it all helps. If the opportunity for coaching, networking opportunities, or resume reviews and rewrites come your way jump on them. You never know when you're going to stumble into an opportunity so cast as wide a net as you can. If there are any online classes or trainings that you have access to (as part of being laid off or otherwise), consider partaking of a few of them. For example, part of me stumbled across the FedVTE Public Courses Page, which are continuing education online classes that are free to take courtesy of USA Learning.

Having a continuing education section on your resume always looks good. There's no shame in learning new stuff.

If you can reasonably do, so take the time to rest and pull yourself together. If your situation is anything like mine you're probably burned out like a certain hotdog and could really use a little break. If there are any projects you've been meaning to do, seriously consider working on them. They don't have to do anything with work but they can if you want (I plan on messing with Grafana, for example). If nothing else they look good on a resume, but a solid resume and a difficult job don't mean a whole lot if you're dying on the wire.

Being laid off sucks, I won't kid you. But things will improve sooner or later. You don't have to take my advice (because I am An Old and know how these things work) but at least consider it. Some of these things are still relevant and accurate.3 And you really never know when something will give you an idea.

  1. I have theories about what happened with big tech companies in the Bay Area and some evidence, but that's not the point of this post. Also, I doubt anybody really cares. 

  2. I need to do this, incidentally. 

  3. I might be a lot of things, but one thing I make sure to keep on top of is observing the world around me and thinking about how things work these days and update what I know based upon that. I try not to let my life experiences get obsolete, covid or not.