Getting laid off - now what do you do

Lessons Learned After Getting Laid Off

It’s all over the news – Meta, the parent company of Facebook – is laying off over 11,000 employees.  Google is laying off 100 recruiters and closing multiple offices. Twitter just laid off a ton of people once Elon Musk took over. Wow, did that news bring back memories for me. I have been working my own web business full-time now for the past few years but in 2019 I was still working full-time in the tech industry here in Silicon Valley. If I am counting correctly, I believe I have been laid off at least 6 or 7 times. So I believe I have the experience to give you some tips on what to do when you are laid off. The first job that I got laid off from was after joining a fairly established company. They had just spent a lot of time and money training me as an accounting support rep for their software. I was traveling all over the western United States doing training classes. They looked at their forecast for future sales, and the next thing I knew, I was out of a job. After the initial shock, which took about a week or two to get over, I polished up my resume and started filling out job applications, going to job fairs and cruising LinkedIn and Craigslist for jobs. Eventually I got another job but it took about 6 months. After that initial layoff, I have been laid off over many years for a multitude of reasons:
  • After 5 years the small company I was working for got bought out and they moved it to the east coast. I remember having the phone system sold from off the wall and I even purchased their store-room shelves for my garage. It was a fire sale and everything had to go.
  • At my next company, after 3.5 years, they got bought and moved it to Arizona. The sad part is that I knew people who moved with the company, from Silicon Valley, and many of them ended up getting laid off 6 months after having moved to Arizona.
  • Following that company, after 2 years at another company, they combined forces with another organization and my services were no longer needed.
  • I voluntarily left a couple of companies and then went to another company. After 9 months and 3 upper management changes at this company, they decided that I wasn’t a good fit anymore.
  • At my last full-time company, after 1 year as a temp plus an additional 4 years as a full-time employee, I had my manager change and although the company had had many layoffs and I got caught in one.
  • Following that last job I had two more positions as a full-time contractor and then I decided I had had enough and gave my notice. I then turned my part-time side web business into my full-time business where I was my own boss. I haven’t looked back since.

Wow! I’ve been laid off TOO many times!

My point in telling you all of these details is that when you work in the tech industry, expect to lose your job at some point in your career. My husband, who is a Civil engineer working for a small Traffic engineering company now, is the only person I know, I swear, who hasn’t ever been laid off. He’s been able to be in control of his career path his entire life and decide when he wanted to leave a company…. SO unfair!

A Few Lessons After Getting Laid Off

Here are some lessons I have learned over the years of losing jobs:
  • Take one day (maybe two) to feel sorry for yourself. Go get a massage, cry on a friends shoulder, get a manicure, soak in a hot tub – do whatever you need to do to comfort yourself. Then get over it. Even if they have given you a 3-month or 6-month severance, you will need that money – so don’t think you can relax. You have a lot of work to do now.
  • Sign up for Unemployment Benefits with the Employment Development Department within the next few days of being laid off. I have learned that you need to “register” with them RIGHT AWAY. No matter if you have gotten a severance package and benefits from the company, or not, you deserve and are have put money into your unemployment benefits and deserve to collect them. It’s pro-rated depending on your income. The day you apply, is when the clock starts ticking. If you wait 6 months to apply (maybe you wait because you got a severance package), the day you apply is when the clock starts. The reason why you want to apply right away is because once you get a job, your benefits stop. You can’t get unemployment benefits once you start working so apply right away.
  • Polish up your resume. Try to remember all of the projects you have worked on. Insert LOTS of keywords because many companies scan resumes and they search for certain keywords. Hopefully you have saved all of your past employee review documentation; that will help you remember all of the details on the projects you have worked on and the skills you have learned over time. If you can compress your resume down to two pages, great. If you have to go to 3 pages, then do it. But try to not go over 3 pages. Include relevant jobs. Usually you don’t need to go over 10 years – but it all depends on your industry and your work experience and the technologies you have worked with. I often found that I needed to customize my resume for each job. I think it pays off so if you find you are applying for jobs you think you are qualified for but you aren’t getting, start tweaking and customizing you resume. Also, send your resume to a couple of VERY GOOD friends and get their opinions on how it reads. Don’t let your ego get in the way of having a good resume.  Be sure to listen to their input. If you have a lot of information you want to tell your prospective new company, you can always verbalize what you want in your phone and/or in your face-to-face interview.
  • It will be embarrassing – get over it – but tell, text or email all of your friends, co-workers and acquaintances that you have been laid off and are looking for a job. State that you were laid off, and not fired for cause or performance. When emailing them, be sure to attach your updated resume. You NEVER know who they may know or be talking to that might know someone who is looking to fill a position. Having sent them your resume may be very convenient for them to forward. Many jobs are found through connections.
  • Pay attention to the time of year you are laid off. If you get laid off near Thanksgiving, try to relax. I have found that from Thanksgiving until the first of the year, no one hires people. Companies are all working on their new budgets and trying to finish what they can before the end of the year. The hiring is MUCH better in January and February (recession or not) so just take that time to wind-down, put together a nice interview outfit, talk to people and polish your resume. If you are laid off during the summer time, realize that people are on vacations so having them get back to you may take longer.
  • Be sure to update your LinkedIn page. Get an updated photo on your listing and continually polish the content you have posted. The more you update your LinkedIn listing and the more you post and repost articles you like, it will show that you are active on the site. The more active you are on LinkedIn, the more you will “rise to the top.” I knew one guy why was looking for a job for a long time. He had updated his resume on LinkedIn but wasn’t getting a lot of calls. Once he started liking others posts, reposting them and even writing his own posts, he started getting more calls to come in for an interview.
  • Your new job is finding a job. I would work 4 to 6 hours every day 4 or 5 days a week doing SOMETHING to find a new job. I would call people, email people, go to lunch with people, look on the job boards, take online classes to improve my skills…. anything focused on getting a job. Sometimes I would take Friday off but that was it. Even with that herculean effort, the fastest I ever found a new job was in 2.5 months.
  • If you are not getting hired right away, re-evaluate the types of jobs you are applying for and your qualifications. One time I had been laid off for almost a year – it was during the dot com bust. I was applying for jobs that I KNEW I was qualified for but I was NOT getting hired. I was getting desperate. So I finally decided to apply for jobs where I was OVER qualified  – and IT WORKED. I got hired and stayed in that job for almost three years until I could find a better-fitting job. You have to do what you have to do to pay for your mortgage, PG&E and put food on the table. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and get paid what they are willing to pay you so you don’t become financially desperate.

Try to be practical, patient and “think outside the box” when looking for your next job. When you have been laid off you are in a different realm when you are applying from the outside of a company than if you are trying to go up the ladder from the inside.

Hang in There

Losing your job is one of the top emotional upheavals in a person’s life.  I remember every one of the periods in my life when I have been laid off. It sucks. But I hope these tips help at least one person who has recently been laid off. Good luck!!

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