10 Things To Do If You’ve Been Laid Off, According to Career Coaches
Being laid off from a job can be a devastating experience psychologically, emotionally, and socially. Laid-off workers lose their income and daily routine—potentially even their self-esteem and a sense of purpose.
While your default reaction might be immediately firing off hundreds of job applications—after all, you have bills to pay—caring for your mental health and taking time to deliberate on your next career move are crucial.
Since the start of the year, 428 tech companies have laid off 120,342 employees, according to Layoffs.fyi. If layoffs continue at that rate, the industry could cut more than 900,000 jobs in 2023, per USA Today.
When companies mismanage budgets, overestimate demand, or undergo corporate restructuring, workers often get the ax. Mergers and acquisitions, industry competition, a weakened economy, and corporate downsizing are just a few reasons behind the recent mass layoffs in Big Tech. According to research from Zippia, 40% of Americans have been laid off or terminated at least once, and 28% have been laid off in the past two years alone.
If the recent layoffs have impacted you, know you’re not alone. Most redundancies—especially at the departmental or company-wide level—are completely unrelated to employee performance. When companies can’t sustain payroll at current levels or face pressure from investors to cut costs, they slash headcount to brighten their balance sheets.
Regardless of the shakeup, Big Tech isn’t going anywhere. Recent layoffs barely made a dent in the pandemic-fueled hiring frenzy that preceded it, and the net headcount at FAANGs remains higher than pre-COVID levels.
Below, we asked five Springboard career coaches to share their best advice for what to do if you’ve been recently laid off.
1. Write down your accomplishments
It’s tempting to apply to jobs willy-nilly and pray for callbacks. However, a layoff can be a prime opportunity to reevaluate your career path, reassess your values, or switch careers. Take inventory of your recent accomplishments. What unique contributions did you make in your last role? Think of initiatives you started, projects you led, and their outcomes. Catalog everything big and small—from offering to mentor a junior employee once a week to leading an end-to-end design project. These points will help you plan your next move, prepare stories for behavioral interviews, and update the role descriptions on your resume.
“This is a time to look inward and create an action plan for the future,” says Maria Tomaino, a career coach at Springboard. “Ask yourself what skills or experience you need to advance in your career.”
Next, consider what you liked and disliked about your previous role. What would you change? What should stay the same? For example, while you appreciated your manager’s laissez-faire style, perhaps you wished for more growth opportunities. Use these discoveries to frame the type of role you are looking for. Finally, give yourself time to pause, reflect, and find perspective. If your current role no longer affords the personal growth or compensation you desire, consider upskilling or reskilling. Companies often turn to contractors after mass layoffs to keep payroll costs down. You may want to consider freelancing temporarily, which lets you work with different clients and build a varied portfolio.
2. Remember that you have an in-demand skillset.
Despite the mass layoffs plaguing Big Tech, digital skills—including data analytics, AI, programming, cloud engineering, and cybersecurity—remain in high demand across every industry. The tech job market is still expected to grow in 2023, albeit at a more conservative rate than last year. A report from Janco Associates predicts that the IT job market will add 174,000 new positions this year, down from 186,300 in 2022.
Layoffs at tech companies create opportunities for “traditional” companies that struggled to acquire talent over the last two years—those in retail, banking, insurance, healthcare, hospitality, travel, and management consulting.
In November, there were 35,132 tech job postings in the finance and insurance sector alone, according to CompTIA’s analysis of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report released on Dec 2. Meanwhile, the green-tech sector is seeing increased government funding and demand for workers who can build climate change solutions and is eager to recruit laid-off tech workers.
Companies like Home Depot, Best Buy, and Ford have undergone successful digital transformations in recent years. They need tech talent to build and manage databases, update and maintain their web presence, and implement machine learning algorithms for business decision-making.
“Expand the aperture of companies you’re considering beyond Big Tech,” says Alan Stein, founder and CEO of Kadima Careers. “Companies like Pfizer, American, Express, and CVS Health still need tech talent.”
These “traditional” firms are seeking talent with sought-after skills in AI, machine learning, automation, data science, and programming to modernize business processes, optimize the user experience, collect data-driven insights, improve supply chain management, and manage human resource planning.
“Focus on the mid-size companies that are usually more open to new talent and have been competing with big tech companies for good talent,” says Mirela Frantz Cardinal, a career coach at Springboard.
If you were impacted by the layoffs but don’t have a technical background, switching careers creates opportunities to work in an in-demand field and be highly compensated.
Springboard recently pledged $1 million to offer a Career Reboot Scholarship to help those impacted by the layoffs in tech. Applicants must provide proof of full-time employment at a US-headquartered tech company listed on Layoffs.fyi.
3. Create daily routines.
Establishing a routine ensures you remain disciplined in your job search even on rough days involving multiple rejection emails or no callbacks. To create a routine, set goals for each day of the week. For example, Monday-Friday from 1-3 pm will be spent applying directly to jobs.
Allocate time outside of that to “admin” duties—updating your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and portfolio website, and contacting professionals in your industry for informational interviews. When approaching people you don’t know, look for things you have in common, such as a shared alma mater or mutual interests. Also, don’t overthink whether or not someone can directly help you. They may have beneficial connections or get promoted in the future.
Use a spreadsheet or relevant activity tracker app to record every outreach and job application sent. This lets you track your activities and determine when and how to follow up.
4. Leverage your network.
At Springboard, students must make at least seven new contacts per week and participate in two informational interviews per month during the job search process. The reason we emphasize networking is that 85% of jobs are filled through networking, and 70% of jobs are never advertised.
“If you were laid off, post about it on LinkedIn, let people know what you’re looking for, and start working your network,” says Adenike Makinde, a career coach at Springboard.
Start with people in your immediate circle—those you know personally, including friends, relatives, former classmates, managers, or coworkers. These are people who can speak to your skills and work ethic. Asking for referrals from someone you know personally is much easier than a cold introduction. Next, use your LinkedIn network to find people in companies or industries you wish to infiltrate. Send InMails to request informational interviews by expressing interest in their role or a recent project they posted about.
“When the economy is down, networking is the best way to get referrals and learn about upcoming openings,” says Jan Toor, a career coach at Springboard. “Talk to recruiters, hiring managers, and current employees and try to make relationships.”
Don’t forget to network offline. Attend industry events and use networking platforms like Lunchclub to meet professionals in your chosen industry. At the end of every meeting, ask “Is there anyone you feel would be worth me reaching out to?” This is how you build your network.
Before you start networking, make sure you’re ready to put your best foot forward.
“Have your pitch ready, be prepared to walk someone through your portfolio on the spot and explain what you’re currently working on, and get in front of as many people in that industry as possible,” says Makinde. “Never let a week go by without connecting with someone new or joining an industry group.”
5. Consider reskilling or upskilling
Data shows that the upskilling mandate applies not only to recently unemployed professionals but anyone working in tech wishing to “future-proof” their skills. A report by PwC found that 79% of global CEOs are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about finding talent with the right digital skills.
Moreover, the skills required to do our jobs are changing faster than ever: a recent LinkedIn analysis concluded that necessary employee skills for an average job have changed by 25% since 2015. Employers have noticed, as 87% of hirers agree that skills will become increasingly important to the future of hiring.
At Springboard, many of our students come from a non-technical background. An ex-performer in the Dallas Opera with a P.h.D. in vocal pedagogy, Hastings Reeves secured a full-time role as a business intelligence analyst after graduating from Springboard’s Data Science Career Track. Despite his love of performing, Reeves craved a more stable career.
“It would have been easy to get down on myself for not having a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but the education I had from Springboard was valid and beneficial,” said Reeves. “It comes down to having the resources to teach yourself something new and the tenacity to keep going even when you feel like you’re drowning in the deep end.”
We’ve seen students make incredible career transformations, going from EMT to software engineer, Chinese translator to data scientist, TV production coordinator to data analyst, and school administrator to UX designer.
Before researching universities, bootcamps, or online courses, ask yourself:
- What skills or proficiencies are in-demand in my industry or profession?
- Is my profession or industry in demand?
- Do I want to change careers? If so, what kind of training is required?
Next, assess how much time and money you can spend on upskilling. If you have family responsibilities or are working a full-time survival job to pay the bills while searching for your next role, a self-paced online program may be best.
6. Update your portfolio.
Update your portfolio with projects from your previous role worth showcasing, plus any personal projects you’ve been working on. If you’ve been unemployed for an extended period—six months or more—demonstrate to employers how you’ve used that hiatus to buttress your skills.
“Find projects you can do on your own or look for groups you can collaborate with,” says Makinde. “There are a lot of volunteer opportunities at nonprofits that need help from tech professionals.”
Join hackathons, contribute to open-source projects, volunteer, and start personal projects based on topics of interest or skills you’d like to learn. For example, to practice your data analysis skills, find publicly available datasets and run your analyses. Or, if you’re a budding UX designer, prototype an app you’ve always wanted to use and create a case study to walk hiring managers through your thought process.
Joining a bootcamp or enrolling in a degree program also afford opportunities to work on portfolio-ready projects. At Springboard, students in all career tracks are required to work on at least two capstone projects throughout the course. Their work is reviewed not only by their instructor but a 1:1 mentor who is a seasoned professional in their industry.
7. Use your prior skillset as an advantage.
Career switchers often suffer from crippling impostor syndrome, but they have a distinct advantage that sets them apart: domain knowledge in another industry or profession. When Reagan Tatsch was laid off from his job in marketing operations, he expected to take an entry-level data job after completing Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track, given his lack of a technical background.
But thanks to his years of leadership experience in marketing, he leveraged his transferable skills to land a team lead role and is now a data operations manager at Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS).
“In the data world, you don’t see a lot of people that can articulate and communicate effectively with people—in other words, people with leadership qualities,” says Tatsch. “These companies knew my data skills were entry-level, but it didn’t matter because I had a lot of leadership experience, and that’s what they were interested in.”
Similarly, while applying for her first software engineering role, Kristy Chu used her background as an accountant to land a role at FloQast, which provides software for accounting professionals.
“The company hires a lot of people with a background similar to mine—people who were accounting auditors in the past who then went to a bootcamp to become a software engineer,” says Chu.
Find ways to frame your prior career as an enhancement to your technical skills, no matter how unrelated it seems. This means identifying transferable soft skills–communication, teamwork, time management, and initiative–plus any domain knowledge that makes you uniquely suited to a particular company or role.
Those entering a new field after switching careers tend to be more intentional and have overcome numerous barriers to acquire new skills, such as balancing a full-time job while studying or simply managing fear of the unknown. Let your career switch be a testament to your passion and work ethic.
“It shows perseverance and a willingness to go the extra mile,” says Makinde. “Career switchers know they have to put in the extra legwork to succeed, step out of their comfort zone, and be willing to do things other people might not be willing to do.”
8. Revamp your resume and cover letter.
Tech jobs are competitive—Google receives three million job applications per year—so it’s imperative to follow best practices for your resume.
Your resume should be neat, presentable, and easy to scan by a recruiter (most spend an average of six seconds per resume). Don’t forget to use keyword optimization (reusing keywords from the job description throughout your resume) to improve your chances of clearing the applicant tracking system (ATS).
If you’re applying for jobs in data science or software engineering, list the programming languages you’re proficient in and note your fluency.
Include a section dedicated to personal projects. Perhaps an app you wireframed and prototyped, a data visualization you created on a topic you’re passionate about, or a machine learning model you built to classify images or explore relationships between two or more datasets.
Explain the impact and value you brought to your previous employer. On your resume, you can note in parentheses if your layoff was companywide or department-wide by stating “mass corporate layoff.” Don’t go into more detail—the time to do so will be face-to-face.
“Unless you have a substantial employment gap of two years or more, I wouldn’t suggest addressing the layoff in your cover letter or resume,” says Makinde.
If you must address the layoff in your cover letter, keep it brief and positive. For example, “My layoff from Company X afforded me time to earn a certificate in Y.”
Mention courses, personal projects, and volunteer work, if applicable. This shows you’re a self-starter with a strong work ethic who knows how to keep their skills sharp in a fast-moving tech industry.
9. Practice your interviewing skills.
Interviewing is a distinct skill requiring consistent practice. Don’t worry about your layoff holding you back during an interview. Be upfront and authentic when discussing the situation. Don’t express bitterness towards your previous employer. Find something positive from the experience (eg: “I was able to spend more time with my family while teaching myself principles of accessible design”) and lean into it.
“Have your pitch ready, be prepared to walk someone through your projects, and get yourself in front of as many people in the industry as possible,” Makinde advises.
Practice behavioral and technical interview questions. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Response) format when answering scenario-based questions about your prior work experience (eg: “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a manager”).
For data science and software engineering jobs, consider joining Pramp, a platform that lets users practice live interviews with peers on data structures and algorithms, product management, system design, front-end development, data science, and more. Techmockinterview.com is a similar platform connecting users with professional interviewers and mentors from Big Tech companies.
10. Have faith in the process.
Job searching can be emotionally harrowing, especially if it takes a while to see results. Finding ways to cope with uncertainty and taking care of your mental health is essential during this time. Take regular breaks and treat each interview as a learning opportunity regardless of the outcome. Always ask for feedback. Understanding what you can do better will prepare you to land your ideal role.
“Don’t compare your job search process with others,” says Cardinal. “Comparing ourselves with others only intensifies insecurity, which decreases motivation. Even if it takes longer than you would like to get the job, that’s not related to your value as a professional.”
Since you’re here…
Were you one of the tens of thousands of workers impacted by this year’s tech layoffs? Springboard wants to help. Our new Career Reboot Scholarship is intended to assist job seekers from tech looking to upskill, reskill and stand out in a competitive hiring environment. Get $1,000 off any Springboard bootcamp in software engineering, data analytics, UX design, cybersecurity, tech sales, and more. Visit this page for eligibility requirements and to apply.