Laid off recently? A guide to navigating layoffs as a tech worker
March 28, 2023
Just got laid off from your tech job? Here are some best practices that we learned from talking to many other tech workers who were laid off
It’s tempting to blame yourself for getting laid off. Don’t. It’s not your fault. So much of being laid off is random. In fact, companies intentionally cut across the board to avoid lawsuits.
Another way you can reframe- see how many L9 level and VPs got laid off at Twitter, Google, and Meta- in the last year- more than 10!
Unless your company gives you a deadline, there is no rush to sign a severance agreement. We’ve heard stories of workers signing the severance agreement within the layoff day, without looking carefully, and then having to negotiate the fine print *after* signing
Make sure you understand what you're signing before you sign! You may even ask for a deadline extension or negotiate your severance package. Brian Liou of Rora (a firm that helps tech professionals with job search negotiations) has a great article on this topic:
Laid Off? Here's How to Negotiate Your Severance Package
The severance package you receive when you are laid off is negotiable. Even more surprising is that you can negotiate a severance package even if you are the one quitting your job. If you're wondering how to negotiate a severance package, we're sharing all of our strategies in this guide.
Many tech executives already have severance agreements pre-negotiated before signing the job offer. See this Linkedin post for details
Remember, there are laws that protect you, including WARN laws
Check out WARNTracker’s in-depth guide to the WARN Act/laws in our blog post here
How the WARN Act Actually Works: A Human-Readable Guide - WARNTracker.com Blog
The WARN Act requires employers to give a 60-day notice to employee and state government officials before large layoffs or closures. Here is our guide to the WARN Act.
Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation - one way to defray costs would be to find a lawyer together with coworkers laid off in the same jurisdiction- you likely got the same severance agreement/forms.
If you’re on an H1B, keep in mind there’s a 60-day grace period as well as a 10-day LCA certification when you accept a new offer.
By definition of a layoff, you were not the only one laid off from your company. Reach out to those who were also laid off and see if you can help each other. One of our friends made a signal group chat for all the engineers who were laid off from their company, it helped immensely for them as they interview prepped, sent referrals, etc.
In addition, try to find an alumni community for your company. Many tech companies have alumni Slack communities, with channels for job postings and navigating layoffs.
WARNTracker recently started compiling a crowd-sourced list. See full blog post here for full details and instructions on submitting an entry!
If they don't exist, you can start one! Here's an example of how Steven started one for Tableau Alumni once he found out Tableau/Salesforce had major layoffs, which reached over 500 members within 2 weeks.
In addition to alumni/company communities, Stephanie Sakoda has a great newsletter and community for folks who were recently laid off.
- Evaluate your regular fixed expenses and any variable expenses that may have been incurred in your previous job.
- With the knowledge of your severance pay (if applicable), unemployment benefits, personal savings, and other assets you can liquidate, calculate how long you can financially sustain yourself without a regular paycheck.
- If you do choose to hold significant cash, it’s a good idea to take advantage of current high interest rates by parking the majority of your cash in a high-interest account. Some places that are currently paying high rates on cash:
- Take a moment to collect yourself. Now that you are in charge of your finances, it's important to plan wisely. Avoid impulsive buying decisions or extravagant expenses. Be realistic when it comes to variable expenses and maintain a thrifty budget for the time being. But don't forget to treat yourself occasionally, such as with a fancy coffee drink. Remember to be kind to yourself during this transition period.
If you have the financial runway/visa to do so, take some time to think about what you want to do next.
- Do you want to stay in tech?
- Do you want to start a company?
- Do you want to travel and do all the travel you canceled due to Covid? Do you want to volunteer? Do you want to do something else?
Here are some frameworks for thinking about what to do next:
- Part-Time Tech Newsletter - our friend Ernie Park has been writing about part-time work, which is especially good for parents or people who want to ease back into working full-time
You now have a unique opportunity to grow and learn skills which you’ll never have the time to pursue when your days are occupied by a full-time job!
Specifically for software engineers (Chris and Steven are both career SWEs and thus know the most about this):
We highly recommend our friends at Taro- they are building *the* discussion platform for career advice. Very good content! Use this link for 20% off a yearly subscription. (most people use company Learning & Development budgets for this too so it can be effectively free to you, once you join another company).
You can follow them on LinkedIn for free content
- Rahul Pandey — Building joinTaro.com to help Software Engineers find career success. Follow me to grow your career.
In addition, we also like The Pragmatic Engineer Newsletter, one of the top SWE substack newsletters.
Here are some tips once you start your job search again
General job search methods
There are a number of robo recruiters out there. Hired.com is one of them.
In terms of job sites, besides the well-known Indeed.com, we’ve heard positive things about ZipRecruiter for tech positions as well
A number of websites have sprung up due to the 2022-2023 tech slowdown/layoffs with crowdsourced still-hiring information. https://stillhiring.today is one of them
Niche job boards lessen choice paralysis and give you more details about companies with respect to a certain dimension or vertical
- https://www.iykyk.careers/ - focuses on new grads/entry-level tech jobs
Tech company alumni usually have tight networks and some have become powerhouses for starting new companies (i.e. Tesla, Space X).
One “hack” you can use is to compile a list of alumni-founded companies- once you get to a critical mass, founders will reach out to be added. Make sure to post on Linkedin!
Here's an example that Steven made: a list of Tableau-alumni founded companies started for his Tableau colleagues after the Tableau Jan 2023 layoffs
New Check out WARNTracker’s list of over 15 alumni communities here
If you're a software engineer, Steven wrote an extensive article on the full life cycle job search/interview prepping that went viral on Linkedin with over 400,000 views: How I landed 18 FAANG+ software engineer offers after not interviewing for 5 years | | Medium. The article is tailored toward software engineers but much of the article is applicable to everyone.
Kadima Careers has great resources for job search in general. You can follow Alan, the founder, for free content on LinkedIn
This article was written with feedback from many of our friends who have experienced layoffs. If you have any suggestions/resources, please contact us
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