How to cope when you’ve been laid off

In the decade I’ve worked in the tech industry I’ve come to learn how common lay-offs are. In 2012 when I was a manager at Groupon, I had to lay off teammates I had hired after the share price slumped post-IPO.

When I was a manager at HotelTonight in 2015, I watched as some of my fave teammates were laid off to cut costs after the founders tried and failed to raise another round of funding.

Just last week I joined the millions of professionals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic when I was laid off from Product Hunt. What next?

If you’ve also been laid off here’s a checklist to help you cope with the situation.

1. Don’t take it personally

There’s a sense of rejection that hits when you first hear that you are being laid off. It’s important to remember that this lay off isn’t about you, it’s the company’s attempt to survive.

Prior to announcing layoffs, the leadership team would have crunched numbers to decide how to extend the runway for as long as possible.

If it’s a venture-backed company like most of our tech employers are, the leadership will also be thinking about what the investors want (almost certainly a return on their capital).

Do not waste too much of your precious energy and headspace thinking of what you could have done differently. Because there is nothing!

2. Review your financial position and work out your cost-of-living runway

Being laid off means your main (or only) source of income is going to be indefinitely curtailed. Hopefully, you were able to negotiate a decent severance package, but most people are laid off with a week or a month’s pay in lieu of notice (if that).

Review your bank account and credit card statements to calculate how much you spend each month on rent and all other essentials. Then work out how much money you have access to across all your accounts.

This will determine how many months you can survive without another paycheck coming through and gives you a target period in which to find a job.

Don’t forget about any debts you have to pay and think about (1) how you can cut your outgoing costs to a minimum (2) who in your life can lend you money interest-free if you don’t have enough cash to cover essentials like rent and utilities.

3. Reflect on your experiences in your last role to decide what an ideal next role will be

Our survival instincts kick in during crisis time driving us to fix the problem as quickly as possible. While it’s really important to focus on the next steps — especially if you don’t have the financial privilege to wait — don’t waste this incredible chance to reflect on what motivates you at work.

Be bold and true to your personal motivations, values, and desires for your life (you only have one life after all!) and design what your ideal next few years look like career-wise.

Consider everything from how many hours a week you want to work, to how much you want to earn, to what types of problems you want to solve, where you want to be and how much flexibility you want to have.

Use the data points you collect in your reflections as markers when planning your next move.

4. With your ideal next move in mind, update your social media profiles, your resume and start putting out feelers

Getting laid off could be an opportunity to pursue a path that aligns more closely with your current values and motivations.

I really enjoyed working on Product Hunt’s community team, leading experiments to drive growth, engagement and increase the representation of diverse makers.

I see the next chapter in my career focused on me predominately, if not exclusively, leading initiatives to achieve greater diversity and inclusion within our industry.

Five years ago, my social media profiles and CV focused on my expertise achieving growth through partnerships and content. Now my profiles and CV focus on my achievements increasing the diversity and inclusion of communities through strategic initiatives I’ve designed and delivered.

I’ve started speaking to connections who can help me: I reach out to schedule a call and ask them about D&I strategy and initiatives where they work. I might even ask for a referral to help my application stand out if I see a relevant role in their company.

5. Diversify your career just like you diversify your portfolio

This pandemic is unprecedented but uncertainty is an inevitable part of life. Especially if you choose a riskier career path like tech where surprises are always around the corner. It’s essential to mitigate the risk of losing your job by creating other sources of income.

These additional sources of income could be from a side hustle (or multiple side hustles). Another part-time job. Projects you lend your expertise to. Consulting. Perhaps you’ve created content: an e-book or PDF resource you can sell. Whatever it is, be sure to diversify your income so that when inevitable change arrives you have other means of survival.

Hope you found this helpful. If you’re on the job hunt — I wish you luck! Please share it so it can help more folks.

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Michael Berhane, Founder of POCIT
Abadesi Osunsade
Abadesi Osunsade

Abadesi Osunsade is the founder and CEO of Hustle Crew. She's also the co-host of the Techish podcast and the author of Dream Big Hustle Hard.

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