Technology professionals and managers are used to being in high demand, but no sector is immune to layoffs and economic disruption.
In January of this year, VMware announced it was cutting 800 jobs as part of a transition to emerging technologies. In May, Microsoft announced that over 1,800 staff will lose their jobs, including many in Finland who formerly worked for a Nokia business unit that Microsoft purchased in 2014. IBM and Intel have announced global job cuts exceeding 10,000 positions each.
Beyond the headlines, these events are distressing to those directly impacted as well as those who fear they may be next.
If you find yourself in this situation, take heart. There is life after the layoff. Your career will recover.
Navigating through layoffs
Once the shock wears off, there is work to be done. Here are the stories of three tech pros who went through layoffs and how they got their careers started again.
“Adobe typically lays off part of its workforce every year in November,” says Russell Harley, who was laid off from his position as senior consultant at Adobe. Leveraging outside support formed a key part of Harley’s career revitalization strategy, and it paid off with relatively short search. Two months after his last day at Adobe, in December 2014, Harley landed a new position as a senior project manager at Network Computing Architects, a role he is still in today. “I found it helpful to use Employment Crossing Concierge service among other resources,” he says. The Employment Crossing Concierge, priced at $449 per month, provides customized job search and job application assistance.
Brad Goss took a different approach when he was laid off from IBM in August 2015 after working for the company for over 30 years. “I had a chance to come up for air and think about next steps in my career,” says Goss. “I realized that I wanted to dive deeper in cybersecurity, a field that I had been interested in for a long time.”
Starting in February 2016, Goss began a 20-week training program with SecureSet, a cybersecurity training provider. This gave him access to lab facilities where he could use leading security software, as well as support to earn cybersecurity certifications. Goss is currently preparing for the CISSP exam and interviewing for jobs.
Vitaly Khozyainov, formerly director of IT Enterprise Architecture at desktop virtualization provider Parallels, also took advantage of new learning opportunities. He used the Lynda.com platform to take courses in responsive web design and building an agile development team.
But Khozyainov saw his layoff coming and began preparing for it in advance. “I expected a layoff to happen several months in the future so I started to lay some groundwork for the transition,” Khozyainov said. “I started by researching the market for corporate IT roles in Seattle and the West Coast.”
External resources played an important role for Khozyainov. “I hired two career consultants to advise me. A key insight was devising the right technical search process which led to several job interviews,” he said. As of this writing, Khozyainov is continuing his job search.
How to come back from a layoff
Restarting a career after a layoff requires a combination of pragmatism, focus and taking care of yourself. The following steps will help you minimize the time you spend unemployed.
1. Prepare yourself to leave
Some companies give their staff a few days or weeks to continue working after they are given the layoff news. “If possible, give yourself a few days to get over the shock of the news before you take action. Next, make a copy of materials you would need for resume creation while honoring the organization’s intellectual property limits,” says Matt Youngquist, a career coach based in Bellevue, Washington.
Specific information and files to copy include: contact information (name, title, phone and email) for your contacts made at the company, copies of emails and notes received from happy clients, and summary notes on your projects and responsibilities. Resist the temptation to copy proprietary information such as sales data, software code and specific business plans.
2. Negotiate your severance package
Before signing on the dotted line, take the time to assess the package you are offered. “The old standard for severance pay was one month of pay per year of service. However, many companies have come up with their own formulas,” says Youngquist. If your employment involves high compensation or unusual items (e.g., stock options or equity), you may want to consult an employment attorney for advice.
In any case, come to the severance discussion prepared to negotiate. For example, you may inquire about job opportunities elsewhere in the company. Or seek the use of a company phone number or email address for a period of time to transition your network. Job assistance programs are another key area to consider. “If you are offered an outplacement service, be ready to ask for alternatives if the service does not meet your needs,” says Youngquist. Each company varies in what they offer and their flexibility.
3. Evaluate your financial situation
Your flexibility and job search options are impacted by your financial resources. If you have six to 12 months of living expenses saved, making a significant career change is easier.
“If you have limited savings, searching for a new job that closely relates to your past job is the fastest route to employment. Changing to a new career or discipline is possible but it does take longer,” Youngquist says.
4. Show what you know
If your LinkedIn profile could use some attention, you’re not alone. “The vast majority of people do not have an optimized LinkedIn profile,” says Youngquist. “For example, project managers sometimes fail to mention their work with budgets, key terms like stakeholder management and products they have worked on.”
And LinkedIn isn’t the only site where you can flaunt your expertise. “In addition to LinkedIn, I recommend that software developers become active on GitHub,” said Josh Withers, a partner at San Francisco-based recruitment firm TRUE.
5. Reconnect with your network
Your personal network is the single most important ingredient in career success. “The people who bounce back the fastest from a layoff tend to have a strong network. Specifically, they make the effort to stay in touch with former colleagues who have left to join other companies,” explains Withers.
Asking for job leads, introductions and advice from your connections is only part of the story.
“If you are looking to build a relationship with a recruiter, help them do their job. Recruiters are tasked with finding people that meet specific requirements. If you don’t fit for a specific search, you can still add value to the recruiter by introducing them to someone who may be a good fit,” Withers says.
6. Consider using a consultant
Leveraging outside assistance is a valuable way to reach your career goals faster. Before hiring a consultant, come prepared with a list of questions to explore. Ask to speak with a past client, ask about the consultant’s process and philosophy and ensure that you understand pricing. While outside help can give you a new perspective, strategy and resources, never forget that you own and manage your career.