If you’re working in tech, there is a chance that you or someone you know has been hit by the recent reductions in force. More than 45,000 U.S. tech employees were let go from their jobs in November 2022, according to data published on the website Layoffs. Twitter, Meta and Amazon accounted for nearly 25,000 of those jobs lost, and Forbes reports that layoffs at Google could surpass 10,000 employees by early 2023.
This is not good news for tech employees, and even worse news for women and for those charged with leading DE&I initiatives. The tech industry is already one of the least diverse industries in the world. In their recent Women in the Workplace report, McKinsey and Lean In make significant note of the fact that women’s relative representation in technical roles has been in decline since 2018. All these layoffs mean that women’s representation in tech just got even smaller, and there is a risk that organizations will slim down on their allocation of resources toward diversity and inclusion.
If you find yourself in a position to influence who may be subject to a reduction in force, do all that you can to ensure a representation of men and women in the selection that is reflective of your workforce. If you find yourself presently out of work due to a layoff or for any other reason, here are some things you can do now.
Losing your job is one of the top-five most stressful life events, ranking right up there with death and divorce. Before jumping into action, take some time to name and acknowledge your feelings. Not only is this good emotional hygiene, but you will also likely save yourself from making a terrible next decision.
When we are under significant stress, often a self-protective part of our brain, called the amygdala, takes over. The amygdala can hijack our best thinking as it turns to solving one problem, remove us from stress or threat immediately. This can translate into taking the next job offered rather than making a thoughtful and well-reasoned decision.
Once you have named your feelings, experiment with some of these best practices to cultivate self-compassion, resilience and return your brain to its highest and best thinking:
Meditate. If this is not already part of your daily practice, choose from one of the many apps that can lead you in guided practices. My favorites now are Insight Timer and Waking Up. Both provide easy guided meditations and some theory and conversations that will help you think and feel differently. Start small but devote focused time to the practice.
Name and acknowledge your feelings. Many find writing in a journal useful, simply noticing how you feel and naming the emotion can help us gain some distance from the emotions so that they are not driving our behavior. My coach supports me in something called Focusing, a practice named by Eugene Gendlin, where you sit and notice where in your body you feel the emotion. For example, I notice when I’m feeling fear, it is like a rock in my stomach. The practice helps me to tap into my body, feel the emotion, make some space in my body for the feeling and ultimately it breaks up a little, moving and shifting in my stomach, which ultimately allows for better thinking.
Practice emotional agility. Here your main goal is to name the feeling that you are having and practice kindness and curiosity as you explore it. What insights or wisdom can you gain from the emotion and the experience? In Susan David’s book by the same title, she says use feelings as “data not directives”.
Conduct your own learning review. Think about all the experiences you had at you prior job and ask, what did they teach you about who you are and what has meaning and purpose to you. What are some of the things you did that brought you joy and gave you energy? What made you feel bored, unfulfilled, or even sad or angry? What does that tell you about what you want to prioritize for next time.
Continue to practice gratitude. Whatever your situation, there is much to be thankful for. Even the fact that you find yourself in a place where you have access to information and guidance on what to do next is a privilege. Be grateful for what you do have, the space you have in your life for reflection, learning and resetting.
Though this should not be taken as legal advice, I was a US employment lawyer for nearly a decade and would strongly encourage you to consult a lawyer if there is anything you are unsure about. On the top of my list are the following actions:
Though not legal advice, you may want to review your finances. Make a budget, review your savings and expenses, and come up with a plan for how you will manage your finances during this period so that you are not operating from a place of financial fear as you consider next steps.
One of the trends in tech hires are those seeking more specialized skill sets. If there is something you want to learn, now is your time. When I stopped practicing law after ten years, I doubled down on my education. I spent time figuring out what I wanted to do, and what skills I thought I needed to do it well. I entered a part-time degree program, got certified on several instruments and did my coaching accreditation. All of this was part-time and in between any work I could find that gave me the opportunity to practice what I was learning, even if it was unpaid or paid minimally. And all this happened in my late 30s. Watch out for limiting assumptions about what stage of life you are in and what is possible. There are always opportunities to learn.
The act of learning something new also helps reduce stress levels, can be inspirational when you are struggling to figure out what you want, and help you get greater clarity on what brings you joy. It keeps your brain active and opens doors to meeting new people. If you are not sure what you want to learn, spend time researching emerging areas. Scan LinkedIn hiring to see who is hiring and what unique skills are they looking for. Are you seeing trends? If so, what interests you?
My last piece of advice is to invest deeply in your network. Do not assume any of your prior contacts could not be a resource to you in the future. This is the best path I know to your next job. Connect with colleagues from your existing job and any prior jobs, consider consultants with whom you’ve worked, look back to people you studied with or knew at other points in your life.
I suggest reaching out to your network not only for help finding your next job but also to brainstorm, hear about what is happening in other industries, and perhaps give you some inspiration for what you want to do next.
When we’ve been immersed in job for a long time, we can lose sight of what else is happening in the marketplace, and in other industries. Do be sure when you reach out to people in your network that you have a specific ask in mind. What would you like to discuss with them when you meet? Even old friends may ask, “how can I help you?” The clearer you can be on that, the more likely they are to be able to help.
Do what you need to do in order to stay positive. Keep a list of things that make you feel happy, healthy, alive and safe. Do as many of those things as you can in between the time you spend on your job search because the more positive and confident you feel in any interview, the more likely you are to find your next great job!