Being let go from a job can be a stressful and destabilizing experience. Here, engineering leadership coach Lena Reinhard shares some concrete steps you can take to get through it.
As the recent spate of layoffs across the technology sector continues, now is a good time to think about what to do if you were unfortunate enough to lose your engineering job.
Here are three steps to help you take care of logistics, support yourself, and prepare for your next job. You can do them in order or in parallel. Choose what’s most useful to you!
1. Take care of logistics
The first step is to make sure you’re getting what you’re owed from your former employer and prepare to move on:
- Cover the basics based on your country’s regulations – This may include contacting the labor bureau, or your health insurance provider.
- Know your rights – Check your contract terms, including your notice period, severance, and health insurance coverage.
- Identify what you want to negotiate – Your former employer may be flexible when it comes to severance pay, health insurance coverage, and your option exercise period.
- Consult with an employment lawyer and/or financial advisor – If you have questions it is best to contact a professional. They can provide support and help you learn about your rights and options.
- Ask to be added to a list of laid off employees – Oftentimes, these are shared on social networks or sites like layoffs.fyi to help recruiters find recently laid off talent. If one doesn’t exist, you might want to create one.
- Ask some people for a reference – The best people are usually close teammates or your boss. Note their contact information for the future.
- Ask for an official reference letter – If this is common in your country, it’s good to secure a reference letter before leaving.
- Check all paperwork and payments – Make sure they follow your contract and any extra agreements you made. Ask your lawyer to check for legality if you have doubts.
2. Take care of yourself
Now that you have the basics checked off, you should invest time and energy in your own wellbeing.
Being laid off can lead to negative feelings, including questioning your self-worth, or grappling with a sudden lack of daily structure.
You’re not alone with these feelings. It’s also normal to worry about how to make ends meet or finding another job. Take steps to support yourself, know your worth, and find community.
- Support yourself – Being laid off can bring up many challenging questions. Practice self-soothing and self-care and do things that support your growth, groundedness, and help you find meaning. This step-by-step guide (PDF download) can help you develop a self-care plan. You may also want to seek out professional mental health support through a therapist or counselor if you can.
- Capture your accomplishments from your last role – This will help you remember all of the impact you had. Walk through your entire time with the company and write down:
- Descriptions of what you worked on.
- The business impact this made.
- The team(s) you were a part of, including business goals, metrics, and services they owned.
- How you grew your experience and skills. Consider a variety of areas and examples across technical work, delivery, business acumen, leadership, and teamwork.
- Reflect on lessons learned in your previous role – What did you learn from this role about what you need to work at your best? This may take a little time and emotional distance, but can provide useful insight for when you begin to look for your next role.
- Find community – This can bring emotional support, help build connections, and learn about new opportunities. Speak to your friends often, connect with others who have been recently laid off, and the wider tech community. You can do this through social networks, or technical communities, including LeadDev or one of many others. Attend meet-ups in your area, register for conferences, and subscribe to newsletters (here are my favorites).
3. Get ready for a new job
You may want to prepare for your next role immediately after being laid off, or you might have the option to wait a bit. When you are ready to return to work, follow the steps below to stay grounded in your needs and avoid getting overwhelmed.
Connect with your needs
- Define what ready means to you – What do you need to feel ready to start applying and interviewing for roles? Take inspiration from the list below and write down which areas you want to work on first.
- Identify what matters to you in a new job – This will help you understand your values and review new opportunities. Think about areas like compensation, personal development, location, the work environment. Stack rank your criteria. Now you have a list that you can use to assess opportunities.
- Update your CV and social media profiles – Now you are ready, be sure to add your latest accomplishments and update your references across your CV, LinkedIn and other online profiles. Make sure you are always conveying the impact of your work by including business metrics, user impact, or team impact.
- Make job applications manageable – Track it! Keep a note of where you apply, when, and the interview details. Use a spreadsheet, or a notebook, whatever is easiest for you. Save a copy of any job you apply for and keep it as a reference, as some companies take down job postings while they’re still interviewing candidates.
- Prepare for job interviews – Research potential interview questions. If you want to improve your verbal communication skills ahead of time, try out communication structure tools. The STAR method, or the Pyramid Principle can be helpful to clearly convey your points. Run mock interviews with friends and give them specific areas to pay attention to and give you feedback on. This may feel awkward at first, but there’s a lot of power in saying things out loud. Prepare questions that you want to ask companies that you’re interviewing with. Pick up the list of what you value in a job that you created earlier. Define questions for each of your high-priority areas.
As you begin applying and interviewing, always keep in mind:
- Hiring is not a one-way street and interviews are always mutual – It’s not only the company assessing you, but you are also assessing them.
- Hiring in tech is still very broken and challenging – For the most part. Expect long hiring processes, poor communication, or poorly-run interviews. Some companies may ghost you or even withdraw an offer. Unfortunately, these issues are all quite normal, and likely have nothing to do with you.
- Don’t make any decision until you have to make a decision – The main decision point in applying for jobs is when you have an offer in front of you. This means: unless you don’t have the capacity or know that a company isn’t a fit for you, take the interview. Only decide which companies to continue with after you've spoken with them.
Being laid off, as well as applying and interviewing for jobs, can be intense experiences and consume a lot of your time and energy. They may also trigger doubts about your skills and gnaw at your confidence. Throughout this process it is vital to maintain your connection with your community. And, most of all, take care of yourself.