Rebound: Motivating Yourself After Tech Layoffs

So you’ve been laid off by a large tech company.

I am so sorry. That stinks!

Also: Welcome to the rebound!

You’re going to come back stronger than ever.

How do I know this with such certainty? Because technology will only keep evolving and propelling society forward. There are highs and lows, zigs and zags, but overall things in tech keep moving forward. 

YOU ARE PART OF SOMETHING WAY BIGGER THAN JUST ONE COMPANY

Let’s zoom way out.

Further.

Even further!

Higher.

50,000 foot view.

Zoom out even more.

Now stop.

You’re Part of a $5.2 Trillion Global Tech Industry

Add up every TAM out there for all of the tech categories of all of the companies that have had layoffs recently. Do some mental math. Think about those billions, tens of billions, trillions (Source). The number just keeps getting bigger. Now consider the sheer number of companies that make up that revenue. The revenue of the category leaders within each TAM tends to make up, let’s say, 20-30% of the TAM in their space. Now consider the other 70-80%.

The majority of the market out there is companies you haven’t worked at yet. This might help you realize, it’s not worth spending too much of your time thinking about just one job, at just one company. That’s so yesterday. What’s next?

The REST of the market, where you’re likely to focus next, is made up of maybe up to a dozen or a couple dozen medium-size companies in each tech category that constitute another 30 to 40% of the market. Now, after the big and medium companies, consider the loooong tail of smaller tech companies fighting to go up in size to the next size range. There are some real gems in there, including current and future unicorns. In many cases, those make up half the market, sometimes more. There are thousands of players in each tech category, most of the time, if you consider the market globally. So, you have plenty of amazing options ahead of you! It’s just a question of finding the next one.

And now that you know all this, I hope you can see that you’re part of an ecosystem, an industry, a community that is… well, something big. Really big. Way bigger than any one company. Something bigger, a huge, global tech industry that propels society forward!

Your company might have felt like the world to you, but in reality, it’s not the be-all end-all. It only really operates in a tiny corner of the much bigger, broader picture of technology.

Now you can see more clearly that your value, and what you’re actually a part of, isn’t about whatever company just did lay-offs while you happened to be working there. This is ultimately not about you. It’s not about anything you did. You’re part of a giant global tech industry that will just keep growing, because society needs it to, in order to progress. 

You’re part of something that is growing. That always feels reassuring.

But that progress won’t happen without all of the people, like you, who were just thrown out of a job. The tech industry actually needs you. You will be one of the people who helps make that progress happen going forward. You’re a piece of that fiber, while invisible to many, that holds the entire tech space together.

Sometimes things get ripped apart, and sewn back together, and I’m sorry about you being caught off guard in this situation. Sometimes you happen to be caught along the seam line, at the point exactly where someone made the tear. Some rips are more surgical and precise, while others are more rough and random. You were caught in one, and it was a huge shock, which really stinks.

But the shock only lasts for so long. It will wear off very soon. Remember, all these pieces of the tech space are highly interconnected. More than we often think they are. So despite any economic uncertainty, tech isn’t going away anytime soon.

This is how I know that you’re going to get through this, and that you will keep moving forward as an individual. You’re part of that broader, bigger picture. You help shape it. You help fuel it. Even if it’s hard to understand, when you’re zoomed in this far, focused closely on your individual situation, to see the big picture, the fact is, you’re part of something big, that is only going to keep getting bigger. That means opportunities for you lie ahead, and are out there right now.

LAY-OFFS FORCE YOU TO ABRUPTLY PIVOT

Let’s take a moment to say again that it hurts to be suddenly ripped out of a company and thrown over onto the discards pile. What also hurts is when you start to notice that the company didn’t stop. People are still cheering your company on as if lay-offs didn’t just knock you out. Posts are still happening and feel like they are drowning you in your social feeds, product teams still releasing stuff, marketers keep marketing, employer branding teams go on with their branding. You see that it goes on without you, and it feels… surreal. Like you’ve been thrown off a train and you have to keep watching it race by, over and over, while you sit next to the tracks, stunned and a bit unable to believe it!

So, let’s make sure we stop to acknowledge that you’ve just been through something really hard, something that not everyone experiences. But, now that you’ve had a chance to recoil and get your chin back up (although that too probably depends on the day and the hour in which you’re reading this) let’s focus now on how you can move forward from this experience.

While it doesn’t feel like it right now, I’m sure, this strange and painful time of your life is forcing you to look for new opportunities, moving you onto another path. In the long run, I hope that will serve to make you stronger. You’re a resilient person. Most people don’t work in technology otherwise! Things change fast. Tech evolves constantly. It’s really not for everyone. You didn’t join the tech space because you like things to be stagnant. And you’re already trying to take a step to move forward, just by the very act of taking a moment and reading this!

You might feel very alone right now. But trust me on this. You are not even CLOSE to being alone. There are a lot of amazing people who, just like you, have incredible things to offer and recently felt their lives rocked, their foundation cracked, their inner strength tested. But what you’re experiencing is all part of something much bigger that is happening, and you’ll be part of moving technology forward in the long run. Societal shifts happen. Economic downturns happen. Sometimes people get caught in the middle of it all. But the nice thing is that you also get to part of what’s coming next. Technology is always, always, the driving force behind whatever comes next.

WELCOME TO THE NEXT WAVE OF TECH INNOVATION

Amazon

Salesforce

Google / Alphabet

Facebook / Meta

Stripe

Twitter

Spotify

Autodesk

Okta

Shopify

Microsoft

Netflix

HubSpot

Zoom

PayPal

Workday

Pinterest

Tesla

IBM

SAP

This list is, in some senses, a hall of fame anyone would be so proud to be part of. A list of tech giants that most would love to get a job at. But it’s also a list of some of the large tech companies that have let people go with significant layoffs recently. These are all big companies, doing important things in this world, impacting the daily lives of millions if not billions of people. These are also all companies where I happen to personally know at least one person who has lost their job in this wave of tech lay-offs recently.

There have been 66,000 people laid off in major tech layoff waves, just since 2023 began. Hey, it’s only early February! And 140,000 who were laid off in 2023. (Source

You, along with the rest of these people (nearing a quarter of a million!), played a part in helping those companies achieve their goals. It wasn’t just lip service at company meetings. It wasn’t just to make you feel good. You really and truly were helping them grow and succeed. You can be proud of having worked at any of these places. It’s confusing, admittedly, because you might personally know and respect the leaders of those companies greatly. You might have felt very much like you were a part of their mission. You probably felt like you belonged there, even that you were an important part of the company’s DNA perhaps. And surely you learned something, met great people, did important work, and the company represented an important part of your identity. (The longer you were there, the more this is true.)

But you might have mixed emotions. You might suddenly find yourself wanting to go out for a drink with some of the founders or leaders at your company to thank them from the bottom of your heart, while also wanting to throw that same drink on their shirt and stomp out of the room. While you’d never do that in real life of course, the emotions are raw and real and fluctuating. It’s confusing but it’s a natural place to be, emotion-wise, when something like this happens.

The weirdest thing is, in spite of making such important contributions, and knowing you did so, here you are. Laid off. Sad, confused, angry, hurt. Wondering how and why.

THE STAGES OF JOB LOSS GRIEF

When you lose your job, you’ll go through predictable stages, because losing a job is high up there on the most stressful events that can happen in your life. It’s a loss, so it’s natural that the stages of grief apply.

1. Isolation

This is the stage where everything feels super personal, which is why I’ve covered the fact that it’s not personal, and you are part of something much bigger in the grand scheme of things right now. You likely feel very alone. You might even feel weird or embarrassed about feeling alone. But you shouldn’t. This is normal. It’s actually the first step of the process, so acknowledge that it’s a normal thing to feel, and you might feel better just knowing that. 

This stage is often also called “Denial.” You might artificially still want to connect yourself to your former company, even if you no longer work there anymore. You might not want to stop defining yourself as someone who works there, or worked there. Here is where, if your company’s employer branding has worked a little too well on you, it can be even harder. The same reasons you loved it will be the same reasons you don’t want to let go of it.

You might love it so much, and identify with it so strongly that it’s hard to let it go or even admit you don’t work there anymore. You might consider yourself allegiant to the place for life… at first. That’s just part of the process, and a normal part. It won’t last forever. You’ll eventually see it as “a company you worked for” instead of a specific type of person you were (e.g. Googler, HubSpotter, Zoomie, and other terms that have no real use to you anymore outside of the company once you leave it.)

2. Anger

Here is where you will swear, want to punch things, curse every person who ever made you mad at your workplace, feel enraged by everything they post on social media, wonder how people can even tolerate continuing to work there while you’re left jobless, wishing them the worst, and perhaps behaving like someone you’re not. Process those emotions, but it’s also important to move past them. This phase usually won’t last too long either. Try your best to get past that phase and not let it fester too long.

3. Despair

Some people immediately begin searching in frantic haste, applying for every job they see immediately. They feel desperate to fill a void, and to find the piece of their life that suddenly is missing. However, if you do this too quickly, you might get jobs for which you’re overqualified (or underqualified). You might accept the first thing that comes along without considering other options. If you don’t take time to do the more strategic work of networking, researching, and thinking about what you really want to do next, you can end up in another bad situation at another place that you won’t be happy in ultimately.

4. Depression

Grieving means letting it out, crying the tears, feeling the feelings, and doing what’s necessary to let go and move on. Don’t really need to describe what this is in great detail, because surely you feel it at some level right now already if you’re reading this, but I will say that if you don’t want to get out of bed and out there in your community for very long, or if you’re avoiding friends and family and such, you should consider requesting any help you need. Reach out to family and friends, who can help remind you that you’re more than just your job. If your company is one of those rare ones that offers mental health services and support as a benefit with your lay-off (good for them, and you, if so), take advantage of it, especially if you find yourself in this phase for more than a few days.

5. Acceptance

This is what we’re ultimately aiming for. This is the point where you accept what has happened, acknowledge that it stinks, but embrace the change, focusing on the future. That’s when you’re actually ready to jump into a job search.

DON’T GET STUCK DWELLING ON THE PAST

One thing that can prevent you from moving onto the Acceptance phase is thinking too much about why it happened, and why to you specifically. I’m sorry to say you’ll likely never know how or why, and that it won’t be productive to think about that for very long.

As mentioned before, you’re not alone in all of this. So many talented professionals are in the exact situation you are right now, so take solace in the fact that you’re in a special group, and what I believe will actually be the group creating the next wave of great tech companies, and bringing fresh talent and high motivation to that next wave of growing, scaling companies that are fortunate enough to get you, and that otherwise would have had ZERO hope of recruiting you away from a business you and others were super loyal to! (Employer branding works, folks!)

At the same time…

Being laid off sucks. It’s super hard. I want to acknowledge it, but at the same time, there is really no point in dwelling on this. Taking action to move forward is what really helps during times like this. Even if you’re scared to “make another mistake” (it wasn’t a mistake you made, it was a good job while you were in it) or “move to another bad company” (companies are made of people, in aggregate they get it right and get it wrong sometimes too, so it doesn’t actually help to cast them in binary good and evil designations, or to regard even the ones who’ve already laid off people with overdoses of fear and trepidation either!)

Now, if you have moved on to acceptance, and are ready to start your job search, let’s remove the blockers to actually landing that job. To do that, we first need to address the fears you’re likely to have right now. There are two biggies. Both are irrational. Let’s go for those first and knock them out of your way.

IRRATIONAL FEAR #1: “I’LL NEVER GET ANOTHER JOB”

The number one, yet totally irrational fear people have immediately after these big tech lay-offs is usually one that has gone through your mind a few times already: “What if I can’t find a job?” 

I’m here to tell you to take that fear and throw it straight out the window, because that’s simply unrealistic. You will get a new job. It’s going to happen. It’s only a matter of time. 

But it’s important to acknowledge that you’re going through something traumatic right now, so you might not believe some random person on the internet who is telling you this. So don’t listen to me, listen to the facts instead:

“Nearly 40 percent of laid-off tech workers were able to find a job less than a month after they started searching, according to a survey of 2,550 U.S. residents during the six months ending in mid-October.

 During the same time frame, 83 percent of all laid-off workers were able to reenter the workforce within three months of beginning their job search.” (Source)

For those of you who are not based in the United States, I believe the same trend holds true. I am seeing people in other countries affected by layoffs find new jobs just as quickly too. I actually know a few who were laid off last Tuesday, and by Friday of the same week, already have a third-round interview scheduled for the following week.

So, what this means is, you’re going to find another job, probably faster than you think. So the next time any doubt creeps in, remind yourself that this is just a process. Say the following:

“I’m in the process of finding a new job. I’m moving along in the process. And it’s going to likely happen way faster than I ever imagined I would.” 

Believe it. It’s going to happen! And someday you’ll look back on this time and wonder why you ever wasted any time doubting yourself.

IRRATIONAL FEAR #2: “I’LL NEVER MAKE THAT MUCH MONEY AGAIN”

Here are the facts. You have a pretty good chance of making at least as much as you earned in your last job, and the odds are that you will make EVEN MORE than you did before. But if you have doubts, which you likely do, because being laid off can shake your confidence at the very core… again, let’s just be reassured by looking at the facts:

“68% of recruiters report that salary increases are typical for new hires and 69% said wages will continue to increase—despite economic pressures.”

“52% of those who were laid off reported they received a salary higher than what they left.” (Source)

The reason I share these stats is because a second and very common but IRRATIONAL fear people have, right after that first one of not being able to get ANY job, is to think, “I’ll never make that much money again.” 

SO, no matter who you are and where you come from, you’re still likely facing the same basic fear, that fear of, “WHAT IF I NEVER MAKE AS MUCH AS I MADE IN MY LAST JOB, EVER AGAIN?”

Again, I am here to call out that for what it is. It’s a FEAR, not a fact. 

(Tip: During this process, when stress gets high for you, ask yourself – “Is this a FACT or just a fear?” It’s a fear. Swat it away. Focus on things that are real instead.)

When your employer decided what to pay you, you didn’t win any sort of lottery. 

You might have felt like that. But here’s reality. They calculated what to pay you based simply on market data. Yes, it’s that boring. No, they were not being charitable or foolish in paying you what they did. They just used the data. Data that shows what other people, people similar to you, are already earning, for that same job, at other, similar companies. 

That means when you go to the next company, they are using, guess what… the same data sources too! They know what rates are typical to pay people for the job you do, in the country or place where you live. Companies don’t like to give money away for free. They were not viewing you as a charitable donation! They viewed you as an investment. 

So, now they have divested in you and lost their investment, probably due to that same ugly emotion I’ve been telling you to swat away. Did you ever sell something too soon only to watch its value soar, wishing you had waited longer? It happens to companies too, even when they only recently invested in hiring those employees. Sometimes they get into a situation where they choose to divest, cut losses, refocus funds, whatever it is. Sometimes, the root cause simply boils down to fears out there in the broader market, that are not even their own, but those of investors, and that they might feel powerless to swat away. 

That’s their loss. But keep in mind, whatever company invests in you next is going to look at you the very same way. They will pay you based on market rates, future growth potential you have, and because of what they think you can do to help the company grow in value in exchange for a salary. That’s how it works, plain and simple. That’s how they think about it. And yes, that’s also how YOU should think about it going forward. It’s OK to cheer your company on while you’re working there! Take the branded hoodie and coffee mug if you wish, but just don’t let any logo sink into your soul. You belong to you.

And so, NO, there is no logical reason on earth why you should not be able to get the same or higher pay again in the next job! (Unless you decide to totally change careers of course and do something very different than you did before, or decide to create your own company. Yes, you.)

Look at this from a data-driven perspective. You are a worker. In tech. They hire people. Based on data. They will hire people again. Based on data. Other tech companies are hiring. Based on that same data. It’s a cycle. It’s not going away. Repeat this to yourself. Again and again. Until you have successfully internalized this as a fact. It’s a fact, not a fear! 

Do away with those fears, and stay focused on these basic facts. Not on your fears. Being rational in these situations always helps.

You are going to get another job, quickly. And you can make at least as much as you made before. Because while it feels like you are all alone in this, you are not. This is a thing. Companies are doing this. Lots of them. But the bright side is here too: the many, many smart companies that are hiring and growing are sweeping up all this talent as fast as they can!  

Many tech giants are hemorrhaging the talent they spent sooooo much time, money, and effort trying to attract, keep, and grow. They might have trained them, had big plans for them, and suddenly all that investment in their talent is for nothing. And those leaders, while they do try to put on a brave face and keep flying the company flag, are usually not feeling happy about this either. It causes incredible stress for them too, even if they remain employed there.

And sadly enough for them, you would have helped them grow into the future. With the people like you who they lost, they could be innovating, creating the next great thing, using these uncertain economic times to really set themselves up for major success in the future. 

Instead, the talent they wanted so badly just months ago is now being let go, and is already moving on to other companies, where people like you will only serve to fuel the success of the next company you work for! OUCH. That stings. For them. But not for you, soon!

FEARS ARE MORE INTENSE FOR SOME FOLKS THAN OTHERS

If you strongly relate to those two fears I outlined above, and the anxiety feels completely terrifying and overwhelming to you right now, I want you to know that this is actually way harder for you if you come from a place of less economic privilege. If you grew up with everyone around you making a lot less money than you’re making in tech today, you’ll feel this in much, much, much more intense ways than others do!

You’re not imagining it. Being laid off can make you feel, yet again, like a fish out of water. Like you don’t belong to the special club. Like you’re not allowed to sit at lunch with the cool kids. Like you weren’t similar enough to others. Like you could never fit in, due to something innate about who you are and where you came from. It can play on fears that you already had sitting dormant.

You start to feel like maybe you don’t belong in this high-tech world after all, because it already did not seem familiar to where you came from and where you grew up and the people you knew and identified with most. This higher-earning group of people in tech, a group you really wanted to be a part of, might not resemble where you came from at all, and this can make you feel even more isolated and lonely than someone who cannot relate to this background.

That’s because actually, what you might regard as continual loss and pain of never fitting in, moving back and forth between one community and another, neither of which you can fully relate to now, is really the added stress and challenge of being part of two very different communities at the same time. You are part of MORE than one world at the same time. That’s not easy! That can actually be emotionally dizzying. You still have all your ties to the world you came from. And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, when times are tough, those very same ties that give you strength and motivation can also feel like anchors weighing you down. 

When you’re suddenly and abruptly laid off, and especially if you were a high performer, but came from a place of less economic privilege, this can be extremely confusing and generate extreme fear. It can make you feel like you’re sinking back into the place you came from, when you worked so hard to do everything right, to carve out a path for yourself, to move yourself forward onto a brighter trajectory than the more common paths that were available to you, and that probably a lot of your friends from school, and family members, went onto. 

You made a choice to venture beyond, and sometimes that means physically moving away from a community you grew up in and creating distance between yourself and people you still love very much. You did that, even though it was hard, in the hopes of bettering your life, perhaps dreaming of someday even being a leader and an example for others to follow. 

And now, after all that you’ve been through, you’re HERE? Laid off? Really? After all you’ve done? And worked so hard for? It feels surreal!

After all those hurdles you jumped through, ten times higher than what others hand to jump over, while toting all kinds of heavy baggage no one else had to carry? When you already come from such a place, losing your job suddenly in layoffs not only feels unfair. It feels not only hurtful. It can mess with the very way you define yourself, and it can shake your soul at its core. 

If that’s you, I see you, I feel you, and you’re absolutely right. 

Your story IS way more complex than that of a person who lost their job and grew up in a place of privilege. The person who comes from economic advantage just doesn’t think that way, nor do they have the same concerns you do.

I am here to validate this for you and help you know that you are seen.

People who grew up without worrying about where their next meal would come from, or how to keep their lights on, tend to think, “Ugh! I lost my job. It hurts. I’m afraid. It’s so painful, but I’ll just have to start looking again. This is disruptive and hard.” It’s no joke for them either. It’s super tough for anyone to be laid off, for sure. And this isn’t to minimize anyone else’s pain or frustration. But it’s a lot simpler when you are basically losing a job in the same world that you have always been a part of and have roots in, versus losing a job in a world you’re only just starting to carve out a place in for yourself, while often feeling very alone.

When you don’t have a family who can help you out because they can barely meet their own basic needs, or you don’t have anyone to support you nearby who is a blood relative, when you don’t come from a community with resources you can immediately turn back to and lean on, OR what’s even more stressful, if you’re actually providing for many folks in your own family and they have to depend on you to keep paying their bills, merely because of the circumstances you come from, let’s face it, that’s WAY WAY WAY harder. 

The stakes are higher. The balance is more precarious. It’s not that there is even MORE to lose in every case. It’s that the foundations and supports that many others can fall back on are simply not there for you, to help you pull yourself back up. The load you carry is heavier. You’re holding yourself up. It’s hard… and you didn’t imagine it either… but… what an incredible thing to behold! You are strong. Stronger than anyone really can imagine who *didn’t* come from such a background. (They will, in fact, have a hard time relating to any of this.)

During these big tech lay-offs, people who come from economic privilege simply do not have the same intense burden of fear, trauma, and pain that a person who comes from less economic privilege has to grapple with.

People who come from communities with more money are NOT generally trying to rebound from layoffs while also trying to fight away fears such as, “Here it goes, the beginning of the end. I don’t belong here and this is proof. I am destined to rejoin the community I came from and end up like so many others who grew up where I did, facing so much daily pain, going back to difficult experiences I thought I left behind me, all because of an underlying lack of access to education, income, opportunities, family support networks, and many other complex factors that are totally unfair in this world, and that no single person can ever resolve.” 

Whoa. That is heavy! It’s a lot to carry around.

So if this applies to you, people who are often regarded as “First Gens in Tech” so the tech industry can brand it differently than what it is, ALSO usually, what I see as, “People Who Come from Families and Communities of Less Economic Privilege,” or “People Whose Parents Could Not Afford College,” and so on, here’s what I want you to know.

You are NOT going backward. You are moving forward in your life. And where you came from and the community you grew up in is a huge part of who you are, and it’s a GOOD part of who you are, not something to be ashamed of. So don’t let any of that get into your head right now and generate more fear and doubt. You are still on the same path you were on. This is a tiny roadblock on the long road of your career. Fade out, look long, and you’ll barely remember it someday. You’re going to get around this temporary, one-off, “reduction in workforce” event quickly and move on.

FEAR IS BAD FOR ALL OF US: COMPANIES AND ECONOMIES INCLUDED

The reason I want you to know all this stuff and understand how fears factor into what happens from here forward is pretty important.

Fear is dangerous. And sadly, it’s also contagious! People have been living in fear for years now with the pandemic, political and societal distress, and so much more. This takes a toll on society in general. We’ve been collectively living under so much stress, for such a prolonged period, that no wonder so many companies are jumpy and nervous right now.

No one is immune to letting the worst of their imagination take over. And when people see what they *think* are inevitable signs, or feel that their businesses or investments or even more jobs are at risk, they think the worst will happen. Many people, and entire companies, can leap into self-preservation mode, making decisions that are more short-term focused but that have a mid-term toll (or even a long-term one, depending on how well they rebound).

Like viruses that jump from people to animals to surfaces to airways to water supplies and so on, fear is a virus that leaps around from investors to markets to companies to employees to economies. 

But a lot of this is just irrational and unreasonable. Fear shouldn’t drive us as humans, but it so often does. It shouldn’t drive us in business either, but it often does. It shouldn’t drive investors either, but wow, sometimes the ones with the greatest power in this equation don’t even realize what type of havoc they can wreak in aggregate, with volatile behavior that is ultimately fear-driven.

In markets, I’ve seen where something like a simple mistranslation leads investors to panic and cause major havoc and billions of dollars are lost, over something really silly at the end of the day. A single word can tumble markets! That should not even be possible. It’s not a valid reason for creating chaos whatsoever. But yet, it happens!

You would think such institutions are less volatile and more stable than they actually are. None of us like to face the idea that maybe they’re not. It would reassure me, and all of us, to believe that we live in a stable world, with stable institutions to support us. But of course these institutions are susceptible to change and fear. After all, they depend on human beings to run them! And humans are ultimately fragile, emotional, fearful creatures, especially when they feel threatened.

When the fundamental things we depend on in life show us that underneath it all, they are not totally stable, and when times become less predictable, fear starts to dominate. It causes companies to do things they normally wouldn’t do. And things their leaders thought they would never do, maybe even said they wouldn’t do. Fear is a sad thing to be driven by, but unfortunately it’s a reality and influences people, companies, and the markets they operate in, when they allow it to. Just like there are hype cycles in tech, there are fear cycles in tech too. 

To me, “risk-averse” is often a code word for “fearful.” “Risk-tolerant” usually just means “fearless.” Obviously, there are gradients in between. But sometimes we hover too far in one direction.

Network effects and virality are super powerful and many people don’t understand how they can play out quickly and in ways that have a huge impact. A little fear introduced into a network can spiral out of control. 

The nice thing in all of this is that fear cycles don’t last indefinitely. At some point, people begin to relax, to see things get better, to let the collective panic attack subside, to realize the worst is over, to calm down, take a breath and start to get their confidence back, to make bolder decisions, to hire again, to re-invest again, to grow again. It will happen. They will get there. And you will be part of that big rebound!

I also believe from my past experiences that there is always more to any story than what most people really know. Dividing people is never productive, so I don’t like to think in terms of the “big bad evil tech company.” Things are far more complex than that. And if you’re reading this and were laid off, I think you know that too. Companies are made up of people, after all.

Many of those people, including those who still work there, are people you respect and care about. You probably don’t want their lives to get worse, or for their jobs to disappear, or for those companies to go downhill and contribute to tanking entire economies, do you? I certainly don’t, so I hope those companies do recover, get better, and start adding jobs again! While part of me is angry with them for laying people off, of course, I also have to cheer them on, because they too will play a part in hiring more people, creating more jobs, and ultimately growing the economy. So let’s not simplistically lump companies into good or evil. Life, and indeed business, is always way more complex than this.

But aside from a quick caution to not spend time in the mindset of lumping all tech companies together and viewing them as some sort of dark force in the tech universe, I’ll just say that this isn’t really about those companies and what their motivations are… this is about you! I just want you to keep in mind throughout this process that, “There are reasons.” Those reasons can be complex. We might not always know the details of those reasons, unless we are in “the room where it happens” and also, on the day that it happens. So with that in mind, back over to you, my main focus here!

DROP THE FEAR, FOCUS ON THE FUTURE

So, now that you know fear is common and contagious, at every level, and in every organization, and in every market where humans operate, but especially in times like the present where humankind has collectively been through a lot of turmoil in a short space of time, here’s some great news!

YOU are not going to be driven by fear.

YOU are far more steely, far stronger than that.

YOU are not going to cave into such pressures.

YOU are not going to allow fear to rule your thinking.

YOU are going to make your own decisions, being bolder and stronger than the norm.

YOU are not going to let an environment of fear cascade into your own life right now. 

Because you know what? 

Fear is something that, as individuals, we CAN control, and even conquer.

People work through their fears and phobias and move past them all the time!

Fear is never a good place from which to operate. So if you were laid off by companies driven by fear in these economic environments, which let’s face it, pretty much all large tech companies are susceptible to right now, here is the best news of all!

You are moving on from all that now!

You get to move to a new company! 

You get to do something new and exciting! 

You get to be part of the next tech innovation wave!

You can move to a company that hopefully is operating in different circumstances. It might be smaller. It could be a business unit of a big company that operates differently. It might have different financial considerations and goals. It might be in some other industry. It could even be at a company that just laid people off. Yes, I said that. I know, that sounds scary. But a lot of will depend on what happens next, what your needs are, and what your timeframe is. I suggest keeping an open mind, because companies reinvent themselves quite often, especially in tech. New leadership can make or break a company (cough cough, Twitter right now, cough cough) but also, you just never know how things will take a turn for the worse or better and ultimately evolve. Often, new leaders can be great, but simply need enough time (usually, many years) to make the changes and impact they envision for the long term.

Many companies are in growth mode, operating from a position of strength. Others might not be right now, but might get there again soon. And you’re going to drop all fears, take that strength forward with you, and join them based on what YOU want! 

And while I know it won’t feel like it immediately, you were released from a company that simply wasn’t in growth mode at the moment when you were let go. If you’re a growth-minded person, then you want to move toward something that is growing in this particular moment. 

(And if you’re still at such a company that recently did layoffs, while this post is not for you, don’t assume where you’re at today WON’T continue to grow. It likely actually will if the underlying TAM is growing year over year; it’s just a very painful time to be working at such a place right this moment. This is tech, things change fast, we all know that. This is why they call them “waves” of layoffs. The tide goes in and out. You’ll need patience and faith to endure the back and forth.)

Here is a cardinal rule that I have given to every person I’ve ever mentored or coached. FIND THE THINGS THAT ARE GROWING. AND MOVE TOWARD THOSE THINGS. Your career, your income, your happiness, everything else tends to grow along with it. No one likes being diminished or made smaller. So align yourself with something that is getting bigger.

All in all, while I know it might sound overly positive, or maybe too hard to believe, you WANT to be part of something that is growing, because it will move you forward, so long as you hitch a ride on a wave, a market, a tech innovation, and a company that is growing. So maybe, just maybe (don’t hate me for saying this), being laid off COULD possibly just be one of those things in life that hurts tremendously at the time, but will put you on a better path. This will only be visible much later on to you, so you probably cannot think about it now. And that isn’t denying the fact that it hurts you sooooo much right now. That pain won’t last for long, you’ll move through the phases, and you WILL move on to something better.

THE INCREDIBLY INSPIRING STORY OF DEB

I won’t tell you her last name unless she grants my permission, but I want to tell you the story of Deb. I met Deb when she had been laid off, and worked with her at a company that also laid her off. She was nearing retirement age, but wanted to keep working. Deb was smart, tenacious, stood up for herself, wouldn’t tolerate bullies or jerks, and spoke her mind with self assurance. I thought she was awesome. She also taught me a ton.

And again, she lost her job in another lay-off! It seemed like such bad luck or bad timing. But Deb was absolutely unfazed when she was laid off. She viewed it almost as something that was just part of life that you had to just go with the flow on. This lady was a complete machine, and it was impossible to knock her down. She had an attitude that if you just have a process that you follow, keep applying for jobs, figuring out what you are looking for and negotiating for increasingly better compensation, it’s simply a motion you go through to get to the next phase.

Deb also had standards. She would not apply just anywhere. She had a clear sense of what tech companies she liked and didn’t, and what kinds of people she would be willing to work with and not. She was, shall I say, choosy? Which was surprising to me, because I had assumed people after lay-offs might get a little desperate and take the first job offer, right? Not her. She wouldn’t actually take a job with higher compensation if it had any red flags. And she knew those red flags very well. But she told me once that with nearly every job change, she moved up in comp levels.

I was in awe of Deb. At the company where we were at, many people were let go in a wave together. Some fell into a deep depression. Others were angry. They were all in different phases of grief. I never saw someone move as fast through it as Deb did. I met with her a week after, and she already had 5 interviews scheduled! Meanwhile, much younger people, 20 years or more her junior, were reeling, hurting… it was the first time they had ever experienced such a thing. Deb was like, “Naaaah, I’ve been through this before. It’s just a matter of time.” She was in her 50s, a member of the LGBT community (long before it became more common to prioritize DI&B in tech I might add), and knew that some people might not want to hire her simply because of who she was.

She didn’t let it stop her. She focused on the process. She enjoyed life too! She made time to have drinks, meet for coffee, stay connected, pinging people constantly. You would never guess anything bad happened to her from the way she was living life. (I felt like a total bore compared to her. Still do!) She always had something fun going on! She still does that, and she’s incredible and amazing for her attitude. So my lesson is, you don’t need to wait until you have this experience yourself in life. Just do what Deb does. Treat it like a process! Keep living and enjoying life while you go through that process.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

My goals with this post were: 

1) to help you see you’re part of something bigger

2) to help you understand that the phases of job loss are phases of grief and going through them is normal

3) to alleviate the two most basic and natural fears that I see out there that prevent people from moving forward after layoffs, and to reassure you that those fears are natural and normal

4) to reassure you that yes, you feel this pain much more acutely if you don’t come from a place of economic privilege, but that you should not let that stop you from fighting to move forward to something better, because you absolutely deserve it

5) to make sure you know that you will never know all of the story behind what happened at your prior company, and guessing at what the “real” reasons are probably won’t be productive or healthy, so move on from that as fast as you can

6) to invite you to “be like Deb,” the ultimate golden girl of tech layoffs, long before the current phase we’re in now, and who gives me hope and a smile every single time I think of her and her incredible attitude, and the results she achieved thanks to it

I hope I have covered these points enough that at least one of them will help you!

MOVE PAST THE FEAR AND ONTO YOUR NEXT STEPS

The reason I wanted to address the fears in greater depth is because they are the biggest, un-talked-about, unseen but all-powerful blockers you’ll have to remove before you can take steps forward after such a shocking life event. And sadly, your fears are easily perceived by others, especially people who are trained to look for them. They will come across in interviews if you don’t stomp them out. They can shake your confidence, make you show up as someone you’re not when you’re out there seeking a new job. They can even prevent you from getting out of bed every day and doing the basic work, having the hustle, and taking the many steps needed to get into your next role.

So, for right now, here is all I want you to do:

1. Take steps every day to proactively remember and remind yourself of how great you are. Build up your confidence. Write down things you’ve done that were great. Spend time visualizing the next things you’ll do that are even greater. Don’t lose sight of your excellence. Talk to people, read things that motivate you. Look back on those moments when you did something great at work, succeeded, delivered. Spend your brain power on those positive things. The more time you spend on that, versus negative stuff, the faster you will move forward.

2. Don’t go negative. Whatever you do, definitely don’t go negative on yourself! Remind yourself that if you’re using negative words about yourself, those are not facts. Those are opinions based on fears. Stick with facts. Also, I suggest you not spend your time thinking all day and moaning about your old company. It’s unproductive and won’t help you move forward. Some venting can be healthy to help you process, but don’t move to the dark side and go negative. That will only drag you down into a darker place. It’s the natural temptation everyone has, to look at and remember everything bad about a place you worked and the people who worked there, seeing everything through different eyes. Once you have done that, after a few pendulum swings back and forth, you’ll come back to the middle someday, and be able to look at the pros and cons and compare with other companies, but right now you’re not able to have that perspective. Recognize when you’re being negative, about yourself, or any company, and make a choice each time to pivot yourself out of that mode.

3. Envision your future. Write down what kind of job you want to do (separate this from the person you are). Think about the types of people you love working with, the impact you want to make in this world, and the missions you want to support.

4. Network, network, network. Most of the best job opportunities come from referrals. It’s highly likely there is a company hiring that needs precisely what you have to offer and would die to have you on their team. Now is the time to ask for favors. If someone worked somewhere you want to work, ask them to introduce you. If someone works there now, take them for coffee and get some advice. Spend your time on this, and the pieces that follow after that will follow. They’ll ask for your resume. Pass it along. Get an interview. And you know how it works from there.

5. Re-read this post when you need a new dose of motivation. That’s what it’s here for. I tend to re-read things many times and take a new insight from them each time I read them. That’s probably going to be true for you during a time like this. I cannot be there personally for each and every person who needs this type of support right now, and I really wish I could. I am merely someone who has been in a lot of leadership roles in tech over the years, who simply likes to help people and companies grow, and who recognizes patterns, and generally wants people to land in jobs as fast as possible, so we can keep pushing the entire tech space forward as a whole, get over ourselves, stop letting fear dominate major decisions that affect lots of people in outsized ways, and get the market roaring again as fast as possible. This is my little way to try to nudge things along. 

Thank you for reading this achingly long blog post (16 pages, phew, guess I need an editor), but most importantly, thank you for all you did at your last company, driving technology and innovation forward in whatever role you had. THAT is the bigger mission we are all playing a part in, after all. Even if your role ended, YOU are still here, you’re still important, and you’re going to be a part of the next big tech wave. I am proud to be your colleague in tech. You are here now, we’re all in this together… and that’s how I know that you’ve got this!

Nataly Kelly

Nataly is VP Localization at HubSpot and has previously held diverse executive roles in marketing, international operations and strategy, research, and product development. Her latest book is "Take Your Company Global" (Berrett-Koehler). She writes for Harvard Business Review on topics of international marketing and global business. Nataly works remotely from New England, having lived in Quito (Ecuador), Donegal (Ireland) and the rural Midwest where she grew up.

4 comments

  • Amazing article! Thank you for your words of inspiration and wisdom. I’m certain this will help a lot of people.

  • I really appreciate you taking the time to write this article! As someone affected by the recent tech layoffs, I find this to be inspiring and super supportive!

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