Layoff to Liftoff: Surviving Downsizing in the Tech Industry

Kodeco’s guide to surviving tech layoffs offers actionable tips on stress management, job search strategies, and staying productive post-layoff to prepare for your comeback. By Joey deVilla.

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Get Your Story Straight

person looking at reflection in window

After working on the immediate needs of your mental state and your money, your next step should be working on the story of who you are, what you have done, and what you would like to do next. Having clear, coherent concepts about your career, skills, and goals gives you a consistent and compelling image that you can present to the world and use as a guide for your actions.

Who Are you?

Whether you decide that you want to be an employee in your next job or start your own business, you will eventually be asked — either by a prospective employer or a potential client — to tell them about yourself. Both employers and clients will be paying you for your services, and they will naturally want to know what they’re getting in the exchange.

It may feel like a silly exercise, but you should write down — at least in bullet point form — your answer to “Tell me about yourself.” The answer is about more than just clearing an interview question; it also helps you determine what kind of job you’re looking for, where you’ll want to work, and how you’ll go about your job search.

Look at your history — not just your resume, but also any side or hobby projects and your tech- or work-related reading material — and try to find a pattern. Is there a certain type of job you tend to gravitate toward? Is there a technology or business that seems to draw your interest? Have you preferred working in a specific field or a certain type of company? From examining the type of work you’ve taken on, can you tell what matters to you — and what doesn’t?

From looking at my own work history, it’s quite clear that I find fulfillment in helping developers become better at what they do (I am writing this article, after all). This observation helped me come up with a line I often use in interviews: “I like talking with people as much as I like talking with computers,” and it’s gone a long way toward helping employers and clients understand me.

You should also catalog your strengths and skills. Understanding them will make it easier for you to choose roles that match your capabilities and where you can excel. Write them down! I’ve seen far too many interview candidates freeze when asked to explain what they’re good at; being able to answer quickly and clearly will set you apart.

What Have You Done?

If you don’t have a “praise folder,” “win list,” or whatever term you use to call a record of your work accomplishments, create one now! Recording your successes (or “W’s,” as the kids like to say) creates a clear picture of your capabilities and skills and helps define your story and why someone should pay you for what you do.

By “success,” I don’t mean just completed projects, successful deliveries, and awards, but also “little things”, such as:

  • Coming up with solutions that made day-to-day work smoother.
  • Resolving conflicts within the team or with a client or customer.
  • Dealing with shortages, whether of resources, training, people, or time.
  • Making a difficult decision.

It’s not enough to simply list each success by name or as a single line or bullet point. Include details about how you brought about each win. You may find the following frameworks handy when writing those details:

  • STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Some people use the “START” acronym, where the final “T” stands for Takeaways.
  • CARL: Context, Action, Result, Learning.

Don’t just make a mental note about your successes, but write them down. You’ll find them handy as both a guide for the kind of work you should look for, and as a way to excel when answering those dreaded behavioral questions in interviews.

A prime example: “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a team member. How did you handle it?”. This is where many interviews fall apart, and you’ll stand out just by being ready for these questions.

What Would You Like to Do Next?

The last part of your story is the future-facing one. What do you want to do next? Here are some considerations:

  • Do you want to work for another employer, or yourself?
  • What size organization do you want to join? A “kitchen table” business (one to four people) or Amazon (1.5 million employees at the time of writing)?
  • How similar to your previous job would you like your new one to be? Exactly the same but at a different place, or something completely different?
  • Do you want to use the same skill set in your next job, or do you want to do something that will require you to pick up a different set of skills?
  • Would you rather be an individual contributor or have people to manage?
  • How important is climbing up the career ladder to you?
  • Do you want to deal with customers or clients, or would you rather someone else do it?
  • Are you comfortable with going to an office full-time, or would you prefer a hybrid or a fully remote position?
  • How much structure do you need in your daily work?
  • Do you prefer working alone, or do you need people around to not feel isolated?
  • How much flexibility do you need in your daily schedule? Are there people you have to care for during the day?
  • How much business travel do you want to do?
  • Would you rather stay where you live right now, or can you move to a different part of town? To a different city? A different province or state? A different country or continent?
  • Are you just starting your career, in the middle, or near the end? Is retirement a long way away, or in the near future?
  • What’s your appetite for risk? Would you prefer to work at a startup or a long-established company?
  • Love and money — in other words, how important is it that your work is psychologically fulfilling? How important is it that it’s financially fulfilling?
  • What is the line you won’t cross? What areas of business will you not participate in for philosophical, ethical, or spiritual reasons? (A personal example: I’ve politely refused offers to interview with cryptocurrency and blockchain companies, because I find them all a little suspect.)

The answers to these questions should give you a better idea of your values. Knowing what they are and what they mean to you can help you decide which job opportunities to pursue and which ones to avoid. Don’t rush the process of figuring out your values; they’ll help determine how you’ll find your next job and what it will be.