Sound Off: Navigating My Second Layoff
If I can be human for a moment...
FYI: This post is not bash to my previous employers. As laid-off workers navigate the sea of decisions they need to make to survive in a capitalist society, I’m sharing my thoughts on how screwed up our hiring processes are, how job hunters are expected to persevere despite the obstacles, and a reminder for those in the same boat as me.
On February 22, 2023, my role was eliminated, joining 240,000 other tech workers who have lost their jobs.
This is the second time I’ve been laid off.
The first time I’ve ever been laid off was at the height of the pandemic, in April 2020.
The First Time
I recently quit my first big girl (and toxic) job since graduating college, packed my bags, and drove 6.5 hours up to San Francisco from Moreno Vally to begin a new career as an Events Manager at an ed-tech start-up.
After countless days of driving over 120 miles round trip for work, (sometimes leaving the office at 11 PM but that's a story for another day), I've never been happier to have access to reliable public transportation where I could read a book, and occasionally nap, for up to 40 minutes before arriving at the office of my new job, refreshed and excited to be on-site.
I was ecstatic to join a company leveraging AI technology to connect students with alumni, with a mission of fostering equitable access to mentorship.
After doing some introspection, I concluded that working in Student Affairs during my undergrad, launching a career advice blog post-grad, and implementing an internship program at my first job, we’re all “signs” that I was destined to work in a role that had broader social impact and this new job was the start of my ideal career.
Seven months later, I'm sent a Google calendar invite with no agenda, lasting no more than 15 minutes, and the topic of discussion was the difficult decision to let me go. Just like that my new
career job was taken away. Employers own your job; you own your career. I’ll write a separate post about this later.
Employers own your job; you own your career.
I somehow managed to land a new job, in an adjacent field I'd never heard of, or worked in before, exactly three months later on my birthday. It was a contractor position with benefits (that I was thankful for because not having benefits was my biggest concern). Because of the company's hyper-growth and my confidence in my ability to grow with them, I was willing to take the risk and come in at a lower level, with lower pay.
As a result, I did grow with them.
I went from contractor to full-time employee in under four months. I moved up two levels with my first promotion. Then attained the title of manager in less than three years, and got the six figure salary I made it clear I wanted. I worked on projects that prioritized humanizing the candidate experience and operationalizing how to work smarter, not harder, across the org.
I finally found a place that combined all my interests in one and where I wanted to stay and build long-term.
Then, tech layoffs started dominating the news every week.
We had one round earlier in the year which I wasn’t impacted by and naively assumed I was safe. Six months after the first lay off, I received an email instead of a Zoom meeting invite at 6:10 AM. Luckily, I was awake (which I am never up that early but I had this inkling over the weekend thanks to Blind, that I should probably check my email on Monday morning) and rushed to close out everything since the email mentioned that my access would be cut off at 9:30 AM.
They say not to take layoffs personally.
"It's business," they say.
I know being selected for a mass layoff is never about who you are as a person.
Yet, I find it funny when businesses pick and choose which parts of their business get to be personal or impersonal:
"It's important we build a personal and emotional connection with our customers and audiences" some marketers might say.
"We're like family," some managers and cringy job postings might emphasize. (If so, run away screaming).
"It's not personal, it's business," when employees must scramble to prepare everything they need in a limited amount of time before they get locked out of their systems because, regardless of how short the heads-up was, the mere fact that an employer provided one at all is one we should be grateful for.
When layoffs are used to correct irresponsible business forecasting, peoples’ livelihoods will always be personally affected,
like the expecting mother on leave, the H1-B visa holder, or that person who took the plunge to move hundreds of miles away for role that since been eliminated.
When you’re being let go, this is what you’re really being told: "Sorry, your role is no longer relevant for this organization. We can't provide you any reasons why that is, or why some people still have a job and you don't, but we trust you'll find one eventually; hopefully soon."
I know it's difficult to lay people off, especially for those in positions who've had to. I applaud companies that handle their layoffs with humility.
I also know there is no such thing as job security. While you can always take actionable steps to prepare in advance for potential layoffs, (networking, saving money, etc.) I don’t think we are ever truly prepared to handle the onslaught of emotions that surface when a layoff actually happens.
Being laid off because “it’s necessary; not personal,” doesn't make me feel any less sad or disappointed about being let go.
It doesn't make it any less difficult to navigate a market flooded with just as many incredibly talented people with whom I share the same boat.
Sometimes, rejections can make me question my worth and talent.
I will always do what I need to, even when I don’t want to, to be able to pay my bills. That’s life. We all must be able to adapt and re-adjust to ever-changing environments.
However, it doesn't make it any less irritating that I may need to consider taking a pay cut, working a less-than-ideal job for some time, or going back into the office because many businesses haven't figured out effective ways to foster and scale hybrid and remote-first cultures or simply prefer preserving traditional working models.
I simply want to do meaningful work, get paid a fair and comfortable wage for my level of experience and expertise, and have the time to be able to live life with those I love most; not merely exist or drive myself into the damn ground. Don’t we all?
The best thing about me being laid off is being given the gift of time.
I have time to think about what I truly want to do next and I have time to invest in myself to get there:
I’ve invested in a nutrition coach and now following a meal plan and strength workout plan consistently.
I’m setting aside hours to complete a Project Management certification and Japanese language lessons.
Me and my fiancé started our backyard garden!
I’m getting eight hours of sleep.
I know my worth. I know I am talented. I will have my cake and eat it too. And I will persevere. I always do.
I’m also allowed to be human and express my annoyance about the whole job search and layoff experience.
I want to leave you with this:
If you’re like me, and also grappling with a layoff, I am sure you already have a strategy in place for resume reconstruction, networking, and job searching so I won’t be reiterating those tips today.
Today, I want to remind you that it’s okay to be upset. I want you to remember that you’re talented and while rejections may say “hello,” more often than you’d like, you’re stronger than you think. You’ve made this far, haven’t you? You can do it again.
Now is the best time to prioritize YOU.
Take care of your heart, body, and mind.
Ciao for now,
Say “hello” to me on Linkedin.