The emotion for this post is hope.
Dear recently furloughed/laid-off/fired/downsized fellow professional:
I know that the sting and specter of looming layoffs if still fresh for everyone. I know that bad news seems to be dominating the airwaves these days and good news seems like a fleeting daydream. We are all emotionally drained from the effects of the pandemic, and even if we’ve not been infected by the pandemic itself, we have been victim of pandemicitis – just the effects and news of the pandemic is affecting us.
I realized that a note of positivity is in order. I myself have been having mental health issues over the sheer quantity of concerns that have sptead, whether it is the outbreak itself, the various governments (mis-)management of the response, or the real effects its had on real people throughout the world.
So, this is just some notes and advice and positive tones for my professional brethren that could use a breath of fresh air and positive advice.
Having recently been through two 6-month periods of unemployment over the past two years, you have my deepest sympathies. In the first case, I had to leave a job I’d been at, and had been enjoying, after four years, and in the second, I was laid off because the startup no longer had money to sustain me nor my team.
Having spent equal times employed and unemployed during this time, the following are some bits of advice that I think can help keep you focused and avoid falling into the post-employment malaise that is so easy to succumb to when motivation reaches lows you’ve yet to experience.
So whether you’ve recently lost your job or you’re facing the spectre of layoffs, please read on for my own personal advice for this situation.
Remember that Everything is Cyclical
What goes up, must come down. What’s down, flips back around. Nothing stays the same forever. If you are feeling like there is no way out of this, just think how limited our understanding is. We are the prime factors for our own outcomes. If you truly believe that you’ll never get hired again, well, you may just prove yourself right. So it’s important to keep in mind that that is not a rational viewpoint. People are struggling with unemployment all the time, and this just happens to be your own.
I do not want to get on a pulpit and start preaching, but there are plenty of parables people of faith turn to take comfort in the impermanence of bad situations. Feel free to ask, and I will be happy to share the ones I turn to.
But know also just observation will demonstrate that to be true. So, on that note, let’s proceed to actions that will help shorten this duration.
Keep Your Work Routines
I cannot stress this enough. You need to keep active, professionally. Obviously, with a traditional job, this can seem daunting at first, but realize, you still have a lot you need to be doing.
A lot of people are talking about brushing up their resumes, networking, and yes, this is all true. But the framework this all needs to happen in is in your daily routine. Just like you were getting up, showering, getting dressed, and starting your commute, you need to keep up that schedule. Your mind, body, and spirit will all function orders of magnitude better if you follow a work routine similar to what you were doing before you were sent home. It signals your body to “get to work” and is critical to being productive.
The fact that the nature of your own work has changed matters not a bit.
Brush Up That Resume
This is important, but it’s also easy to get carried away with and obsess about. I recommend, if you can afford $100–$200, hire a resume writer. They’ll help you modernize your resume, and even if the result isn’t perfect, you are well ahead of most after they’re done. You’ll still probably want to tweak once it’s done, but they did the hard part for you.
Once it’s done, don’t be afraid to have different versions that highlight different aspects for the different kinds of positions you’re seeking
This is absolutely the most important thing. While LinkedIn is the goto tool for this, I hate to think this is the best and/or only tool, but I cannot deny its effectiveness. Feel free to reach out to people and let them know your situation. Get that network working for you. And if you don’t have a network, then you’re where I was two years ago. It’s never too late to start.
Keep your skills up
Keep on advancing the state of your art. Work on some side project, keep on learning. Lots of places are starting to offer good deals on discount courses, and indeed, there are a LOT of guides up on YouTube and spread around the Internet. Do a little reading and see what resources keep being recommended and showing up, and you’ll know what’s most valuable.
Also, if you work is conducive to be side-projectized, then do so. Take this time to learn that programming language, framework, paradigm, deployment tool, or whatever that you’ve been meaning to but have not had the time until now.
Join Local User Groups/Meetups
Don’t think that just because we have to stay indoors these gatherings are disappearing. Rather, they’re even easier to join because they are going virtual! Check your local communities and see if there are any that are interesting. The (virtual) social contact alone will be healthy and the networking effect invaluable. You’ll also enjoy the topics and be able to see the state of the industry beyond the bubble of your last job.
Know That You Are a Recruiters Dream
Yes, you are! Recruiters are working doubletime to place people now. Believe it or not, it’s long been the case that there have been way to many jobs out there, but they have just been hard to place. Available positions have been left open for months or years simply because the companies struggled to find the right people. Recruiters have come in and filled the spot. Now is time to get to know them.
But this is a double-edged sword. I will speak bluntly and frankly here because I think my experience can save you a lot of time. I would group recruiters into three major tiers.
There are the independent, high-impact recruiters that are looking to find the right fit on both sides of the employment equation. They are part of small firms or run their own recruitment business. They like to have longer conversations and get to know what makes you tick, and then work to find the best fits. They may not place you quickly, but the value of their time and their engagement with you is high.
The next tier are the professional body shops. These are firms that still behave professionally, they already have contracts or relationships with the business they’re hiring, and they may brand themselves as a staffing agency. They’ll usually offer contract positions and you may or may not work for them for the first people of the contract and then transition to fulltime with their client if its a good fit. In my opinion, they are worth your time if you can tolerate their way of dealing with you, which may include assessments of abilities, tests, and so on.
The 3rd and final tier are the dime-a-dozen Indian recruiters. As politically incorrect as it may be, the easiest way to identify these is to see the names of the people, their poor language abilities, and the generic sound company name. To a tee, they seem to follow the same formula and, in my experience, are almost not even worth responding to. They rarely understand what you can do, have never read your resume, and are only sending you an email because some search for some keyword (poorly) matched your outdated resume or profile on some site from long ago. And more often than not, they are finding people for jobs postings that they themselves have searched for. You can sometimes find the job posting publicly by searching for the text they have sent you! Avoid these if you can. So, they have no preexisting relationship with the employer. They will use your info and represent you as a candidate in the hopes that they can get a referral fee for that, and gate your access to this company.
Are there exceptions to the 3rd above? Absolutely, and my apologies if you other fit the description but are legit. However, that just wasn’t my experience, and according to others, including my own Indian friends, this characterization is correct.
Did I Mention Networking?
No, seriously. Make phone calls day and night (but not too late!). And then follow-up. Make a schedule. If someone says “check back with me in a week if you haven’t heard from me”, you better put that on your calendar and follow it like a work appointment or meeting. Your calendar will now be filled with phone calls and email follow-ups instead of meetings to discuss who’s to blame for the latest performance slump.
Consider Other Options
Realize that now more than ever is also the best time to consider additional paths. If you wanted to take a stab at leadership/management, if you wanted to go more technical, or any other kind of advancement, this is a great time because you are unshackled. It can be scary, but don’t be afraid to test the waters if nothing else. You don’t know the limits of your own potential until you’ve tried. And the brave new remote-only world we are in has made opportunities you may not have even seen available right at your door step.
This got a lot longer and sloppier than I intended (it started as a motivation for a WhatsApp group) but I realized, having been through this, some of these points might help save others some time. And, of course, this is highly opinionated and just from my own experience, so feel free to share your own down below. But most importantly, I wanted you all to feel like this is not the end. We need to stay positive. We need to stay focused on moving to the next step.
As a final note, please reach out to me if you want to talk more deeply about these issues. I have over 16 years of professional experience, and I love mentoring. Leave a comment and I can get your email from that. I’ll be happy to talk to you, I mean it!