What to do when layoffs hit your tech company
“I never imagined I would be going through this for a second time in less than two years.” This post popped out at me while scrolling LinkedIn. I have — unfortunately — seen a huge increase in people sharing difficult updates about layoffs. But this person was suffering a back-to-back rollercoaster ride of excitement at joining a new company and the fallout of being laid off. It got me thinking about the revolving door of tech jobs and how challenging it can be to be pushed out.
The painful surge in tech layoffs is unfortunately here to stay. The question many folks are worrying over is not if — but when their company will announce bad news.
After months of headlines about the “great resignation” and hoopla over hiring challenges, we are seeing a sharp turn. More than 15,000 individuals were laid off at tech companies in May, with some major companies announcing potential staff reductions of 10 to 25 percent. Looking ahead I expect to see even higher lost headcount. And we may never know the true number since it is unclear how many of the openings left by the great resigners will ever be filled.
You can find plenty more articles that point out all the reasons for this. Rising inflation, war, economic stress, and shifts in customer preferences. But what is most frustrating is the overfunded startups intent on losing a lot of money to make a little that are now cutting good people loose.
I often share my dislike for wasteful tech startups. Because, as I wrote in a recent article, behind all the hype are real people who get hurt in the process. This is part of why we launched the Bootstrap Movement — to champion companies that are dedicated to creating real value. (It should not be controversial, but yes… real value exchange is the goal of any business.) Dedication to profit, people, and performance is the reason that Aha! continues to be a highly profitable and stable business that is still growing strong.
The current tech layoffs are excruciating to watch and even worse to experience — but this is also an opportunity to reach for something better.
Several people have messaged me after being let go asking for advice or encouragement on how to move forward. There are practical considerations to address first. A layoff comes with a lot of emotional stress while you need to make rational decisions fast. In addition to organizing any severance benefits, you will also need to evaluate your finances.
But there are some other things you can do to position yourself for success. And if you are eyeing looming layoffs at your current company there is no reason you cannot start on the following now:
Be kind to yourself
The suckerpunch of a layoff is exhausting and demoralizing. Do not neglect your health — physical and mental. Surround yourself with positivity. Avoid getting pulled into negative gripes with others from your former company. You want to keep your spirits high so that you will be ready for a new adventure.
Networking is often a waste of time. Connecting with a close circle of people is not. Cultivate relationships with mentors, colleagues, friends, and friends of friends who inspire you and who will remind you of your strengths and accomplishments. Schedule a lunch or Zoom call at least once a week. This kind of regular encouragement will fuel your inner reserves when you are actively applying to jobs.
Imagine the future
Reframe this setback as an opportunity to renegotiate your life on your terms. Think about what you want next. What matters most to you? How do you want to spend your time? What kind of work do you want to do? Who are the people you want to work with? What type of values would an organization that supports your growth hold true?
Craft your story
Fulfilling work that makes you happy requires intentionality. Take all of your answers to the questions above and write your career sentence — the essence of what you do. This will become a mantra that can guide you throughout the job hunt and into what is next. (And you can always infuse it into your current role too.)
Reflect in hindsight
With distance comes clarity. When you can evaluate objectively — without the sting of the loss — contemplate whether there were obvious signs that a layoff was ahead. Was the company obviously at risk? Was your manager doing their best on your behalf? What could you have done differently to avoid this outcome? You can learn a lot to avoid it happening again through reflection. And you can bring those learnings into your job search.
Explore with intention
You do not just want a job. You want the right job. There is no sense rushing to secure a new position with another tech company that may spit you out when their round of layoffs hit in a few months. You may even want to consider associate programs if you are early in your career. Use what you realized during reflection to better research the organizations that you are considering. No one can predict the future but there are generally yellow flags along the way if you pay attention. Look at the company’s vision, values, operating philosophy, profitability, and longevity.
Not every tech company is slashing jobs and shutting doors — there are many who have quietly thrived by rejecting hype and focusing on lasting organic growth.
The reality is that great companies emerge even stronger after downturns. You only need to go back a decade to the Great Recession to see how the top SaaS companies performed in the immediate years that followed. Many hold strong throughout — our business certainly is not slowing down.
Aha! is hiring across nearly every department and we continue to see steady customer growth. We are highly profitable and run the business prudently. This allows us to never scramble and instead make long-term decisions. And we are not alone. Like-minded companies who pledge to put people, profit, and performance first are joining the Bootstrap Movement every day.
So if you have recently been laid off or are anticipating a team reduction ahead, take heart. It will hurt at first. But there are days of substantial growth ahead.
Ready to join a productive, happy, and hardworking team? Aha! is hiring right now.