How to survive a layoff from your tech job

As the global economy tries to stay afloat during the COVID-19, many employees have been let go. Here's what you should do, and avoid, to bounce back.

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As the coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies around the globe to reevaluate their workforce, either by halting hiring or reducing staff by downsizing, many employees are facing layoffs. These large-scale layoffs at Lyft, Uber, and Bird are getting a lot of press—bad press, in the case of Bird, for laying off people in a generalized announcement—but they're happening all across the world, across all industries. 

According to Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice, more than 29% of companies "have had significant layoffs. And another 46% eliminated the relationships they have with any contingent or contract employees." 

And, according to a recent survey of CFOs, the situation is not expected to improve any time soon: 80% of respondents predict that COVID-19 will take a toll on revenue and profit for 2020. 

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

One day, you have a job; the next, you could be called into a Zoom meeting and hear that you've been let go. But while the outlook may seem grim for employees, it doesn't mean that it can't be handled well. Companies like Carta have stepped up, says Clockwise CEO Matt Martin, by giving employees advanced notice, providing benefits, and helping them look for jobs.

"One thing that is unique to this circumstance that we live in right now is that a lot of people are let go of remotely," Martin says. "So they don't have the opportunity to reconnect with their peers, collect your items from their desk, or say goodbye to friends or managers." 

Because of this, Martin urges compassion. Employers, he says, should be "sensitive and compassionate to those circumstances, allow for communication, and make time for employees to get on phone calls, to get on Zoom calls," he says. In some cases, employers have facilitated Slack channels for employees to talk about the job hunt.

Employees respond differently when laid off, Kropp said. While some jump into the job search, others need time to "reflect and reimagine what sort of work they want to do and take the time to explore fundamentally different roles," he said. 
 
SEE: Top IT certifications to increase your salary (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Now is the time to accelerate the job search he said, given that there is a huge new group of people who are also looking, and that "74% of companies have put a hiring freeze in place, which means there are fewer companies to find a new job at."
 
"People who are laid off should expect that it will take an extended period of time to find a new role." Additionally, there's a risk of atrophy when employees step away from a role, Kropp said.
 
"During the period between roles, job candidates should explore every opportunity they can to continue learning, developing, and working on different projects or roles to improve their skills and capabilities and to ensure that they are able to maintain the perception of a high level of skills and capabilities when they interview in the future," he added.
 
If you are laid off, there is a silver lining. "Nobody is going to look at a resume gap right now and think twice about it," Martin stressed. "It's not something that you really have to build up anxiety over." Also, his experience working with people in the IT community has shown him that there are still people hiring, and there are still opportunities.

What you can do, he said, is focus on networking. 

"There's just a lot of uncertainty right now," Martin said. "Expanding your network and investing in that is a really wise thing to do right now." Doing this can also help others who have undergone layoffs. It doesn't have to be formal networking, he said, but even "catching up over email or Slack," could be helpful.

This kind of virtual networking will also help employees as they interview and start new roles, Kropp said, because employees "will have to learn how to interview in a fully remote environment rather than actually meeting their manager and coworkers in person."
  
"The abrupt and sudden nature of this downturn means that the volume of people that have been impacted is much greater and more widespread than in any previous downturn," Kropp said. "The road back to employment will be more difficult and longer than in previous downturns.

"Once you have that moment to get your grounding and catch your breath" Marin said, "investing in your network, your connections is really a wise thing to do."

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