Massive job cuts have left the tech industry reeling. Early fall 2000 did see a slowing rate of job growth, but none of us was really prepared for the increasing number of job losses we saw less than six months later. Big-name consulting firms have reacted by either tightening their belts or by cutting flab—in recent months, stalwarts like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Scient, Viant, and Lante have all announced either profit warnings or layoffs.
The trend has consultants and other contract workers constantly looking over their shoulders. “It’s like the Sword of Damocles,” said consultant Nitin R. [last name withheld on request], “and you never know when it’s going to fall.” A few months ago, companies were handing out goodie bags filled with monetary performance rewards and paid vacations; now, all many consultants can expect is the nasty shock of a pink slip. True to form, the tech industry has developed an informal, yet effective way of dealing with the proliferation of these offensive pieces of paper: the pink-slip party. We’ll tell you what a pink-slip party is and how you can get invited, and we’ll give you some tips to help you take full advantage of the networking opportunities these soirees provide.
It’s party time
Pink-slip parties were the brainchild of Allison Hemming, founder of TheHiredGuns.com, an Internet consulting firm based in New York. “About a year ago, the company [where] I worked went belly-up. I threw an Irish wake for everyone—from interns and freelancers to clients and coworkers—so we could all say goodbye the right way. Everyone had a good time, and a few months later,” says Hemming, “I knew I had a party formula that could help the industry as a whole.” Hemmings called “a few Silicon Alley pals” and “decided to throw a regular party where dot-commers throughout New York City could come together and cushion the blow of getting let go.”
Today, these parties are held in cities across the nation. Although the mood is informal and upbeat, the aim is not merely to have a good time. Pink-slip parties are intended to help laid off techies find new gigs. People who have received or who expect to receive a pink slip meet with potential recruiters and in-house human resource professionals at companies that are still hiring in order to hitch on to more stable companies. “Techies are in demand at these parties,” says Hemmings. “Many recruiters and human resources professionals come to the party specifically seeking IT candidates.”
She believes the parties help foster a more mature approach to hiring and getting hired: “People are finally asking pertinent questions,” she says, “like: How fast is your burn rate? Do you have a plan for a niche business, and what kind of support does that have?”
But I haven’t been pink-slipped
If you’re happy in your current position and think you have no need to attend a pink-slip party, you may want to take a careful look around you. These warning signs could spell doom for you, your colleagues, or even your company:
- The management team begins acting differently. Doors are shut all the time, regular staff meetings are cancelled several times, or otherwise straightforward managers uncharacteristically divert questions about long-term strategy.
- There’s a tightening of cash flow. Expense statements are no longer being paid on a regular schedule or vendors are no longer being paid on time.
- The HR team works late. They may very well be making out those pink slips.
- Senior-level management staff unexpectedly quit without a new job lined up. They may be getting forced out, quitting in protest to a management-team situation, or may even be bailing out before the eventual demise of the company.
Hemmings says that you should have a contingency plan even if there are no warning signs. She recommends that you “have your resume up to date, get your references in place, and start networking” even though there may not seem to be a need for it.
How do I get an invitation?
Invitations to pink-slip parties are as easy to come by as the pink slips themselves. Everyone’s on the “A-list,” and all you have to do is show up. And you don’t have to be a dot-commer or techie to join the party. Hemmings says that all kinds of pink-slipped people are showing up these days. “Much to my surprise, we’ve even seen folks who’ve been laid off from the financial sector show up,” she says.
To get a newsletter with party announcements featuring the Bay Area parties as well as those held in other cities, simply visit the events section of the Hired Guns site and RSVP. Your RSVP will also register you for a newsletter, which lists job opportunities that recruiters have e-mailed to Hired Guns.
Party do’s and don’ts
Here’s some advice on how to get the most out of a pink-slip party:
- Do work the room. Be outgoing and chat with everyone.
- Do bring your resume.
- Do create some personal business cards with your key information on them. You can get a thousand of these for as little as $20 at Kinko’s.
- Do have a good time.
- Don’t feel bad about being let go. You’ll meet plenty of people at the party who are in the same boat.
- Don’t get drunk. Remember, your next potential employer could be watching.
Finally, says Bonnie Halper, founder of new media/new technology recruiting firm Bonnie Halper Associates, “I would advise technologists to start asking different questions: Who’s funding you? What is their commitment to the company? What’s your revenue stream?” She also recommends asking “hard questions of the recruiters with whom you’re working as well: How long have you been in business? Who are your clients? How many people did you place last year and how many of those people are still in the jobs in which you placed them?”
At the end of the day, a pink-slip party, like any other opportunity, is what you make of it.
What about you?
Were you recently laid off or “downsized”? Have you attended a pink-slip party? How did you make the most of the situation? Post a comment below or send us a note.