Podcast 132: Dealing with a layoff

In Episode 132 of The Cherryleaf Podcast, we look at dealing with being laid off or being made redundant. In January 2023, there were quite a few layoffs in the tech sector. It’s reported that Google has laid off 12,000 people, Microsoft 11,000, Amazon 18,000, Salesforce 8000. And there’s also been layoffs at Meta, Cisco, Spotify, and other organisations.



Welcome to The Cherryleaf Podcast.

In this episode, we’re going to look at dealing with being laid off or being made redundant.
In January 2023, there’s been quite a few layoffs in the tech sector. It’s reported that Google has laid off 12,000 people, Microsoft 11,000, Amazon 18,000, Salesforce 8000. And there’s also been layoffs at Meta, Cisco, Spotify, and other organisations.

Being laid off can be tough for a lot of people. There can be the loss of income and the need to still pay the bills. The larger companies often they can give a six month redundancy payments. And there can be pressure to find a new job before your money runs out. And for lots of people, their identity is tied up with their job. It can give them status, self-worth. And their social life can also be tied up with their working life. Even when you are told the reason for being laid off is because the job Is being made redundant, rather than anything you as a person have done. it still can be very hard to take.

In the dim and distant past, when I was doing my bachelors degree, we looked at the stages of post-redundancy and how people reacted and behaved. And I thought it would be useful to share that information.

The research at that time showed that many people took the opportunity of having a break. They wouldn’t necessarily move straight from one job into another. They would take time to have a holiday, do some jobs around the house, and gardening. Rest and recover. Then they would start to look for a new job. And for many, they will be successful in finding a new job and start in their new role. But in some industries and in some regions some people suffered from long term unemployment and they would develop their own routine. Which could involve watching a lot of daytime TV. Going for a walk and doing other things to fill the day. For those people, it could be very hard to break that routine and get back into full time employment.

Things have changed in recent years. In that unemployment has become job seekers allowance. And there has been greater emphasis and support on helping people find a job and avoiding falling into that trap of being long term unemployed. One of the advantages of being a technical author is that it is a role where there is an ongoing need for people with those skills. It is not in a declining sector such as a smokestack industry.

I thought it would be useful to share some of the advice that we give to people who contact us who are looking for a job. In case you don’t know, one of the services that Cherryleaf provides is the placement of permanent and contract technical authors. We have a specialist recruitment agency service.

So the first bit of advice is to actively look for a job. That can involve letting the agencies know that you’re available for work and your skills and experience. Now, recruitment agencies aren’t like actors agents. They aren’t typically going out and phoning prospective employers are saying we’ve got the perfect candidate for you. It tends to be driven by a vacancy that a company has and then selecting a suitable set of candidates.

So in addition to sending your CV out to agencies. It’s also worth you looking at what vacancies are around. And then applying for those jobs.

Job hunting in many ways is about the process as well as the result. It can be like sowing seeds in the ground. Sometimes you need to do things which won’t necessarily result in immediate results. So that can involve getting into a regular rhythm of applying for vacancies that might be out there.

You can also let people know that you’re available for work on networking sites such as LinkedIn and social media sites. Some agencies and some companies search on sites for people who are available and you need to bear that in mind. They will search on keywords to find potential available candidates. So in your profile you might want to consider what keywords that somebody would be searching on.

Whilst I said an agency might not be going out and promoting you like an actor’s agent does, people do get jobs by recommendations. Where somebody recommends you to a company. And this is where networking can help you find a job. Networking is about relationships. And the general stages within relationships and networking is: know, like, trust, and trade.

So you can use networking to get people to know who you are, by how you behave, you can get them to like you And at a deeper level, trust you. By that I mean that if they recommend you. You won’t let the organisation down and make them look silly by recommending somebody who wasn’t up to the job. So networking is often about being useful, being known and being liked. So you can answer people’s questions. You can share your knowledge. You can solve people’s problems. So that you can build a reputation. And through that it may be that people might know other people Who are looking to recruit someone. Be known, be useful, be liked. And we saw from the interview with Diana Logan that we did recently, that that’s a route that’s been used by some people. By contributing to hackathons. By contributing to community forums. And then being offered a job permanently at organisations such as GitLab.

In this situation, you do have to be careful that you’re not going to be exploited. There are the tales of people being asked to do content for free in exchange for reputation.

There’s no escaping a lot of this reputation building and networking is done without getting paid for that work. Some people use sites such as Fiverr to get paid some money. And they work on the basis of their first projects are done at a low rate, they build a reputation, then for future projects they charge a higher rate. I know one person who built his software company by doing that. He grew a portfolio of clients and case studies that he could use when building for future work. I’m not convinced that this approach works for technical writers. One thing to bear in mind with sites such as Fiverr is that you are competing with candidates from around the world who may be living in countries where their cost of living is considerably lower than yours.

As I mentioned, this can involve spending quite a bit of time without necessarily any immediate results. It similar to becoming fit, losing weight, learning a language. There is a need to be disciplined, to find a routine of doing constructive, active activities that will take you closer to be employed. So that could mean allocating X amount of time per day. Doing searches for available jobs. Or writing responses to forum questions. Or writing blog articles or creating examples on websites such as GitHub. Or volunteering for hackathons.

Unfortunately for some people, they do all of this work, and they still can’t find a job. So far there has always been a need for technical writers. However, the skills in demand have changed over time. So there may be job vacancies, but your current skills and experience are not a good match for those. So another thing that you can do is build up your skills so that you increase your chances of filling one of those jobs that are available. You can look at the skills that are listed on the job vacancies. Compare them to the skills that you have and identify where there might be gaps.

You could take courses. Cherryleaf offers courses and others do. And there are also sources of building up your skills that are free. For example, you can listen to podcasts. There’s lots of useful information on YouTube. Google offers a range of free courses. And there are the MOOC courses offered by universities. And again, things like hackathons and Google season of docs can be a way of building up your skills and also adding to your CV experience in certain areas. The Write the Docs conference has a writing day. And the Write the Docs conference publishes all of its videos onto YouTube a few weeks after the conference.

Another thing to think about is that getting a job is a bit like making a sale. There’s a funnel aspect to it. So you might need to get five job interviews to get one job offer. There’s only generally one person recruited for every job vacancy. So you can end up with a situation where two people are perfect for the job, but they will still only take on one person. Although it can be dispiriting, what you can do is use the experience from each interview to improve. How you respond and act for the next interview and increase your chances of being the person that’s offered the job.

You can also use sites like itjobswatch.co.uk and the recruitment sites such as indeed and Reed to get a sense of the salaries that are being offered.

So what about going freelance and setting up your own company? Being laid off is often the impetus for people to set up their own company. Running your own company is in many ways like moving away from home. You have many freedoms, but also many responsibilities and it suits some people. And it doesn’t suit others.

Again, this was something that was covered on my bachelor degree course. Now this was talking about people being made redundant from the industrial sector. So this may not necessarily hold true for the tech sector. But what would happen is was that sometimes people would be made redundant. And what they would do is they set up their own company. Essentially doing the same thing as the company that had made them redundant. They would buy equipment, often secondhand. And they would win business often just on price. They would price their services or their products at a lower price than the competition. The problem was with this was that they didn’t have enough money either through profits, or through the ability to borrow money, in order to replace equipment when it got worn out. So the business wasn’t sustainable.

In the tech sector, that’s less of an issue. There are low barriers to entry into a marketplace. As a technical writer, you don’t need a great deal of equipment in terms of hardware or software. And it is possible to rent equipment on a monthly basis; to get accountancy advice and services on a monthly basis. Paying for these things each month. Can help you with your pricing. Make it clear to you what the minimum amounts that you need to earn per month to pay the bills and to give yourself a salary.

And setting up your own company can be an opportunity for you to implement the ideas that you might have had on how the business could have been run better. Madcap Software began when a development team was laid off in the States and they relocated the development to India. They created their own company, Madcap Software, and built and designed a help authoring tool how they thought it should be written for future needs. MadCap Software is today one of the most successful help authoring companies in the world now.

We asked on social media for other people suggestions that might help people who are in this situation.

Tina Klein Walsh:

Not exactly a hot take, but the events of the past few years have increased the gap between HR policy and front-line management. My advice to jobseeekers would be to pose the deal-breaker questions to front-line management (the hiring manager) so that the person on the inside can run interference and lobby for change (if/where needed) on the candidate’s behalf.

I also have had candidates try to speed up & force decisions, and in a bigger company, many approvals are required. It just takes time. Do not enable #sharkmode. Trust the process. If the hiring manager thinks you can do the job they will strongly advocate for you as a candidate. If you need an answer right now, I’m okay with it, but if you can’t wait and I have not secured the approval yet, you’ll get the very clear answer of no. I have no other option for you. Not made in a vacuum.

Fabrizio Ferri:

That LinkedIn works and is the primary resume you should be curating. I see way too much effort put into drafting Word CVs, only for them to be ingested by some recruiting text parser.

Amanda Butler:

If you’re making a career pivot, make it absolutely clear what role you’re switching to and why you’re qualified for it. A good cover letter can help in that situation, too. Hiring teams aren’t mind readers, and you don’t want them to think you applied for their role by mistake.

Nita Beck:

I suggest including advice on how to recognize and steer clear of hiring scams, particularly for remote jobs. Unscrupulous persons are preying on vulnerable work-seekers.
I also read a LinkedIn post today from an organization not unlike yours, Ellis, who announced that bad actors are posing as them and running job-post scams.


Helpful resources (including talks on making the most of LinkedIn): You Got This!
You Got This! is a learning hub focused on core skills needed for a happy and healthy work life.

Aaron Collier:

I have lots of things I could mention, but most of them I got from reading Ask a Manager, so I’d recommend also reading that.

So I hope you found those suggestions useful if you are in this situation. If you’re a candidate in the UK or mainland Europe, then our recruitment service might be of value to you. You can contact us at info@cherryleaf.com and you can find information on our training courses on the Cherryleaf website, including some free courses.

So good luck if you’re in that situation and I look forward to speaking to you on the next podcast episode.

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