Despite the new job numbers ballooning, there is no ignoring that nearly 200,000 tech employees have been laid off since the start of 2022. Four of the largest tech companies (Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft) announced a total of more than 50,000 job cuts in recent months, and as recently as late January, Spotify laid off 6% of their crew. Even the pandemic poster-child company, Zoom, let people go recently.
With people in the tech industry suffering from a rather sudden and tragic loss of livelihood, it is no surprise that many are in an emotional free fall, soul-searching to figure out their next steps. Some have lost hope and succumbed to the idea of taking lower-paying jobs or jobs in a completely different field altogether. Others are considering returning to school to get an MBA and eyeing the test-waiver carrot being dangled in front of them simply because they come from the tech sector, a demographic of smart and focused workers.
To help those in shell shock from the tech layoffs to bounce back and feel better, no matter where their next trajectory takes them, keep reading. We’ve assembled some thoughts on how to abate your surprise, prime your mindset, then pivot strongly toward your next steps in finding a new job or heading back to school. We’ll even throw in a technique that can help you keep calm and confident, for good measure, which is also useful for interviews or taking the GMAT/GRE.
How To Prime Your Mindset for your Next Steps
Dealing with the shock of both your personal and collective firing might seem overwhelming: you likely hadn’t anticipated being ‘this’ part of the zeitgeist. Last year you were at the (insert -tech-company-choice-here) holiday party at City Hall. This year, you’re cleaning out your desk and considering joining something just short of a class action suit or becoming a monk in the Himalayas.
First: sigh and acknowledge the %@$&*!)-up situation.
Then, once you’ve settled into a more neutral state, pivot.
One of the best and quickest ways to prepare for this next stage in your life is to reframe your experience and adopt a growth mindset. Here, rather than trapping yourself in a vicious cycle of feeling sorry for yourself; you can take on a perspective that this abrupt change you didn’t ask for is in fact an exciting opportunity for learning and change. Since you can only adapt your perceived experience (inner landscape), you can now consider meeting personal, professional, and academic goals, now made easier to meet since… you have more time. Break your goals down into smaller steps and they are easier to accomplish. As you consider new trajectories, your bounce-back will soon be imbued with excitement and a better attitude.
Will Self-Care Help with a Layoff?
When still feeling the reverberations of the ground being pulled out under you, counter it with some embodied practices and get physical. Fresh air and exercise should be first in order. Take an exercise class, volunteer to walk or run with dogs at the local shelter, and consider meditation, for even just a few minutes each day, to settle your mind. The science is convincing: getting active and settling your mind will have longer-lasting benefits than only getting steady on your current bump.
Integrating self-care and stress relief protocols is perfect for any situation, making it an ideal solution for somebody going through a layoff. In a national survey, the National Council of Mental Well-Being cited benefits of self-care included enhanced self-confidence (64% increase), increased productivity (67% increase), and improved happiness (71% increase). Embrace some self-care practices to maintain a healthier mindset to move past the shock and disappointment of your layoff more quickly. Incorporation of tools that help you feel good, have a better attitude and make it easier to perform better which not only makes you more ‘attractive” and present better to academic programs and on job interviews.
With so many options to choose from, what flavor of self-soothing will you try? Talk therapy? Meditation? Drum circles or Improv? Hot baths? One of the best methods we teach clients to emotionally regulate is heart breathing based on the work by Heart Math. This simple, effective tool can help you get centered and breathe easier, and you can do it just about anywhere and anytime. It can easily be integrated into a daily routine. Similar to meditation, it acts as a method to gain a deeper awareness and a sense of calm.
Step 1: Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over your heart, and if it’s helpful, put your other hand on your belly for grounding, creating a heart-body connection, and helping you to focus attention on the heart area. It helps to focus on a spot in front of you to look at.
Step 2: Heart Breathing. As you look at the spot in front of you, breathe deeply but normally. You may feel as if your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Imagine it is. As you inhale, feel as if your breath is flowing through the heart, and as you exhale, feel it leaving through this area. Breathe slowly and casually, a little deeper than normal. Continue breathing easily until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you. You may feel a shift here.
Step 3: Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and take a moment to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been to or love you feel for a close friend, family member, or treasured pet. It can be anything.
Do this for the next few minutes until you feel calm and present.
Self-care doesn’t change the past or predict what happens in the future, but it reinforces staying ‘present’, which soothes the blow of life’s problems. Take some time to think and regather yourself, then go at “it” again. Whether you decide to apply to more jobs or academic programs or want to take a pause to smell the roses, it’s important to recognized that all these unexpected experiences are part of your journey, and as the captain of your ship, you have agency over your perspective.
When you’re ready to bounce: do so! Bouncing back after a layoff can be aided by staying active in the workforce or pursuing more education. Jack Kelly’s article in Forbes, suggests that laid-off workers consider finding temporary, part-time work or some management consulting until new, full-time employment is found. Simply stay in the game! Many industries are seeking to hire tech experts to update their outdated systems so your day-to-day could diversify!
A good argument can also be made to head back to school for an MBA. Business schools are responding directly to the tech layoffs by extending application deadlines helping those without employment to get accepted late in the season and offering GMAT/GRE test waivers. If that’s not a golden ticket, I don’t know what is. Dr. Marlena Corcoran of Athena Mentor details how US business schools have responded (to the layoffs) by making it easier for those who are suddenly looking around for their next best move. Plus, currently, many Top business schools don’t require a GMAT. Linda Abraham of Accepted.com joined me and my co-host, Eric Lucrezia, on our weekly vid-cast a couple of weeks ago on MBA Waves for a deep dive into the business school test waivers, so watch that for more great reconnaissance. Before you rejoice about not needing to take a standardized test, there are still benefits to having a high test score and taking one. A high GMAT/GRE score can lead to scholarships and may differentiate you from other applicants. Plus, you might need the test score for jobs you’ll be considering post-MBA. If you have time to study now, you might still want to plan on taking it.
While this article is intended for the tech-folk who find themselves in a new situation, all the information is applicable to anyone who has been terminated from their job. Massive change can be both scary and inspiring. If you always wanted to bartend (I highly recommend it), travel the world, volunteer in dog rescue, or get another passion project going, this might be a good time to launch. After all, there are so many worthy causes and the world needs driven people making a difference. Whatever your next steps may be or goals you choose to pursue, how you respond to this unanticipated interruption can help in dealing with other unforeseen changes in the future. So consider enjoying what your pivot will look and feel like, Captain You!