Date Published March 28, 2023 - Last Updated 226 Days, 1 Hour, 3 Minutes ago
If 2021 was the year of the Great Resignation, and the first half of 2022 was the era of Quiet Quitting, the last half of 2022 and 2023 are the epoch of the Great Layoff, and it has been brutal.
Seemingly no one is untouchable. I’ve seen it repeated over and over - longtime loyal employees who have dedicated years of their lives to their companies. In many cases their loyalty to the brand meant that they knowingly were being paid below market rate for their skills and experience. They loved the company enough to take a discount pay rate just for the honor of working there.
Then it happens:
“Dear [employee name],
We regret to inform you that, due to [insert reason], it has become necessary for the company to reduce its workforce. Your services will no longer be required effective [insert date].”
In the best of cases, they are given notice that they will be released in the next two to eight weeks. In most cases, they get notice the day of release that they are being terminated. In the worst of cases there is no notification whatsoever, just a disabling of the network account and radio silence when they request support to get logged in. In truly egregious cases, there have been public firings over social media or over mass virtual town hall meetings.
The tragic part is that the most loyal employees are the ones who are least prepared for this reality. They have been so committed and so invested in their position and in their company that they haven’t had a Plan B. No irons in the fire. No resume kept current. No real grasp of what their compensation should be (and should have been for years). And most importantly, no real understanding of how the recruitment process has changed since they last looked for work.
This realization is how loyalty quickly turns to desperation. First thing often done is to turn to social media. They say the right things - “great company”, “good people”, “economic downturn.” They add the “Open to Work” ring around their profile photo. They ask their network (and usually it is a small network because they never really felt the need or urgency to build a large one) to keep them in mind for any openings. Then…they wait.
Why? Because of their loyalty, they are unprepared for this, and also late to the party. Other workers availed themselves of better opportunities during the Great Resignation and got all the plum roles. Those who found a better role while they were Quiet Quitting snapped up what was left. And as the Great Layoff continues, there are more people fighting over fewer jobs. Oh, and for good measure, recruiters are always the first casualties when the Great Layoff hits a company, so there may not even be anyone to receive a resume.
Weeks go by, and the phone doesn’t ring as expected. The unemployed loyalist begins to grow concerned that the tidy nest egg socked away over many years isn’t going to meet more than a few mortgage payments. They begin to post more frequently on social media with pleas for help finding the next great job with the next great company.
As weeks turn into months, they begin to question their real value. “What’s wrong? I have decades of experience. I saved my company millions of dollars. Why can’t I get an interview? That one interview I did get seemed to go great, so why are they ghosting me? Am I really as good as I thought?”
The posts on social media begin to reflect this level of desperation. The tone gets more urgent…and more jaded. An edge of negativity begins to creep into their posts.
I’ve seen this scenario play out many times in the last six months. People whom I know and respect have been affected by the Great Layoff, and I’ve seen most of them run through this cycle. It’s not just about any one individual, though; it’s about an entire network of people. And I’ve seen it repeat mercilessly to good people, like a scratched copy of a favorite vinyl record.
So, what is the solution?
Do not fall into the negativity trap
It’s fine to post on social media that you’re in need of help to land a new role, but don’t publicly announce your desperation. Never post anything negative about your former employer, the recruiter who ghosted you, or anything that you wouldn’t want the next recruiter to read. The next recruiter and the next hiring manager will look at your profile and very likely read your feed. Keep your professional feed, well, professional.
Make yourself marketable.
Resumes today are not what they used to be. A good resume will not be just a list of skills like it was in the past. It will focus on accomplishments that quantifiably add business value over defined periods of time.
It will highlight how much money you saved the company - “My asset management initiative saved Acme Corp $8M in FY21, which represented an increase of 8% to the top line for the year.”
It will define how many hours of downtime you eliminated - “This project resulted in an average productivity gain of 30 minutes per week for each of the 6000 business users of Application X, which equates to 156,000 hours of productivity gain per year.”
The point is to make your accomplishments stand out by attaching numbers to them! Have someone who you trust review it and give you honest feedback.
Brush up on your interviewing skills.
Do some mock interviews with people who themselves are hiring managers – even if they aren’t leaders over anything like the role you want. Practicing your ability to think and speak in these stressful situations is vital and will help you for when it’s the real deal! Practice interviewing in person and remotely, because you never know in what format your next interview will be held. Most likely it will be remote, so use these mock sessions to test the setup you will use when it’s an actual interview.
When that real interview comes, be prepared for it.
Learn about the company and demonstrate that you know about them, their industry, their key products and services, and their competitors. Expect it to be a virtual panel interview. When scheduling the interview, request the names of the panelists and look them up on LinkedIn to familiarize yourself with their roles and their experiences. I guarantee you that they’ve looked at yours or will shortly before the interview. Ask them questions that demonstrate your genuine interest – and “When do you expect to fill this position” is not one. At best that’s an assumptive question that you feel you already have the job. At worst it’s a desperation question that signals you’ll take the first offer you get. Ask questions that indicate a future focus like what success looks like in the role, what competitive advantages the company has, what is the most intriguing project they are currently working on. These signal genuine interest.
It is critical in the resume and even more in the interview stage that you make clear that although you had a long career at one place, you are not a one-trick pony. There may be biases against those who spent a long time with one employer that they are inflexible and entrenched in one way of executing work. There may be a belief that staying in one place is indicative of a resistance to change and leads to a lack of a wider industry perspective. Today’s business world moves fast, so it’s imperative that a candidate with long tenure at a previous employer demonstrates the ability and willingness to move at the pace of change.
Educate yourself on your market value.
The annual 3% increase your company was giving you as a “reward” for your loyalty barely kept pace with the rate of inflation. It absolutely did not keep pace with wage rates. There are plenty of resources available for you free of charge that allow you to plug in a job role, location, and years of experience to get an idea of what you should expect to be paid when you land your next role. When the job offer comes, you will know in advance what your value is and what the job should pay, and you won’t have to settle for what you were making before.
Don’t fall into the same trap of falling in love with your new employer like you did with the previous one.
The Great Layoff has clearly shown that no one is untouchable. Always keep your resume up to date. Go on an interview a couple times each year even if you have no intention of leaving where you are – just to keep your interviewing skills sharp. Keep an eye on market rate compensation for your role, and don’t settle for just a cost-of-living increases when you save your new company $8M.
If you were affected by it, my sincere hope is that you come out stronger.
Doug Rabold is Chief Experience Officer and Principal Consultant of Bold Ray Consulting in San Antonio, Texas. As an IT Operations Leader he has led high-performing teams of up to 350 resources and managed a portfolio of contracts totaling over $60 million in annual revenue. A lifelong learner, Doug attended the University of Illinois, holds numerous certifications and is an HDI Certified Instructor. He has over ten years of experience in public speaking, is a serial podcast guest, and a contributing author to several industry publications. Doug is currently serving as Chairman of the HDI National Board of Directors and sits on the Strategic Advisory Council for ITAM Forum. Doug was named the AOTMP IT Management Professional of the Year in 2021, was a finalist for the HDI Best Service and Support Manager in 2021 and was selected as People’s Choice Winner for 2018 HDI Manager of the Year. He was named an HDI Top 25 Thought Leader for IT Service Management and Customer Experience in 2022 and 2023. Most recently Doug was selected as Customer Experience Magazine Top 25 CXMStar Influencer in 2023 and a Top 50 CX Influencer for 2023 by CX Network.