How to Deal with a Tech Layoff

In the IT world, job change is a constant. But as demoralizing as it is to lose your job, there are steps you need to take – and fast.
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A quick glance at the layoff tracker reveals that IT layoffs are currently minimal – fortunately. Due to a healthy tech job market, not too many IT pros are handling the slings and arrows of layoff notices.

But over the course of an IT career a layoff is far from unusual. Tech companies are notorious for merging and cutting divisions. Corporate chieftains, in their ultimate wisdom, decide that restructurings are necessary.

It’s important to note that being laid off is not a reflection of a staffer’s skills. When upper management swings the axe, it takes both the wheat and the chaff. Many workers take it personally. Despite having spent years mastering a programming language, or having kept a data center running with just rubber bands and glue, getting the pink slip can feel like personal rejection.

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That clearly isn’t true, but until they get that next job, several dangers lurk. One, some IT staffers leave the tech field altogether (those who lost their job in the grim days of 2001-2002 are a good example). Others take a lower paying tech position and then stay there, clinging for the sake of job security.

Given the downside to losing your tech job, it helps to be prepared. If you receive that dreaded pink slip, these are steps to consider:

Before You Leave: Use Your Ex-Employer

Yes, you’re feeling profoundly negative thoughts about your employer – heck, they just sent you packing. However, they might be of use.

Many of the larger firms offer some type of transitional job placement service. There are outplacement firms like Drake Beam Morin whose core mission is helping displaced workers find a new opportunity.

“The company doing the layoffs will hire a firm [like Drake Beam Morin] to help individuals transition to new opportunities,” says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director with Robert Half Technology. “And they do everything from help workers write resumes to prepare for interviews.”

Do it Now

“Get a quick start,” says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Plenty of staffers get some severance and so are slow to start their job search, but then the severance runs out. Don’t wait for that – or for anything, he says.

“You’re most hireable when you’re new in the market. [An employer] says ‘I might be getting someone who no one else has found’ rather than ‘Here’s someone that everyone has said no to, why are they still looking?’”

Talk with Tech Organizations

There are scads of tech and IT organizations that are beneficial to reach out to. “Get involved with some type of professional organization to determine what’s happening in the marketplace,” Spencer Lee says. “A lot of cities have regional information technology associations.”

These groups offer everything from monthly breakfasts to informative newsletters. And don’t forget your local Chamber of Commerce as a source of tips about who might be hiring.


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