This year is turning out to be a rocky one for the tech sector. Headline news has been alarming, detailing hiring freezes, layoffs, and declining revenue and capital across the tech landscape, from startups to the Big Five tech giants. For those working within the industry, daily headlines like these are cause for concern:
- “Microsoft Cuts Many Open Job Listings in Weakening Economy” (Bloomberg, July 20, 2022)
- “A wave of layoffs is sweeping the US. Here are firms that have announced cuts so far, from Shopify to Tesla” (Business Insider, July 26, 2022)
- “Hootsuite cutting 30% of staff in latest round of tech layoffs” (Global News, August 9, 2022)
While this trend appears worrisome, it’s not as alarming as the news headlines make it sound. Job openings, even in tech, continue to outnumber unemployed workers. The U.S. unemployment rate actually decreased to 3.5% in July 2022, down from 3.6% in the previous four months. And Computerworld reports that, in July 2022, the tech industry specifically saw:
a net gain of 12,700 workers, the 20th consecutive month of growth. So far this year, the tech sector has gained 143,700 jobs, an increase of 55% year-over-year, according to CompTIA. The unemployment rate for tech jobs was just 1.7% in July (1.3% for women, 1.8% for men), roughly half the overall US unemployment rate of 3.5%.
It may be contradictory but the stats clearly show that while those in the tech field may need to worry about layoffs and job losses, they likely don’t need to worry about long-term joblessness. Still, being laid off or let go can be disheartening and stressful, even with the knowledge that it shouldn’t be too difficult to find another job. If you do lose your current role, keep your eye on the prize and take a look at our advice for minimizing your time without a paycheck.
What’s Driving the Layoffs in Tech?
While the headlines are alarming, it’s important to understand what’s causing the turbulence in the tech field.
The tech sector, which had already been booming for the past decade, saw unprecedented growth during the pandemic. The switch to remote work and the lockdowns and restrictions that kept people close to home had tech companies scrambling to keep up. The demand for everything from video conferencing platforms to concert streaming services to online shopping soared, which resulted in the tech industry “spending money like drunken sailors in terms of hiring the last few years,” in the words of analyst Dan Ives.
As people start moving around more freely in the world again, their reliance on tech has decreased. Companies which may have already had some bloat during pre-pandemic boom times, and which continued hiring for new roles during the pandemic, are realizing that they overhired. Amazon, for instance, freely admitted that it had hired too many warehouse workers, anticipating that higher customer demand would last after the pandemic restrictions were lifted.
The layoffs are unsurprising to many analysts, who feel that cuts have been a long time coming and will give companies a chance to streamline and become more efficient.
Still, while it’s true that layoffs are happening, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. The unemployment rate across the tech sector remains incredibly low, at 1.7%. As quoted in an article at TechDecisions, Tim Herbert, chief research officer at CompTIA, said: “The data confirms that for every layoff announcement there are other employers stepping in to take advantage of tech talent hiring opportunities.”
Take Time to Pause and Reset
For many people, the pandemic provided a forced pause in their work lives as they were laid off or let go. The vast number of people affected resulted in a massive shift in how we define work and its importance in our lives. Those in the tech sector who are going through layoffs now can look to those recent experiences and shifts to help navigate their own job losses.
While being laid off can be traumatic, it can also provide a chance for workers to pause, recalibrate, and figure out if they want to adjust their career paths. It’s a chance to not just reconsider career goals but also personal priorities and preferences.
Even though tech jobs are plentiful, Mike Shekhtman, a director at Robert Half in Vancouver, advises that recently-laid-off workers take at least a few days to “reflect and ensure that you look at it holistically, not as something that is personal in nature.” Beyond coming to terms with the emotional impact of a layoff, take time to consider the following, as outlined in a past blog:
- Where you want to work, both in terms of geographic location and in terms of remote versus in-office employment;
- Whether you want a full-time permanent position or would be happier with contract work;
- What your financial needs are, particularly following a period without income;
- What a healthy work/life balance looks like to you;
- What’s important to your mental health and wellbeing;
- What kinds of contributions you want to make to the world; and
- What brings you joy.
It’s also a terrific time to think about a side gig. Many times, we have no choice but to jump at the first available job offer to re-establish a steady flow of income. But that job offer may not be the perfect fit, especially in terms of things like the contributions you want to make to the world and what sparks joy for you.
As a further incentive, a side gig can provide a financial cushion should you ever experience layoff again. At the same time, a full-time position that is a good (but not perfect) fit can provide the financial stability you need while you get your side gig off the ground and turn it into your dream job.
Consider Pivoting, Reskilling, and Training
While we’ve been referring to the “tech sector” and the “tech industry” throughout this piece, those working in tech careers enjoy an incredible degree of flexibility in their job search. Tech permeates every industry, from hospitality and tourism to manufacturing to healthcare and education.
You may need to undertake reskilling or training in order to pivot into a new industry but if you’re keen for a new direction, a layoff provides an excellent opportunity for change. As examples, we’ve mentioned previously that tech workers are needed in manufacturing to run automation and software, manage robotics, analyze data, and perform 3D printing. Workers with tech knowledge are also needed in the healthcare field, to work as ultrasound technicians, pharmacy technicians, and service delivery analysts, among other roles.
Reskilling and training can help you pivot right within the technology sector as well. Boot camps and online certification courses can help you make the jump from help desk support to network administrator, since the education and experience required for both roles is roughly the same. And, while job postings for software developers have markedly declined over recent weeks, the cybersecurity field continues to grow. Using your downtime after a layoff to pursue certifications in another tech area can lead to your dream job and/or a substantial increase in income.
Prepare for the Job Search
Before diving into your job search, it’s a good idea to reach out to your network, review your resume, optimize your LinkedIn profile, and prepare yourself for the interview process, which may now be virtual.
It often can be difficult to reach out and ask for help. Never is that more true than when you’ve been laid off or let go as you may be taking the job loss personally. However, networking remains one of the best ways to find a new job in the tech sector. If you don’t already have a strong network, consider reaching out to:
- Relevant professional organizations;
- Your school’s alumni office;
- Past managers and colleagues;
- Instructors and classmates; and
- Pertinent groups on social media.
As well, be on the lookout for local networking events and meetups that you can attend in person.
We all know that it’s a good idea to keep our resumes fresh and updated at all times. But, particularly if you’ve been in one position for a number of years, you may have let this slide.
It’s important to take a critical look at your resume before you jump into a job search. We encourage you to take a look at our blog on updating your resume for in-depth advice but, in summary:
- Use the most current accepted resume format;
- Be concise;
- Remove outdated information and terminology;
- Optimize your resume with keywords;
- Use active, quantitative language; and
- Sell your soft skills.
And always, always, ask someone (ideally a professional resume writer) to review your completed document.
Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools available to job searchers today. Optimize your profile to make it visually appealing, comprehensive, and easy for recruiters to find. We have a blog to walk you through that process, but in brief:
- Use a professional profile photo;
- Capture interest with your cover image;
- Optimize your headline;
- Tell your story in your “About” summary;
- Tailor your “Experience” section;
- Complete all sections;
- Adjust your profile settings;
- Use a custom URL; and
- Engage so that you grow your network.
While it may take some time to complete all the sections, the effort will be well worth it.
Your Interview Prep
As always, it’s important to prepare in advance for job interviews. This is particularly true post-pandemic, as many interviews continue to be held remotely.
If you get called for a technical interview, be prepared for a take-home assignment or a remote coding challenge as a way to gauge your technical skills. If you make it to the next stage of the interview process, you will likely be invited to a behavioral interview where the hiring committee will ask about your past work experiences. This part of the interview may be online or onsite.
Video interviews are new to most of us and require a little extra care and preparation. In particular:
- Find out which video platforms the employer uses so that you have a chance to log in and try it out in advance;
- Test your hardware and have back-up options available;
- Use a wired internet connection to avoid lags and freezing; and
- Make sure your interview space is professional and tidy.
Getting laid off is difficult and stressful. But, if you can reframe the way you look at a layoff, you can transform it into a terrific opportunity to reassess both your career path and your personal priorities. Ultimately, a layoff can help you recalibrate so that your dream job and your ideal work/life balance become achievable goals.