I got Laid Off from my Software Engineering Job…What do I Do?

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If you get laid off, get another job. I’ll tell you what worked for me through two layoffs I had during my career. You can use these strategies, build upon them, and get your career going again.

The first step when you get laid off is to get on unemployment as soon as you can. States and governments can be slow, so get the ball rolling asap. There’s no shame in drawing unemployment, and it doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Your employer pays unemployment insurance and that funds the system you’ll draw money from while you find work.

Even if you have six full months of emergency funding saved up, you’ll be glad for the little bit of money you get from your unemployment checks. Cut back your spending, hunker down, and start the hunt. It might take you two weeks, or it might take you a year to find a job. Stretch your money as far as you can so you can be as stress-free as possible while you look for work.

Your Resume

The first part of your job hunt will be to update your resume. Make sure all of your information is up to date, and then start looking at software engineering job postings. What I recommend is that you look for popular skills, languages, frameworks, trends, and anything that you can leverage with your current skills.

Don’t fake your resume, but look for keywords that are in current job postings and tweak your resume to include them. For example, if you know some Angular, but your resume only says “JavaScript,” you can add specific JavaScript frameworks you know if you see they are popular. Even if they aren’t popular in today’s job listings, someone might need that skill. This leads us to the most important aspect of your resume. Detail.

Be as specific as you can with languages, frameworks, and version numbers. Show what kind of impact you created and highlight the value you brought to the organization.

Detail will get you past the skills gatekeeper looking only for specific words. Impact and value will get recruiters and team leaders interested in you enough to reach out for an interview.

Your Job Hunting Spreadsheet

Keep a list of every job you’ve applied to. If you send out your resume to enough places, you won’t remember who is what when someone calls you and acts like they’re the only job you would ever apply to.

I use a Google Sheets spreadsheet for this, but anything will work. Excel, Numbers, LibreOffice, and probably even a plain old text editor will get the job done. The point is that you’re a software engineer…keeping track of data is what you do.

Besides remembering who is what in the job hunt, the spreadsheet serves two other purposes. First, your state will probably require that you tell them about specific jobs you’ve applied to as a condition of getting your unemployment check. Since you already have that information, you don’t have to guess or make something up. You just copy and paste, or look and type.

The other purpose is to keep you straight as you work through the job hunt. You can see how many jobs you’ve applied to, who has responded, which ones you want to follow up with, and any other notes you might want to keep about a particular job listing.

In my spreadsheet, I would track data like job title, company, job board, date applied, salary range, and a brief job description. If I hear back from them, I make a note in the note column. If I’m officially rejected, I like to use the strikethrough menu option. If things are looking good, I’ll highlight the row in green. Green for money (sorry if you’re in a country with that cool, colorful money).

Maybe Do Some Networking

Don’t think you have to do all of this on your own. Network a little, and maybe opportunities will start coming to you. The two basic forms of networking you can do are social networking and going to meetups.

Tell all your social networks you’re looking for work. If you’re embarrassed about being laid off, stop being embarrassed. This is no time for fear. Just mention that you’re looking for a new job and if anyone knows of any in your field. The last time I got laid off, I actually got a line on some work from a former colleague I had previously connected with on LinkedIn.

It turns out that the job wasn’t for me (didn’t even send out my resume) because I wasn’t looking to relocate. But I was thankful for the tip. It never hurts to ask, because someone might know something. Just be professional and explain that you’re looking for a new opportunity, and something might fall into your lap.

When you need a break from sending out resumes, you could go to tech meetups to do some in-person networking. I just typed into Google “programming meetups near me” and got so many results.

Even if you’re not in one of the big tech hubs of the world, you can probably still find some type of industry-relevant meetup within driving distance. Get out there and start making contacts. Someone might be looking for your exact skill set.

Shotgun vs Targeted Resume Distribution

I’ve heard some people say that quality is better than quantity when submitting your resume, while others suggest that you just blast it out to everyone because computers are the first to read your resume. My approach — which is what I suggest you do — is to do both.

The job I accepted right after my second layoff was acquired via the shotgun resume approach. I was just blasting it out to every job that looked relevant and interesting. No cover letters. Just click apply and send the current resume.

This wasn’t the only approach I used. I also picked specific companies I wanted to work at and found jobs for which I thought I was very qualified. My skills matched the job requirements very well. I filled out online applications, wrote paragraphs about why I thought I was a good fit, answered 50 question surveys about myself, and basically spent a lot of time on each of a few different applications.

As it turns out, none of those jobs would give me the time of day. But that’s OK because I found work. This technique did work out for me a few years ago, however, when I worked for Acxiom in Central Arkansas. I wanted to work there because I knew some people who had worked there in the past and they really liked it. I found a job I was suited for and applied for that job alone. I didn’t even bother applying anywhere else because I was focusing all of my energy on that job. I got it and the next four years were pretty good.

If you’re only comfortable using one of these techniques, then prepare to get uncomfortable. You’ve got to use every available tool and technique to get your income flowing again as soon as possible. So do both shotgun resume blasts and targeted careful applications.

Another Important Thing You Should Do

Once you’ve found another job, you’ve got to figure out a way to make yourself indispensable. Make sure that what you do creates measurable value for the organization. You want your work to have an impact, and you need the numbers to prove it.

From day one, keep a log of your accomplishments, including all relevant metrics. If you wrote some code that made an existing process 12.5% faster, write that down. Review your log regularly to make sure you are creating meaningful and measurable value. If things are looking a bit light, get to work.

If you create value and tie the work you do to revenue-generating projects, you’re on your way to becoming a vital part of the company. When layoffs come around again — and they will — you’ll be in a more insulated position and maybe will keep your job.

Now go get to work.

Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more content like this and also not like this.

Technology professional in Hollywood, so naturally I also make terrible short films and tech videos. https://www.youtube.com/CalebRogers

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