This year was the first time I was ever laid off from a company, and I figured I’d share my lessons learned from the experience. Maybe you’ll find them helpful if you ever find yourself in a similar situation or if you’re going through the same thing at the moment.
Lessons I learned from getting laid off from my Senior Software Engineering role:
- Instead of diving into job hunting immediately, take some time to rest beforehand. I dove into job hunting immediately, although I was still feeling devastated from being laid off from a company that had been a dream job for me. I was processing my grief over losing a job while also feeling extremely exhausted from staying up late studying for technicals and waking up early for my scheduled interviews. This made it difficult to perform at my best during those interviews.
- Don’t apply to too many places at once. Right after getting laid off, I panic-applied to a lot of companies. As a result, I had several companies responding to me at the same time to set up interviews. My calendar was crammed with interviews – recruiter calls, technicals, and take home assessments. I ended up feeling extremely overwhelmed and was spread too thin, and ultimately bombed too many interviews because I overextended myself. If I could go back and do things differently, I would have been more selective at the beginning of my job hunt. That way I wouldn’t have been so exhausted in the beginning.
- Filter the unsolicited advice you’re getting from others and focus on what makes sense for you and your situation. I had a lot of friends/family give me their take on how I should approach the job hunting process. At first, I was trying to listen to too many people at once, and as a result, I was not only overwhelmed from everything that was going on in my life, but I was also overwhelmed from all the advice I was getting. What works for one person may not work for you, and that’s totally okay. Do what makes sense for you and makes the job hunting process manageable for you. For me, this meant cutting back on the interviews I was scheduling each week. I know that people mean well when they give you unsolicited advice, but no one truly knows what you’re going through better than you do, and ultimately you know better about what works for you.
- Prioritize your mental health. Losing my source of income and my health insurance, processing the emotions from getting laid off, as well as dealing with the rejection that comes with the job hunting process, took a toll on my mental health. At first I was interviewing too much and not giving myself enough space to continue to pursue my hobbies or doing things that make me happy. Later, I realized I had to cut back on interviews so I could protect my happiness and mental health, and make time to do things that would bring me joy during this difficult time.
- Have a strategic approach for the companies/roles that you apply to. At first, I didn’t have a strategy other than to apply to any role that fit my skill set at companies I was familiar with/really liked. Later, I realized the interview process was very important to me since I’m primarily self-taught, and live coding/whiteboarding interviews have always been tough for me. I ended up applying to companies that had tech screens that catered to my strengths while spending some of my free time working on LeetCode problems and studying CS so that I could move back to live coding/whiteboarding interviews in the future.
- You can negotiate your severance. I had no idea you could negotiate your severance, so I just signed off on what was offered to me. If I could go back, I would have tried to negotiate, although the layoff my company did was one where there probably wasn’t much room for negotiation since so many people were laid off.
- Listen to your gut. When you no longer have a job, it’s easy to feel desperate and feel like you should accept the first offer you get. If you’re financially able to hold off on doing that, I’d recommend waiting until you get an offer that excites you. I had a couple potential offers in the beginning of my search, but I wasn’t excited about them at all. And I think that’s definitely a red flag – you don’t want to start working for a company if off the bat you have some resentment about the offer.
- Network and use social media to your advantage. I was able to get a lot of leads on possible job opportunities by reaching out to people who used to work at my previous companies. I was also getting a lot of help from strangers reaching out to me when I posted about getting laid off on LinkedIn.
Hopefully this is helpful for anyone else going through something similar. If you recently found a new job, congrats! If you’re still on the search for something new, good luck and hang in there!
While working at a startup, I started to approach my work in a different way. I kept an eye out for ways I could improve my team’s process through automation. I would often propose feature work outside of the requests my team was getting, so that I could build out improvements that would automate our workflow. I noticed patterns in the repetition of the requests we were receiving and thought about how we could move away from a more manual process to an automated one. And through automation, I was able to cut down the number of requests my team had to handle manually from about 20+ a day to about 2 or 3 a week (sometimes we wouldn’t get any requests at all). This allowed my team to shift our focus to other products and merge with a different team within the company.
Aside from automation, I also looked for ways to help my fellow engineers. If I noticed that any of less experienced engineers were struggling with a language or process, I’d either look into a tool that could automate the process, or sometimes I’d create documentation to serve as a cheatsheet. When I was working on a team of primarily frontend engineers, and a couple of the less experienced engineers were overwhelmed by the command line or working with Ruby, I compiled a list of handy commands to make their lives easier. And whenever I ran into any issues with local development, I’d share any solutions I found with the team to ensure no one else would run into the same blockers. I also made myself available for pairing to help out other team members whenever they were blocked. And by finding solutions to bottlenecks in our processes via automation or tooling, as well as mentoring others, I got promoted to Senior Software Engineer.
Finding a remote job ended up requiring quite a bit of persistence on my part. Before looking for a fully remote job, I had no idea how competitive remote jobs are. What really helped me land quite a few interviews, some of which were with some pretty large companies, was the fact that I have a pretty big online presence. I not only blog on my web developer portfolio site, but I have created an online presence for my artwork. I was competing with a lot of applicants who have more of a Computer Science background, but I think my online presence helped me stick out.
When I was applying to various roles, I kept combing the following job boards/online services:
- FlexJobs – this is a paid service, although if you’re unhappy with your subscription in any way, they’ll give you a refund
- Hiring without Whiteboards – this repo includes companies that have remote roles
- We Work Remotely (this one was my favorite, and is actually where I found the company where I landed a remote role)
It also helped that I have had previous experience working remotely for companies and contracting work, so I’m familiar with the various ways of communicating with colleagues in different cities. Many companies with remote employees are interested in if applicants have had previous experience working remotely, so they know if candidates are able to work remotely on their own. After all, remote work isn’t for everyone, and it’s a matter of trying it out to determine if it’s the type of environment you can thrive in.
It’s hard to believe, but exactly two years ago I took leave from my company to attend General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) program. Previously, I had hopped around with different web-related roles, learning coding on my own and picking up on best practices along the way. Since I didn’t have a background in Computer Science, I really wanted to get a better foundation, thus I decided to attend a coding bootcamp.
What was Great about General Assembly
WDI was an amazing experience in many ways. I’d have a say that I really appreciated the following:
- Meeting a wonderful group of aspiring developers that came from all different backgrounds.
- Being a part of an amazing community, and feeling much more confident about my abilities as a coder.
- Having hands-on experience by building applications for labs, as well as creating four different projects (although I have to say I wasn’t proud of one of my projects, so it was more like having three different polished projects).
- Getting introduced to new frameworks like Angular JS and popular libraries like React JS.
- Having many “ah ha!” moments, where things would click and I realized that I had a much better understanding for different programming concepts and patterns.
- Getting the tools I needed to become a better learner.
- Feeling passionate again about technology and web development – prior to joining their program, I was feeling burned out at work. WDI helped motivate and inspire me again.
What Could Have Been Better
- I wasn’t thrilled with their Outcomes programming. I enjoyed the panels they had and an interview workshop, but overall I felt like too much time was spent away from working on projects while focusing on things like resumes and cover letters (which I felt like I already knew enough about). I’d say it would have been better if there was less mandatory Outcomes programming, with the option to participate in some of their activities.
- Technical interview prep would have been nice. We barely scratched the surface when it came to technical interviews, and I didn’t feel at all prepared for technical interviews once I started interviewing for developer jobs.
- Better communication about how difficult it is to land a dev job earlier in your career. It felt like they kept saying it was easy if you worked hard enough, which is a bit vague and not terribly helpful.
Overall, I thought General Assembly’s WDI was an amazing experience, and I definitely don’t regret it. Was it perfect? No, but it helped me in just the right ways. I enjoyed the people I met and the community that I was a part of. I kept referring to it as being like camp for grownups. It was a lot of fun, was incredibly challenging at times, but was well worth it.