As many of you know and may have even experienced first-hand, this past year has been a tough one for the tech industry. The high from the COVID-19 pandemic liquidity injection is wearing off and we’re starting to feel the affects of inflation and of the Federal Reserve tightening monetary policy.
To prepare for this new reality, many tech companies have been forced to reduce their work forces. Just search the term “tech layoffs”, and you’ll be met with a litany of examples of notable tech companies laying off large portions of their staff, including highly skilled tech workers.
This article focuses on what you can do to set yourself apart in the current job market and discusses techniques for handling a workforce reduction if you are affected by one. Stay tuned for future articles that dig deeper into the situation!
First of all, if you have been affected by a workforce reduction, start by taking a deep breath. I understand that this is a scary situation, but now is not the time to panic! Hopefully you have a safety net to give you some time before you need to find your next job, whether that be severance or an emergency fund.
It’s important first to work through the feelings and find clarity in the situation. Perhaps you weren’t happy at the job anyways and this is a good opportunity to find a better fit? Maybe you’ve always had a dream in the back of your mind and now is the time to act on it? For example, you might consider using this as an opportunity to go back to school, make a career change or even to start your own company.
With that said, you may just be thinking “how am I going to make rent next month?” If you don’t have the luxury to take time to think, then you should move into the next phase immediately, which is to come up with a game plan to find your next job and to put that plan into action.
In a tough market, you are going to need to market yourself effectively in order to stand out to hiring managers. Trust me when I say that there are plenty of companies right now that are hiring people that do what you do. With that said, the dynamics of the job market in tech have changed. Just like housing market bidding wars are starting to cool down, so will bidding wars over tech talent. In order to thrive during the downturn, you will need to elevate your personal brand and find ways to sell your unique skill set to stand out from the pack. Below we will dig into some ways that you can do this.
I'm not going to tell you how to write a good résumé or how to build a great portfolio site, but I will tell you that it’s important that you learn these skills and use them as a way to make yourself more marketable. Do some research and find a free course on résumé writing. The time you put into this will be worth it, I promise you!
Before you send out your résumé, make sure to run it by people who work in the industry and get constructive feedback on it. Ask them point blank whether they think your résumé would help you to stand out.
Also, make sure to focus on the design of your résumé. In my opinion, the best résumés are minimal and well-designed to make use of the space and draw the eye to the important bits. By making use of color, spacing and typography you are setting yourself apart from the pack of blocky 5 page résumés.
Finally, and perhaps the most important thing, make sure that your resume passes through an ATS scanner. An Application Tracking System scanner is a tool that shows you whether your resume is effective for a given job description. In order to pass through these automated systems, your resume should use keywords from the job description and it should be well formatted so that an automated system can parse it effectively.
If you don’t have one already, you should create an online portfolio with several great examples of your work. Your portfolio does not have to be an elaborate custom website, it could just be links to your projects on Github, Codepen, Dribbble, AngelList, Crunchbase, Hired or whatever other site is relevant to your skills or industry.
With that said, a custom website can be a differentiator and will definitely help you stand out, but I would recommend starting simple so that you’re not blocking yourself from making progress. Whatever you choose, the key is to link to your portfolio on both your résumé and your social media profiles.
It's amazing how powerful LinkedIn is when you use it properly. If you set up your LinkedIn profile properly, as a tech-worker you should have recruiters reaching out to you on a nearly daily basis.
Some things to focus on when you’re building out your profile are:
- Creating a unique and catchy headline and summary
- Adding an up-to-date and professional avatar picture
- Filling out your profile completely, making sure to add your job experience, certifications projects, courses, links, etc.
- Taking skill assessments in the areas that are important to your role
- Adding that you are “Open to Work”
Once your online brand is ready to go, it’s now time to get your face out there in front of recruiters. Just like with nearly everything else, recruiting nowadays is driven by AI. You can quite literally tap into this system by feeding it with content on a frequent basis. Set a reminder on your phone so that several times a week you post an update on LinkedIn related to your area of expertise.
It doesn't really matter what it is, it could be a simple Codepen, a short blog article or even just a tweet with an opinion on the subject. You should set it up so that posting on one site will post in multiple places. For example, you can write a short Medium article and re-post on LinkedIn, Twitter, your personal blog, etc. If you make this part of your routine, it will start paying dividends almost immediately!
If you do the steps above correctly, you will have plenty of recruiters reaching out to you, but you also want to be proactive to target the companies and roles that most interest you. Once you have narrowed it down to a few companies to start with, do a search for open jobs at these companies to see what’s available.
Try to find companies that have a good amount of open reqs for the role you are after and have not recently gone through significant layoffs. Once you have found roles that interest you, it’s time to write a quick cover letter and apply for the job. Make sure to focus your cover letter on the company and role and make sure it is well written and free from grammatical mistakes. It’s amazing how infrequently job applicants miss this step and it should not be that hard! The cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself, show your personality and give the company reasons why you are the right person for the role.
For the sake or brevity, I will not go into how to prepare for the interview, but I will say that you should spend time preparing yourself mentally and intellectually for the interview. With that said, do not let your lack of preparation be a blocker for you to get started. It’s okay to fail your first few interviews! In fact, you should prepare yourself to fail and find ways to not let that stop you. Make sure to ask your interviewers for feedback and take it to heart. Each failure will show you the areas where you need to work to improve for the next one. If you go into it with this attitude, your failures will be wins because they will help you to grow and prepare you for future successes.
Recruiters are awesome! When you start talking to one, make sure to be friendly and kind to them. Even if the job doesn’t work out, you might just have a new friend who can help you in your process of finding a job! Ask them for constructive feedback throughout the process and get to know them on a personal level if they are open to it.
Most of my previous jobs have come from people I knew and bonded with. If you have people that you’re still connected with from past jobs, make sure to reach out to them to let them know you are back on the market.
If not, then you can focus now on building out your network by:
- Attending in person tech conferences, meetups, etc.
- Joining online communities related to your field and role.
There are a ton of great resources out there to find a good mentor / career coach. One place to start is your professional network on LinkedIn or any other social network. Follow people who you admire. Reach out to them and tell them why you admire them and ask them for advice on how they got to where they are. More often than not, people are happy to tell their story and are willing to work with you to help you find your dream job.
Downturns can be scary, but by focusing on improving your marketability and becoming a pro interviewer, you should be able to find a great job even in the worst of markets! If you need someone to bounce ideas off of during your job hunt, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Let me know if there’s anything I missed down below in the comments!
- Levels.fyi — A fantastic website with accurate tech salaries
- How to Negotiate your Tech Salary — Also from levels.fyi, a great video on salary negotiation
- 9 Helpful Sites to Find your Next Job in Tech — Sites specific to finding jobs in tech
- AlgoExpert - A great platform for preparing for technical interviews (costs money)