While tech is still one of the most vibrant and growing industries, we’ve all seen how the economy and other factors have affected it lately. Even the most skilled and experienced professionals can face a layoff so most of us know someone who has been.
It's not easy to be on either side of a layoff -- Of course those whose jobs are cut suffer clearly and directly. But it can also be hard on those who stay behind, with fear of future reductions and often with having to take on additional work while not having former coworkers with you any more.
If we keep the focus for now on those who've lost their job, what can you do as their colleague to help? There are actually lots of tangible ways you can offer support. Read on to find out practical strategies for lending your coworker a hand during this tough time.
The first thing you can do for a colleague who’s been let go is to simply hear their story. You can let them know you’re sorry about what happened and tell them that you’re there for them, but then let them lead the conversation.
Focus on validating their emotions without necessarily dishing out advice left and right. Instead, try to create a judgment-free zone where they feel totally comfortable sharing whatever's on their mind. Avoid making assumptions or sharing stories of your experiences. This is about your teammate right now so your job is to create a space where they can feel safe to unpack their thoughts and feelings at their own pace.
Share Your Network
One of the most helpful things you can do for a coworker looking for a new role is to introduce them to people you know. Getting a connection at a company that’s hiring or even just having a coffee chat about career next steps can make all the difference for someone who’s just lost their job.
Some of the introductions you can make include:
- Recruiters / Talent acquisition specialists you have connections to
- Career coaches you know can offer support
- People at other companies in similar roles to what your colleague is looking for if they’re open to talking about what working there is like
- People at other companies who manage teams like what your colleague is looking for if they’re open to talking about opportunities there
- Other professionals in your colleague’s field who might have insights into job openings, trends, or advice on navigating the job market
- Alumni from your past education or coworkers from your past jobs who are willing to help
- Event or professional group organizers involved with happenings or groups that are related your coworker’s professional interests
- Online connections (from LinkedIn, of course, but also from other platforms and communities) who could be useful for your teammate to talk to
Before you make an introduction, make sure your colleague is and feeling up to it and that your connection is willing and able to talk with them. And consider following up with both later to see how the conversation went. This shows you really want both of them to benefit from the introduction plus helps you make more great connections between people in the future.
And the sharing can go beyond connections. You can also forward laid-off colleagues:
Job postings you think line up with their experience and skills
All of our LinkedIn feeds look different so your colleague might be shown the same role you do.
Job boards you know have roles they could be a match for
“Niche” job boards (ones that focus on particular roles, industries, locations, groups, etc) can be particularly effective since the roles there are targeted meaning it’s easier for your coworker to find ones that are a fit for them.
Webinars, conferences, or meetups related to their field
Events and learning opportunities will not only keep their skills sharp but also expand their professional network, potentially leading to new opportunities.
Articles or newsletters with info about their areas of expertise
This can help them stay up to date on trends and happenings in their industry, which can lead to them discovering new opportunities or being better prepared for interviews for potential new roles.
Offer to look over your coworker’s resume, cover emails, LinkedIn profile, portfolio, elevator pitch, or planned interview question answers. Take the time to delve into the intricacies of their job search materials and give them supportive and constructive feedback.
Besides the typical proofreading for typos, offer insights on how they can more effectively spotlight their strengths and showcase their achievements. Suggest ways they can to tailor their resume or cover email to specific job roles or industries so they stand out among other applicants. If you need a refresher on these yourself, we’ve got you covered with guides on resumes, cover letters, and interviews.
To further boost their job search, offer to give a recommendation for your coworker who was laid off. This can be a concrete way to help them on their way to their next role. And it can look like either writing a LinkedIn recommendation and/or speaking with a potential employer as they’re interviewing for a position.
Either way, if you’re able and open to sharing about your colleague’s skills and your experience working with them, it can really make them stand out in their job search. And you can also find a guide to great recommendations on the Tech Ladies blog. 😊
It’s natural to make the most effort just after a coworker is laid off. But, since it usually takes time before landing a new job, it can be especially meaningful to keep in touch with them as time goes on.
Ask how the job search is going and celebrate their successes so far, whether that’s landing an interview, completing a challenging application, or getting positive feedback even when they don’t get the role. Job searching is tough - and often lonely! - so having someone ask about and recognizing their achievements can boost their morale.
But don’t make it all about finding a new role. As much as possible, try to continue your relationship as it was before. Talk about the non-work subjects you used to and, if it fits your relationship, arrange to meet up (in person or virtually) and spend some time together.
Supporting colleagues who have been laid off requires a combination of empathy, practical assistance, and connection. By taking action using the tips above, you can make sure you put this into practice as you help coworkers in this difficult situation and hopefully support them towards their next opportunity.