Layoff to Liftoff: Surviving Downsizing in the Tech Industry

Kodeco’s guide to surviving tech layoffs offers actionable tips on stress management, job search strategies, and staying productive post-layoff to prepare for your comeback. By Joey deVilla.

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Taking a break from work is often looked down upon in tech culture, but our brains aren’t built for continuous conscious work. Personal downtime doesn’t detract from work uptime; in fact, it supports it. Make sure that you do the following:

  • Schedule breaks throughout the day: Take short breaks to rest and recharge — and take them away from your computer! A change of scenery from your job search environment can help you stay motivated and avoid burnout.
  • Make time for exercise: Sometimes, a short break isn’t enough to get you out of a rut. You might find that taking a longer break to exercise will energize your body and give you a much-needed mental boost.


If you were working, evenings would make up your free time on weekdays. You should set up your evenings so that when you land your next job, the shift back to employment won’t be so jarring. You should also take advantage of the mental and emotional recovery that we go through at the end of the day.

  • Work on personal projects: If you have any personal or freelance projects, make time for them. They’re a great way to sharpen your skills and learn something new. You can even add the result to your work portfolio. Once you’re back at work, the evenings could be your “side hustle time.”
  • Make time for hobbies: Partake in your hobbies, or take up new ones. They’re a nice break from work, and they’re good for your mental health.
  • Reflect on today: Review what you accomplished during the day and what you can improve on or do differently tomorrow to make things better for “future you.”
  • Prepare for tomorrow: Outline your goals for the next day. This can include setting specific objectives for job applications, networking, and learning activities.
  • Relax and unwind: Do whatever helps you at the end of a working day. It could be reading, watching a movie or TV show, indulging in games (video, board, or card), or spending time with friends or family.

Stay Healthy

older man doing group yoga

It’s too easy to become so focused on dealing with your next job that you forget about your physical and mental health. This is a mistake — bad health tends to have a cascading effect on your personal and professional life when times are good; it’s much worse when you’re without work. Staying healthy during a layoff can take up an entire article by itself, but this article wouldn’t be complete without a couple of tips:

  • Get some exercise: Exercise, which can range from a walk around the block to lifting weights or high-intensity interval training, makes being laid off more bearable. It releases endorphins to reduce your stress and generate feelings of well-being. Being laid off is often an exercise in frustration, and the release that comes from a workout can counter that. You’ll also feel stronger, and I find solutions to problems come to me when I exercise. Also, if you exercise outside, you’ll get a chance to reconnect with your neighbors and neighborhood.
  • Connect with friends: People with good friendships are happier, healthier, and feel less stressed, which is even more necessary now. Being laid off triggers an instinctive response that was useful when being kicked out of the tribe meant certain death. You can reduce this bad feeling with the presence of friends. Take advantage of your newfound free time to reach out to them — especially if they’ve also been laid off.
  • Find your circle of trust: Identify the friends you trust most — the ones you can confide in and seek advice from. Be deliberate in this selection process; they should be people whom you can go to when having one of those “Dark Night of the Soul” moments that pop up from time to time after you’ve lost your job.
  • Be wary of “self-soothing”: If you cope with stress or unhappiness with snacks or alcohol, watch your intake. It’s easy to overindulge during such times, but maintaining control can help you stay both physically and mentally healthy.
  • Seek counseling if you need it: Just as you would seek professional help if you were physically injured at work, you should consult a professional if your mental health is suffering. The American Psychological Association says you should seek counseling if being laid off…
    • Causes you to think about it or cope with it for at least an hour each day.
    • Makes you feel embarrassed or makes you want to avoid others.
    • Caused your quality of life to decrease.
    • Has negatively affected school, work, or relationships.
    • Has led you to make changes in your life or develop habits to cope.
  • If you’re in the U.S., you have a couple of extra issues to contend with:
    • Choose the health insurance option that works best for your needs. That could be continuing your current coverage with COBRA, enrolling in an insurance plan at the ACA Marketplace, or signing up for short-term health insurance.
    • If you have prescriptions, see if you qualify for programs that allow you to fill them at a lower cost or for free, including Medicare or Medicaid.
    • Take advantage of your health insurance before it runs out. See if you can reschedule any upcoming doctor, dentist, and ophthalmologist appointments to do so.

Reach Out

Zoom call with many different people

With just about every posted tech position receiving dozens or hundreds of applicants, it’s clear that you won’t find a job solely by applying online. You’ll need to reach out to other people and let them know you’re looking for work.

A network of friends and acquaintances can extend your reach, bringing opportunities and information that you wouldn’t be able to get on your own. They can also provide support, motivation, accountability, and the confidence you need to go on a job search in a tough market.

Here are some suggestions for reaching out:

  • Start with friends and family: Once you’ve had a little time to process being laid off, tell your friends and family about your new situation. It can be difficult to say, “I’ve been laid off” at the beginning, which is why you should start with the people you feel most comfortable with and trust the most. If some of them work in the same field as you, make telling them a priority. They’re your first networking circle.
  • Reach out to previous managers and coworkers with whom you are on good terms: They make up your second networking circle, and they’re also people who know your “work self” the best. They can be especially helpful in a couple of ways: They can vouch for you as a reference, and they may be able to refer you for positions.
  • Try to apply for positions through a friend or colleague through a referral program: Many companies have an employee referral program, where they find prospective hires by taking recommendations for job candidates from their employees. You should try to take this route rather than submitting a standard application for the following reasons:
    • You’ll have a current employee’s personal endorsement: You won’t be just another applicant, but one recommended by someone “on the inside.” It adds credibility to your job application and increases the likelihood that your resume will be given more consideration.
    • It bypasses some filters: With a referral, your application will bypass any initial automated screening and make it more likely for your resume to be screened by a human.
    • You can get information: The person referring you can provide valuable insights about the company culture, the job role, and the people on the hiring team. Use this insider knowledge to tailor your application and interview effectively.
    • Your interview process might be fast-tracked: Referral candidates are usually flagged as a priority over non-referred candidates.
  • Connect with the people who were laid off with you: I was laid off with hundreds of other people, and we put together our own Slack where we’ve stayed in touch, shared information about job opportunities, written LinkedIn recommendations for laid-off teammates, and simply provided some much-needed camaraderie and support. See if a similar group exists for you — and if it doesn’t, start one!
  • Build your collection of “weak ties”: You have strong ties with the people you know well, such as friends and family, and weak ties with those whom you don’t know as well, such as casual acquaintances and “friends of friends.” A recent experiment that used data from 20 million LinkedIn accounts demonstrated that weak ties are more likely to be useful in finding a job than strong ones. Here’s how you can build your collection of weak ties:
    • Attend events: Go to industry meetups, seminars, and conferences. They’re “weak-tie-rich environments” that have the added benefit of offering learning opportunities. Engage with people, exchange contact information, and don’t forget to follow up to maintain connections!
    • Volunteer at conferences: Most conferences charge admission, which might be a challenge since your income has been cut off. Volunteering lets you attend a conference for free in exchange for doing work. You might not be able to catch every presentation, but you may get “backstage access” to the speakers, you’ll be seen as a person involved with the conference, and you’ll be able to do some networking.
    • Join groups and clubs: These can be in-person or online, and they feature activities and discussions that can introduce you to a wide array of people.
    • Leverage social media — especially LinkedIn: Once again, people seeking employees use LinkedIn as a search engine for candidates. Use it to connect with other techies and to be noticed by people who can connect you to opportunities. You’re also more findable on LinkedIn if you engage in discussions and post content regularly.
    • Enroll in classes or workshops: They’re a way to expand your knowledge that also lets you meet people with similar interests and aspirations.
    • Ask for introductions: Ask friends, family, or colleagues to introduce you to people they think you should meet. This might feel odd at first, but with practice, you’ll find that personal introductions pave the way for new connections!
    • Join a Job Search Council: This is an idea that comes from the book “Never Search Alone.” A Job Search Council is a mutual support group of four to six job seekers who band together to help each other find work. The book tells you how to form your own Job Search Council, or you can join one via the free matching service on the book’s site.