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Ask HN: Laid off. Now what?
73 points by bourbondd on Feb 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments
The startup I worked for has announced that it is going to shut down in May. Unfortunately, that meant 80% of us would immediately be let go. Myself included. The severance pay was really small and my health insurance will be deactivated by the end of the month. As much as I'm trying to just move on and start job hunting, I can't help but to freak out a little about the outcome since it was very unexpected. For some of you that may have experienced being laid off before, what were some of the first things you decided to do afterward? Do you have any advice or share any lessons learned?



1. I would immediately file for unemployment in your area, if applicable.

2. Take one day and just relax. Have the most fun you can possibly have that doesn't damage your health or take anything more than a trivial amount of money.

3. Calculate your burn rate and cut expenses.

4. Accept that you have a new job. Your new job is finding a new job.

5. Dedicate 20 hours a week to finding and applying to jobs. You can just submit your form everywhere. Spend 5 hours a week identifying companies that you like in particular. Spend 15 hours a week attempting to make actionable progress improving your interviewing ability. This might mean studying things like Cracking the Coding Interview, or doing small projects to show that you can work with technologies that some of your prospective employers want to see.

Throttle the looking for a job part from 25 to 40 hours, keeping everything the same. Do not spend more than 60 hours total doing job hunting related activities. You'll burn out and become unmotivated.

Good luck!


6. Network. Get personal referrals from people you know who work at the companies you are applying. These personal referrals have an order of magnitude better chance at getting you noticed. Use your time to reach out to people you know. Have coffee with them. Yes. Face to face. Let them know you're interested in working at their company. Ask them to submit a referral. Use linkedin to find people. Don't be afraid to ask a connection for an intro to another person you don't know who could help you. You'd be surprised how helpful people are willing to be.


> 2. Take one day and just relax. Have the most fun you can possibly have that doesn't damage your health or take anything more than a trivial amount of money.

This is good advice. Don't try and turn the unemployment into a holiday because the stress is too high to really let yourself enjoy it. You don't want to spend a holiday thinking "should a spend the extra $2 on the gourmet pizza" and stuff like that.


Couldn't agree more with tabeth.

And don't be discouraged by a bad interview. It was good interviewing practice anyway. Keep moving forward.


(US only) 1.1 If available, ensure temporary on-going health insurance coverage via COBRA [1]. Usually your former employer / previous health insurance is required to send you a letter regarding how to file for COBRA - otherwise ask.

I had exactly, precisely the same thing happen to me. I agree with 1-5 above (and 6 in the child post).

Try (really hard) not to get depressed and find a weird way to enjoy this unforeseen break in your work life. You probably won't get any other breaks like this unless you decide to take them or get lucky.

[1] FAQ about COBRA https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-...


You may want to check out ACA plans for insurance, too. Depending on what your needs are and how much your employer was paying, COBRA coverage may be significantly more expensive than your options under ACA. Also, COBRA will only last as long as the company does. (see discussion downthread)

Losing a job allows you to enroll in ACA plans outside of the normal enrollment period, but only for a limited time, so check into that soon if you want to.


0. If you feel like it, go ahead and take 15 minutes or half an hour and cry. When the half hour is over, though, be done. Move on to 1.


The only thing I would add to this (great, positive) advice is that you may want to read McArdle's masterpiece on rebounding, The Up Side of Down.[1] She was in a terrible (long-term) unemployment situation, followed by underemployment; she took the lessons she learned, added some others she found later, and wrote this (very helpful and practical) book.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Up-Side-Down-Failing-Success/dp/01431...


40 hours a week? I've done it in the past it's not realistic. If you schedule one interview per day, you'll burn out quickly. You need breaks in between to digest the previous interview.


I think 40 hours of interviews is to much, I agree, but I think he meant 40 hours of just looking in general. That's a combination of interviews, in person and phone, and the rest of the time looking at job boards and networking.

Then again, maybe you meant that too... :)


Personally, I didn't find that any form of break between interviews made a difference (excepting when I had to fly out of state). I was fine doing 2-3 interviews (in person combined with phone) a day when they came up. It's probably a personal thing.

If you do need a break between interviews, submitting new applications or working on your skills makes for a decent filler. Like a regular paying job, you'll get out of your application efforts what you put into them.


Sure, you can practice and reflect on the previous interview in-between. Your level of concentration is so high during a technical interview, as soon as you disconnect you get a big drop. For an onsite for example, you go to 5-10 45 minutes interviews in a row... you're in until the end, then you crash at night in your bed. No way you can do the same thing the next morning.


5-10 interviews in a row seems ridiculous to me. It may be that I focus on smaller companies, but I've never done more than two interviews for any job, and usually its just a phone screen and an in-person interview.


These are all really good. I would only add to keep good habits and take the opportunity to cut bad ones. Work out more, eat better, talk to friends and family, etc.


Let me emphasize, work out more or exercise. I found this to be very important for mental stability.


When I ran up against the same problem, this is exactly what I did. Though, I did take a weekend off to breathe, instead of a single day. Ended up with two offers 30 days later, and was working 15 days after that.

Unemployment was the most intimidating part initially, but it wasn't hard; just a few pages of online paperwork every week.


Yeah, the unemployment process (at least in the US) was designed to scare people away. It really isn't that bad to report your progress with a job search, and it's your right to receive it since you paid into it.


remarkably good advice that i could have used last time I got laid off. the burn rate thing was critical - i am still amazed at what we were able to survive on while spending 6 months job hunting. the only thing i might add is an extension to number 3 - the psychological component to job hunting can easily overwhelm your technical skills. find an emotional support buddy, they will help you remember that most job offers come with a healthy dose of luck that you can't control


> Spend 15 hours a week attempting to make actionable progress improving your interviewing ability.

Do you have any suggestions on how to do this?


There are some good books on the subject. Start with "The Google Resume" by Gayle McDowell. Then move on to industry specific books like Cracking the Coding Interview.


I am already aware of CTCI but not about "The Google Resume". Thanks!


What kind of job were you working in? If you are in the software field, you chances of finding employment again are high. But the key is for you to act fast. While it is sad that you are out of job, this is not the time to regret or ponder over what you could have done differently. There is plenty of time for that.

I can share my own story. On one Saturday, I got a phone call from a co-worker that there are rumors of an impending massive layoff the following week. And then I got laid off on Monday. But I updated my resume on Saturday and already applied for several jobs on Sunday and started preparing for interviews. On Monday, I got laid off. And on Tuesday, I got a call scheduling for an interview. That entire week, I got two more calls for interviews. I scheduled them for the week after that as I needed at least one week to get up to speed with interview preparation. 20 days after my layoff, I had an offer. I still had interviews scheduled from bigger companies at that time, but I took the offer because I had some personal situations also to deal with at the time (My marriage was supposed to be in 3 weeks). I had a good raise in the new job, and with severance, it all ended up great with a good bonus and a raise.

My general advice is this. While I admit it is an incredibly stressful and emotional time, your emotions cannot take priority over actions.


I got a question about severance and new job. Some companies (like mine) will ask you to report new job and they will cut severance (monthly salary). If so, how do you deal with that? Many of my previous co-workers told me they just lied and the company never checked (all verbal or writing).


That doesn't sound right. Granted, severance is not mandatory for an employer and they can choose to give you nothing when letting you go. Although, asking about your new job and salary doesn't sound legal. All that said, if I were an employee, I wouldn't lie in any case. I'd like to keep my hand clean, which would save me if the crap hits the ceiling.


As a sidenote, this post highlights why your first priority when you have a decent paying job should be saving ~6 months or so of expenses so that if something like that happens, you have an immediate safety net to fall back on.

There are too many people in the Bay Area making 6 figures salary and living paycheck to paycheck (exorbitant rent + car lease + student debt payments + weekends in Tahoe + nice brunches + buying the newest phone quickly adds up...)


All that's required for living paycheck to paycheck in the Bay Area is a willingness to pay exorbitant rent. The other stuff is a distraction from the real cash drain.


I don't know. I could easily spend $200 bucks a week on lunch and dinner alone.


Right. And, at least for a family, rent is 3k-4k+. Where's the real cash drain?


They're both cash drains. One's just bigger then the other, cutting back on both is sound advice if you are looking to save. I agree that you are probably right in that rent is a bigger factor but they are also right in that by not eating an expensive lunch everyday will add up over time.

I think everyone can agree that learning how to properly budget finances should be something we all should learn.


I guess I was thinking about it in the context of saving up six months of living expenses. If rent is 4k+ you have to skip a lot lunches to save enough to cover that for six months with no income..


"I could easily spend $200 bucks a week on lunch and dinner alone."

You can easily feed four people per week for the same amount.


- First outcome => Working for a startup is riskier than working for an established company.

- Second outcome => Do I want to work for a startup again in the future? No.

- Third outcome => If a startup is successful, the outcome is disproportionate between the founders and the employees. But, it if fails, we're all equally unemployed.

Do I really want to be an employee at a startup? nope.


I agree that working at a startup as employee number whatever is high risk/low reward (even when given equity). I would either start my own start up (high risk/high reward) or work for a larger established company (low risk/low reward).


Well that depends, if you have no dependents and some money in the bank you can take a risk by working in a startup, you get to learn so much.


yes, but we are talking about rewards. It's still high risk/low reward


It happens, especially when working for a real [ie., risky] startup. Even though it feels personal, it's not.

First, work on your stress level. Health coverage needs to be addressed soon. Look up COBRA and the grace period, that should give you some peace of mind. Look at your bank account. Hopefully you have some savings.

Next, keep in mind that it's easier to find a job when you already have one, than if you are unemployed. So activate your network. Did your startup have competitors or partners? They may be interested in your experience. Ping you college friends. Where are they now?


Step 1. Drinks with colleagues who got fired too, stay in touch for job opportunities (X is hiring).

Step 2. Polish up resume.

Step 3. Contact your network (one by one, not mass), say "our startup is shutting down, looking for next job, any pointers?"

Step 4. Make a list of companies you want to apply for (regardless of whether they're "hiring", everyone is).

Step 5. Set up an account with hired.com and similar job searching sites.


use this link to apply for hired - https://hired.com/x/jFYnPO


I wouldn't waste your time with hired.


Also setup indeed prime account here: https://prime.indeed.com/refer/c-va18xuh


I can second many of the things already posted.

I would also emphasize that unemployment, if available, helps tide things over financially and you should file for it immediately. It takes a few weeks before the first unemployment check arrives, so the sooner that process starts the better.

When the startup I was working for shut down, I mistakenly waited a few weeks before applying in the hopes I would be able to find a replacement job quickly and out of some weird stigma against unemployment as "free money", instead relying on what was in the checking account in the meantime. As a result, finances became very tight while waiting for that unemployment to assist with rent. I learned #1 to apply for unemployment immediately, and #2 unemployment exists to protect you against this very situation, and your former employer has been paying unemployment taxes to cover this - get rid of any stigma against "free money".

Also, if you're looking for an engineering job, I have found the job hiring process to take a minimum of about 6 weeks. Consider it like a pipeline, continuously applying for positions, transitioning those into emails / phone screenings, and transitioning those into interviews, but keep feeding the pipe throughout the whole process. For me, that meant applying to companies for the first 4 weeks, starting to hear back from companies from week 2 through 4, then weeks 5 and 6 are for final interviews / negotiating offers.

For my past two job changes, I applied to 60 and 30 companies, heard back from 10 and 8, and got offers from 2 and 5, respectively. (the second time around I better targeted jobs that fit my experience than the first time around)


There's a much longer answer to this that factors in your savings, what your resume looks like and minimizing the chances of this happening to you in the future.

Two immediate pieces of advice:

1. Shore up relationships with your colleagues and get their non-work contact info if you don't have it. Make this network stronger. Former colleagues can recommend you and pull you in at new companies they get hired at. They can also refer you to job openings they know about but aren't pursuing. It's one step of many, but people can get caught up in worrying and applying elsewhere, they forget about this network of colleagues right in front who can help each other. Keep in touch, check in, ask for leads and referrals if you are still looking, offer them if you have them.

2. Don't freak out. But if you are really worried, since 20% of staff are staying for now so: A laid off employee can ask management if they can stay and help for a few more weeks at reduced pay and while he/she looks for something else. I don't recommend doing that, looking for a job can be a full-time job. Never hurts to offer and ask.


1) It's OK to panic for a short while. Get it out of the way so you can get past it and start job hunting properly. 2) Contact recruiters, get your CV brushed up, talk to your companies HR if you have it, they can be helpful in this situation, even if it's just helping you get your CV brushed up. 3) Update your linkedin in case someone out there is looking at profiles like yours, you never know, you might get lucky and bag a quick interview. 4) I'm guessing from the insurance thing you're in the US? Let HN know where you are! 5) Unless you're in dire straits financially, take a deep breath when you get your first job offer and make sure it's not a bad choice for you. 6) Use your free time well. Get out of bed in the mornings, get dressed, spend some time looking for a new job, but when that's done have something else to fill your time. If you can get a side project going you'll feel like you're at work which can really help keep motivated.


Start calling recruiters and/or submitting resumes, etc. NOW. It seems like it always takes longer for things to happen than you want, so don't waste even a minute getting the job hunt going. That is, unless you have plenty of savings as a buffer.

You may also want to immediately do the math to see exactly how much money you need for things that are absolute "musts" to pay... light bill, gas bill, rent, etc., and figure out how much runway you have if you do nothing but pay the essentials. If worst comes to worst, there are always things you can just stop paying and fall behind on, and then catch up when you're back working. Hopefully it won't come to that, but better to make informed decisions than stumble around in the dark.

You'll probably also want to lower your burn rate as much as you can: cut out the daily latte at Starbucks or any other frivolous expenditures that you can do without.

Those are the first things that come to mind, given my experiences having been laid off in the past.


Taking a weekend to digest what's happened isn't going to burn that much money, and it will help ensure you're ready to move on to submitting applications.

Something fairly traumatic just happened, don't be afraid to take time to absorb it so you can focus on the next effort.


"For some of you that may have experienced being laid off before, what were some of the first things you decided to do afterward? Do you have any advice or share any lessons learned?"

Minimise expenses.

Remember your worth is not to be measured by work alone. It will be easy to discouraged and spiral down. Don't. You are in survival mode now. Be flexible. If you have no choice, take jobs you might not like. The way you mentally approach this will give you an edge. In startup land, you are ahead of the curve if the economy tanks and more layoffs occur. Work hard. Luck favours the prepared.


Oh man! Not easy, especially when caught off guard. I was laid off unexpectedly two years ago. It was surprising and not surprising all at once. I think there is a lot of good advice already. I think it is a blessing to be let go before the boat sinks. Maybe you lose control over some things, but the morale hit and depression of working through a literal death march sucks.

I had more than a decade of steady work, so the experience that my job was guaranteed was humbling.

Overall, I'm thankful for the loss I had. It wasn't an easy ride, but most of the good ones aren't.


Honestly my suggestion would be to move to another country where you are not effectively tortured like a caged animal about your own health and welfare and expected to work 355 days a year. If you are free of a partner/dependents you could try teaching English in some different exotic locales, that's easy stable cash in many places while you decide what you want to do / sort something out more stimulating / come up with your billion dollar startup idea. You would be surprised how hard it is to spend money in some places!


Can you throw some light on the "teaching English in some different exotic locales" part? Like the countries/locations and how easy is it for someone to migrate (atleast temporarily like 6 months/1 year) and spend time like this?


Not really as I haven't done it personally but there's loads of people doing it including many friends of mine in China and Thailand. A lot of them do it semi-legally. There are entire communities dedicated to this sort of thing, try searching TEFL or TESOL or similar. If you don't want the visa hassles you can do it online too, usually via Skype I think. The matching operators take a fat cut, 15% I heard.


Personally, I took some time to learn.

I don't mean learning on the job, or learning for a purpose, but rather, studying.

It won't, however, buy you anything beyond what you feel you have gained (no one will necessarily care about what you learned).

But for yourself, take that time, and enjoy the experience.

As IT people, we tend to be focus on acquiring knowledge for a purpose, and we aren't always great at actually learning, vs. learning what we need to do right now.

I found that receiving education I sought out was beneficial, and made me more engaged in learning. That isn't marketable, but from a personal perspective, is important.

As others have suggested, see what the state can do to help the financial side of things, and think about this in a different way: if you had quit, and wanted to find the right step to take next, what would you do?

It is a luxury to do this (I live in Europe, it is easier), but one you should consider affording yourself: you are your first work tool.


Breathe. It's stressful as heck right now, but when you land a job, that'll all come off your shoulders.

Read everything. Check your mail: you'll likely be getting health insurance change notices there; read them so that you understand them. You might receive information about COBRA via snail mail too.

Update your résumé. Update your LinkedIn. Get contact info on your current coworkers now: they're in the same boat, and if they land an opportunity at a company with more than one open slot, they might be able to refer you. Network with past contacts, see if they have anything. (I found my current job through a former, now again co-worker.)

Re health insurance: you may be able to take COBRA. Research this, and pay attention to the materials you're given. For example, when I was laid off, we were required to activate COBRA, despite it being free (in my situation; this is does not necessarily apply to you).

> 80% of us would immediately be let go […] The severance pay was really small

I am not a layer, and this is not legal advice (for that, see a lawyer): If you're in the United States, and particularly if you are in California (but if you're not, you might still want to look, some states have similar laws; find out if your state does): Look up "WARN", the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. My understanding is that it provides, in some circumstances a minimum notification of layoff. It depends, partly, on your company's size, and I believe also the layoff size, so you may or may not be eligible. It's a federal law, but some states (like CA) have a state version with more strict requirements. My understanding is that if you are covered by WARN in California, and your employer does not provide the required notice, they must make up for it by paying you. Again, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice; for that, you should seek out a lawyer.


1) Finances - understand where every dime is going, slash your expenses now.

2 ) Get your War Room ready - purge junk/clutter/distractions at your home work space.

3) Physcical Health - do keep up a daily work-out routine, get out of the house, keep moving...

4) Limit job boards surfing to 5 minutes a week, low hit rate here, huge energy drain.

5) Amp-UP Strategic Networking-- make a goal of connecting (live conversations) with 5 senior level executives/managers daily. That's 100 a month! This requires an unusual amount of focus and energy. Ultimately this process yields the best opportunities.

6) Food for Thought- Using Design Theory To Build A Better Life > http://dianerehm.org/shows/2016-10-03/using-design-theory-to...


Sorry to hear about your bad luck! it will be ok. some ideas:

1) COBRA for health insurance.

2) if you dont have ongoing health issues, don't worry too much about medical expenses. theyre negotiable and not as impactful in the past.

3) relax and treat it like a vacation

4) negotiate with landlord about reducing rent or subletting or breaking lease

5) interview, be happy and positive, see what you can land!


You have a limited timeframe to select health care insurance continuation under COBRA. You should at least explore what the cost would be -- it may be better than what you can find on your own.

Regardless, right now, you may be ok in the following regard, in the short term. But with the ACA on the chopping block, one thing that has been recommended already by... "those in the know" is to make sure you maintain continuity of coverage.

One of the things the ACA has eliminated is exclusion for prior conditions. But that may not survive. And should it not, resulting limitations can apply even if you end up getting insurance through another employer. You might get insurance, but with limitations. In the past, before the ACA, demonstrating continuity of coverage helped avoid such limitations. If/when the ACA dies, this is likely to be pertinent and important, once again.

Ending the ACA means the end of much more than just the marketplace insurance plans and tax rebates. The health care insurance situation in the U.S. is likely to get a whole lot worse, again, even for those who never participated in an ACA health insurance plan.


COBRA will also end with the company's health plan, so it won't be available once the company fully closes down.


Hmm. Does it? That seems to be a loophole that would have been covered when COBRA was enacted -- the insurance company still being in business and able to ensure, with payments coming from the insured (or an administrative third party) rather than the employer.

I don't know, so I'm asking. If I were the OP, I'd double-check this point with respect to their state's laws and regulations as well as Federal law and regulation. (Sounds complicated, but probably has a final, simple answer that the local experts know.)


I was surprised as well, but as COBRA allows you to remain under the company's health plan, that option goes away if the health plan goes away, and the plan goes away when the company stops contributing. When my last employer shut down, we had less then a week to find a replacement -- we were paid up to the end of the month, but that was it.


You will likely get a MUCH better deal buying a policy off the exchange (healthcare.gov or your state exchange) and taking advantage of the subsidy, unless you've already banked enough 2017 income to make you ineligible.


If you post on your linkedin that you are looking you will probably have a number of people reach out.


Example: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6235583...

Engineer from Zenefits was laid off. Plenty of people reaching out. You could honestly even just reach out to all the people who reached out to her.


What do you do? Where do you live? People here may be hiring.. ;) At least put some info in your profile..


I would start job hunting right away. Though after accept the new job offer, be sure to leave yourself some off time to take a vacation or relax yourself. Don't recommend to do vacation before new job landed though.


Immediately begin your job search. One day can turn into five and five into months.

Activate your networks and develop them if you don't have one

And do these only six hous per day


In addition to the excellent advice here:

Take a moment and feel really good about the work you did, even if the company didn't succeed. Celebrate that you probably contributed a lot to making a small startup survive for as long as it did. Acknowledge that was in some part due to you, and then write down the things you felt most proud of.

Keep that paper with you every time you interview, so you are reminded that you did good work, and have a positive story about why you will bring a lot of value to your next role


I booked a one way flight to Thailand.

The weather was pretty good for my mental health, as was the change of scenery. Also the cost of living there is very low.


Vacation. Dependent on your living expenses and the amount of unemployment you get. Life is short, if you can travel while collecting unemployment, then try and do so.

Been laid off a few times. I wish I traveled the first couple of times.


Unemployement unfortunately never feels like vacation though. I tried to take a cross country trip last time i was unemployeed and ended up just feeling guilty i was missing out on interviews.


In addition to what everyone else has said, keep in touch with your coworkers. It's much easier to get a job if you know someone who can vouch for you, they're all in the same boat as you.


I would sign up as a contractor with a staffing firm. Youll get hired immediately and it will give your income and buy you time.


If in the US your insurance should not be deactivated, you should have the ability to take over the payments under COBRA.

Update your LinkedIn!


Where are you located? What skills do you have to offer? What are you interested in doing?


- There is a bias among employers favoring workers who are already employed. If you can strike any kind of deal with your current firm to stay on part-time or at a reduced rate while you look, that might be worth doing.

- If you can't strike that deal, then treat getting a job as a job. It's very tempting to sleep in until 10 AM every morning when you no longer have an office you have to be at. Resist that temptation. Get out of bed, put on some decent professional-looking clothes, and get to work. This can't be emphasized enough. Finding a job is a job.

- And because it's a job, give yourself an outlet for getting away from it. Leave time for recreation. Take care of yourself. Put in your work and then have some fun.

- Along the it's-a-job lines, learn everything you can about doing this job well. Selling yourself is a skill. Learn as much as you can about resume-writing, interviewing, etc.

- Slash that burn rate. Having two months' normal expenses in the bank means nothing if your next paycheck is five months away.

- Recruiters get a bad rap sometimes, but the big-name national recruiters (TekSystems, Robert Half, a few others) can be very helpful.

- Do what you can to enhance that CV. If you're a programmer, look for open-source programs you can contribute to. If you're a netadmin or systems guy, get certified. Find a non-profit that will let you do XYZ, even if for little or no money. Surely there's a church or community group that could use a sprucing up of its website, or have its Windows workstations updated, or who have piles of Excel spreadsheets just crying out to be properly databaseized. Every little resume bit helps.

- Network, network, network.

- Let everyone in that network know you're looking. Some people get bashful or feel embarrassed that they lost their job. Don't fall into that. Remember that you have nothing to be ashamed of. And obviously someone was willing to hire your before. Someone else will again.

- I'm assuming you're young and still establishing yourself. If not then freely ignore, but:

- In terms of career planning it can be better to target the biggest companies you can. Rise through the ranks in a 5,000-employee enterprise and you'll find that when the time comes startups and small firms will fall all over themselves trying to get you as a VP or even director. Conversely, you might wind up limiting yourself long term if you work exclusively for small firms, since large enterprises tend to want people with large-enterprise experience. YMMV, depends on your personality & career goals.

- Resist the temptation to use this as a vacation. If you can establish yourself as a top person in your field, someone who will always be in demand, there will be plenty of time to take mid-career sabbaticals, even lengthy ones. Until you've found a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd, though, probably best to keep your nose to the grindstone.

- Good luck!


get a new job :D




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