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Ask HN: Losing job at year end. What should I do in the meantime?
7 points by jwally on Sept 16, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 14 comments
I just found out that I’m losing my job at the end of the year - but the current employer owes $108k in severance if I stay through the end.

I’m a self taught developer with no experience in a real dev shop. Recruiters tell me I look amazing on paper, but the few screen-interviews I’ve had the interviewer appeared unimpressed or offered me less than I currently make.

Should I learn some new skill? Build out an open-source demo project? I feel so overwhelmed with what all I could be doing that I’m doing nothing.

Let me know if any other info would help.


Maybe grab a copy of Cracking The Coding Interview[1] and work through that?

And as cliched as it sounds, as a fairly targeted, short-term thing, you might consider jumping on leetcode and grind through some of the exercises there. How useful that would be depends a lot on the nature of the company(s) you wind up interviewing with, of course. Some companies are really big on these kinds of exercises, others less so.

Also, depending on what language(s) you currently know and work with, you might find value in spending some time learning another "trendy" language. Given the next 3 months to work on it, you could probably make real progress on learning a given language to a usable level. For example, if you don't use Go today, maybe spend some time learning it, since it's very popular and seen as "modern" and "trendy".

Or if not a whole new language, maybe just a "trendy" library/framework (for example, React if you're a Javascript person, but don't currently do React).

(Note: Go and React are just examples I picked to make a point. Please don't take this as saying specifically "learn Go" or "learn React".)

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Coding-Interview-Programming...

This is helpful, thanks! Just purchased the book.

I have a pretty solid background in relational db's (SQLServer, MySQL, SQLite), used MongoDB a lot 5 years ago, but kind of let it go. I've built several web-apps via Node.js / Express, and PHP. Most of the front-end work I've done has involved Bootstrap and a templating library (Hogan - a derivative of mustache)

Anecdotally, it seems like API integration is big (???) and I've worked with Google's, Twitter's, JIRA's, SAP's, Square's, Stripe's, etc...

I get the general use case of Git, and use it; but have to google anything out of "Git add *.whatever" or "git commit -m ..."

I've thought about learning React; but didn't know if my time would best be spent there or something like getting a feel for Kubernetes or Jenkins or whatever.

Again, this helps. Thanks!

Yeah, Kubernetes is another of those things that is really "hot" right now. It's not a bad thing to have at least a basic working knowledge of, in today's IT world.

Of course, the issue you have right now is how to prioritize what to do in a fixed amount of time. There are a billion things (more or less) you could do. The challenge is how to pick the ones that maximize your likelihood of finding suitable employment in your desired time-frame after your current gig ends. And it's hard to know for 100% sure how to do that, since different employers value different things. That's why my best advice is kinda generically "focus on things that you know are hot/trendy in kind of a general sense."

Now if you knew you were targeting a particular company that you wanted to work for, you could make your preparations more focused. But it doesn't sound like that's the case here.

Interviewing / hiring is a real disaster. I'd chalk it up to that as much as anything else. It's a good idea to brush up on your interview prep.

As much as anything though just do more interviews. It can be really hard in those situations not to take it personally. If you can, at some point in your career try to get involved in the interviewing and hiring process just so you can see for yourself how absurd and full of superstition it is at most companies.

Congrats on the severance by the way. That's quite a nice going away.

If you're looking for general content to improve your skills as a developer I've had this site bookmarked for sometime and I see stuff from it reccomended all over the place.


Best of luck!

Does the employer have $108k to pay the severance?

Do you think the employer will pay?

I mean do you trust the employer?

To put it another way, if the employer is paying you $108k to stay, they should be paying you now. If they are unwilling to pay it now, they are not actually paying it. Not actually paying it is a behavior that is unlikely to change when there is nothing in it for them.

Between now and the end of the year, that's around $33k a month. That's an equitable way to distribute it.

Good luck.

The little experience I've had says they generally set up a contract that says they'll pay and you don't actually get the severance until they lay you off.

Really, if they are only getting that money if they stay until a certain date, then this is more of a retention bonus followed by a layoff.

I don't disagree.

On its own, a contract is only as good as your legal wherewithal to enforce it at "Fuck you, sue me" time.

There are contracts where it won't come to that.

And there's no point in entering into contracts where it will.

$108k is enough money that an individual has incentives to not pay.

$108k is not enough money for a large ongoing enterprise to not pay...so long as it generally pays its bills.

Context matters. It wasn't in the question. My experience is with people not paying.

As long as the contract is reasonably sound and the company has assets, many lawyers will take it on a contingent basis and you can request legal fees in addition to the promised sum. It would still be a hassle, but part of it's the principle for me.

I'm sorry your experience is with people not paying. Can I ask why you haven't pursued them or what the outcome was?

Even when I've won, suing people sucked.

When a company goes bankrupt, there's no money.

And no matter how much I can kid myself "it's not the money, it's the principle", it's the money.

So absent other information, if someone says their job is going away it's quite possible the job is going away because the company is out of money.

One of the things people do when their business is running out of money is they stop paying the obligations the company incurs. This doesn't mean the company stops incurring obligations.

The only blood that will come from squeezing a stone will be from your own cut hands.

It's a big-ish US company with over 25k employees so I feel pretty confident they won't welch.

I get 57k in severance (10yrs, currently 135k / yr), 34k in bonus, and 17k in retention bonus; but if I leave early I get $0.00. This is what's tricky. I can flirt with recruiters and companies, but nobody wants workers at the beginning of next year - they want them now!


If you are in high demand right now, you will probably be in high demand after the first of the year.

Companies have plans for next year.

Good recruiters are working with those companies.

Your average recruiter isn't.

Would you leave early if you got a $120k signing bonus? Some companies will make up for surrendered equity, you might ask to be made good for surrendered severence. Interview practice is probably good anyway.

For a $120k signing bonus, and a salary / incentive comparable to what I make now; I'd start today.

This is a good point. I should probably start interviewing now to at least get practice, and at best I can land an amazing job or with someone who will compensate me for lost severance.

Either way, win-win.

Take a couple low-key classes to get some "official" recognition of your skillset

Interview everywhere that looks like you may want to work there

Check places like https://wfh.io for remote jobs which you might even be able to start (part time or on a different schedule) while your current job winds down

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