Richardson, a 40-year-old in Raleigh, N.C., had been working remote with a team she enjoyed and just found her stride when she and about 11,000 of her colleagues lost their jobs.
“I just started bawling,” she said. “I had never been in that position before. … I started thinking, ‘Oh my God, what if I can’t find a job?’”
Richardson joins hundreds of thousands of tech workers who are in the same boat — unexpectedly out of work and hunting for their next gig. Most recently, tech giant Microsoft slashed 10,000 jobs following cuts at Amazon, Salesforce, Twitter, Meta, Stripe and Lyft.
While many laid-off tech workers are finding job openings, they say that there are far fewer opportunities and that they’re having to combat larger numbers of top talent for new roles. The layoffs aren’t deterring workers from the tech industry, several workers say, and they still view tech jobs as opportunities for professional growth and increased earnings. But the cuts are making them look for roles that may offer more job security in the long run.
Data shows that the outlook isn’t all that gloomy, just yet. Employers added about 223,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate fell to a 3.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. The tech layoffs are not entirely a reflection of economic conditions, Rand Ghayad, head of economics and global labor markets at LinkedIn, wrote in a recent blog post. They are, in part, a move to return to more normal hiring.
Richardson posted on LinkedIn a month after being laid off to let her network know she was open to new opportunities. When she started applying for jobs in December and January, she noticed she was competing with hundreds, if not thousands, in her industry for the same positions. (LinkedIn shows how many candidates have applied for the position at the top of job postings.)
“The competition is going to be more fierce,” she said. “For the jobs I have applied for, I’ve gotten more rejection notices than I had previously.”
Hiring in the tech, information and media industry is at its lowest level since July 2020, according to LinkedIn’s member data. Still, nearly 40 percent of LinkedIn members in the industry who hopped jobs in November stayed in the field. Others have left for professional services, like legal or accounting firms, or financial services industries. The wait for tech workers to get their next gig may not be long, according to October data from ZipRecruiter. About 37 percent of surveyed laid-off tech workers found a new job within one month, and 79 percent were employed within three months.
For Meagan Moakes, getting laid off was unfortunately a familiar experience, but this instance may have come at the worst timing as her husband was laid off two days prior. Moakes, a 37-year-old Dallas resident, has been laid off four times in her career.
“By the fourth time, you’re kind of numb to it,” Moakes said. “We went from a two-income family to a one-income family to a no-income family within 48 hours.”
Moakes said her plight has vastly contrasted that of her husband, who seems to be more in demand as a video game developer. But as someone who has worked in customer relationship roles for big and small tech companies, she’s applying for jobs that often have anywhere between 350 to 3,600 other candidates, many from Big Tech companies, she said. As a result, she’s starting to doubt her own skills and accomplishments.
“I feel like I’m lost in a sea of numbers,” she said.
Vahan Terterian has applied to at least 150 positions since he lost his job in December, but only a handful have responded with interest. The 26-year-old Denver resident was most recently a product manager at rental tech company Nomad, where he worked for seven months before cuts hit.
“I had a sinking feeling in my chest,” he recalled thinking about the upcoming layoffs.
After taking a few days to recover from the shock of losing his job, Terterian said he, too, started to realize how many people he’s up against for current openings — a much different reality than when he landed his job in May.
“The market is flooded with high-quality talent,” he said. “So it seems slower than when I first got this job in May. It was booming [back then].”
Terterian said he’s asking hiring employers more specific questions about their financial stability, hiring and outlook to avoid another layoff.
For 36-year-old Amber Adamson, the strategy is to beef up her coding skills to make her more hirable in tech. Adamson, a Norristown, Penn., resident who’s been transitioning out of her teaching role, started her first technical job as a junior email developer for veterinarian services company Covetrus in June but was laid off in September.
She said the barriers are plentiful for new entrants into the industry. First, prerequisites often require years of experience for entry-level positions, she said. Then there are the hundreds of qualified candidates she’s competing against. She’s seeing more and more laid-off workers from Big Tech companies post that they’re available for hire.
“I’m hoping to make myself more desirable for recruiters, so they’ll reach out to me,” she said. “You really have to be prepared to sell yourself because the market is saturated.”
Some workers are finding that the best path to a new job is through their professional network. Charell Star, a former lead of brand media, social media and partnerships at Meta’s payments business who’s worked in marketing for the last 20 years, was also part of Meta’s November layoffs after working for the company for more than two years.
The Maplewood, N.J., resident was four months into her five-month maternity leave. It was the second layoff in her career.
Star said the best leads are coming through connections who either heard about her layoff or saw her LinkedIn post announcing it. She’s getting tips on jobs that haven’t been posted or roles that have yet to be created, and some of her employed connections are rerouting recruiters to her. So while the layoffs may be increasing competition, they’re also creating a sense of community, she says.
“There is a camaraderie of us going through this together,” she said. “I recommend people start networking and reaching out to old contacts … you never know where an opportunity will come from.”
Richardson, the former content designer at Meta, said she’s getting creative in her job search. With a background in fashion and interests in media, fashion, retail, entertainment and tech, she’s contacting her big dream jobs. How big? She said she’s contacted the head of human resources at Parkwood Entertainment and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s company, and approached the Obama Foundation.
“My advice is to keep a positive mind-set, and don’t be afraid to shoot your shot,” she said.
Five quick tips for job seekers
- Include a summary: All professional profiles and résumés should have a summary at the very top that highlight a job seeker’s most marketable skills and give employers a sense of their personality. This is even more important for candidates who may not have direct job experience for the position to which they are applying.
- Use keywords: Professional profiles, especially those online, should have keywords sprinkled throughout to help the candidate get past the computer systems that may be reviewing their résumé first. Experts say job seekers should research the most common qualities and skills needed for the job and include them, if applicable.
- Highlight accomplishments: Job seekers should refrain from relying on job descriptions to explain their previous experience. Instead, they should highlight their accomplishments with as many specifics as possible.
- Connect with professionals online: Candidates’ professional networks can often lead to the next job. Experts say job seekers should be contacting people they know within the industries that interest them. But they also should be asking for introductions to people whom their friends, family and colleagues may know, as well as messaging people with whom they have no connection at all.
- Post on social media: To increase the chances of getting hired, experts say job seekers would be wise to post on their personal social networks to let people know they’re looking for a job and provide specifics about what they hope to find.