I got fired from a big tech company. What’s my next career move?

Letting go of a job is tough, especially at a time when the cost of living is rising and a recession is looming. This Thanksgiving, tens of thousands of recently laid-off tech workers will be asking themselves, “What’s my next career move?”

Tech companies are facing strong headwinds. More than 59,000 people in the industry have been laid off so far this year, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In early November, Tesla founder TSLA,
+7.82%
Elon Musk has fired 7,500 Twitter staffers, nearly 50% of its global workforce, just days after taking over the social media company in a $44 billion deal.

The following week, Facebook’s parent Meta META,
+0.72%
announced it would lay off 11,000 employees, or 13% of the social media company’s employee base. And this week, Amazon AMZN,
+1.00%
it said it plans to lay off 10,000 workers, or about 3% of its white-collar workers, and signaled there could be more cuts next year.

Tech companies are feeling strong headwinds. More than 59,000 people in the industry have been laid off so far this year.


— Challenger, Gray and Christmas

With inflation at 7.7% in October compared to a year ago — only slightly below the 40-year high of 8.2% recorded in September — it is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers, and especially for people who have lost their jobs, make ends meet meet.

The Federal Reserve has raised rates six times so far this year. While that helps combat the rising cost of living, it also makes it harder for tech companies to deliver growth at the same momentum as in previous years.

High interest rates have made borrowing more expensive, and a strong dollar reduces the value of revenue from foreign markets. Those Fed rate hikes also pushed the short-term lending rate to a target range of 3.75% to 4%, making everything from auto loans to credit card debt more expensive.

And indeed, the decline in tech hiring began around June, at the same time the Fed began raising interest rates, according to job search engine ZipRecruiter.com.

But there is good news: the overall labor market is still strong and, in some sectors, labor shortages persist.

Time for a reset

If you’ve lost a job in the past few months, you’ll face the fact that it may be difficult to find a new job at the same level and pay as your old one, said Renata Dionello, chief people officer at ZipRecruiter.

As difficult as this realization may be, Dionello suggests that we look at it as an opportunity.

“Remember that this period is a period of reinvention, a period of discovery, and a period of reconnecting with a group of people,” Dionello told MarketWatch.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a healthy severance package, you’ll have more time to stop and think about your long-term career goals, she said.

Consider alternative industries

The US economy gained 261,000 new jobs in October, underscoring the continued strength of the labor market. There are jobs out there, so keep your skills fresh and think about developing new ones, Dionello said.

Scoring a tech job similar to the one you had may take longer and you’ll likely face stiff competition, said Aaron Terrazas, chief economist at Glassdoor. Recent layoffs have released many talented people into the job pool at the same time.

Think of other industries that require people proficient in software and other technology skills, including healthcare, government and education, said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter.

Healthcare is in dire need of people who can develop apps and implement telehealth services, he said. Governments are always hungry for tech-savvy workers, but have traditionally had a hard time competing with the private sector. Schools also need to improve digital resources for students, she added.

Salary isn’t everything

It’s not always about salary, especially in such an uncertain period. Health insurance, paid vacations, 401(k) plans, and work-life balance issues like remote or hybrid working can also play a part in your decision making.

In October, about 37 percent of job seekers said job security is one of the most important things they’re looking for in their next job, up from 31 percent the previous month, according to ZipRecruiter’s Job Confidence Index.

If you’re just starting out in your career, Terrazas said, it’s always worth focusing on long-term growth.

You should also consider the whole package when assessing the value of a job, Pollack said. If your next job is at a smaller company, “you can often do a wider range of tasks and get more extensive experience,” she noted.

“Finding a job is becoming a more pressing priority for many job seekers as inflation reduces their savings and the risk of a possible recession appears to increase,” Pollak added.

Start your side business

Remote work makes starting a business much cheaper than it was before the coronavirus pandemic, Pollak noted. Now, founders don’t always need to rent office space, and it’s easier to find remote workers and affordable online services.

“You don’t need a flashy office. You don’t need all this stuff anymore. You can hire someone to build your website,” she said. And setting up an online store, for example, can be done with a simple computer program rather than a bunch of technicians.

Some venture capitalists recently told MarketWatch that they expect the economic downturn to last for the next year or so as the tech industry goes through a period of readjustment. They will wait for smart startups to emerge.

“Often in tech downturns, we see the strongest, most innovative and strongest tech companies emerge,” Pollak said. That’s because in this environment it’s very difficult to get finance, so you need to start the business and keep it profitable from day one, he added.

But you don’t need a big life-changing idea, said Terrazas of Glassdoor. Moonlighting as a career coach or personal trainer can also help when you’re between commitments, she said.

“This is not necessarily a business becoming a global giant,” he said. “This is more of a way for people to make ends meet while thinking, ‘What’s next?'”

Foreign workers should move fast

If you’re working in the US on a visa, timing is everything. US immigration law gives people on H-1B visas a 60-day grace period to stay in the US if they lose their jobs.

Apply for as many roles as possible, lean into your network and start interviewing now, Sophie Alcorn wrote in a recent column for TechCrunch. Alcorn is the founder of Alcorn Immigration Law, which has offices in Mountain View, California and New York.

Ask your visa support question early in the interview process, Alcorn wrote, so you don’t waste precious days or weeks only to find out that the prospective employer can’t provide visa support.

And if you want to continue starting your own company, take action now and consult an immigration attorney to explore your options.

And finally …

Never take a layoff or a setback in your job search personally. The road ahead will be stressful enough without carrying resentment or self-doubt.

Contrary to the common assumption that companies often fire workers who don’t perform well, experts told MarketWatch that many of the recent layoffs among tech companies have more to do with the team or the product.

“It’s not a reflection on your abilities, your desirability as an employee, or your prospects for the future,” Alcorn said.

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