Note: If you'd like to listen to an audio riff of this post, check out the podcast episode I did with Laura Klein for our show, What is Wrong with Hiring.
As of mid-May 2023, we are almost 15 months into a grim trend of mass tech layoffs happening primarily in the United States. If you're reading this, you likely know several people who had their jobs taken from them, and you may have even been "let go" or "made redundant" yourself (perfect phrases to describe the universal disposability of the working class, tech worker or otherwise).
364,000+ layoffs and counting as of May 23, 2023. Source: Layoffs.fyi
Likewise, there are still infinite newcomers trying to get their first job in tech (career switchers, students, recent grads). It's just wayyyyyy more competitive, and for far fewer openings, because people with tech experience have jumped to the front of the line. I wrote a bit about this back in March, including some ideas for what people can do in the meantime to plan for a job search once the market improves in a year or two (that's my best guess—keyword: guess—but I don't think anyone really knows). Laura Klein and I also chatted about what's going on on the latest episode of What is Wrong with Hiring (which apparently I am now a co-host of!)
Tech and UX workers are hurting, and this entire situation is a tragic, unnecessary dumpster fire caused by capitalists hoarding money at the expense of working people (I repeat: tech workers are working class; if you are not independently wealthy, can't retire tomorrow, and are coerced into having a job for your livelihood, health, and to support your family, you are working class/labor). But anyway....
Here are 12 ways you can help out job seekers and maximize your impact with proactive, tangible, targeted support.
For those of us who feel called to help in a meaningful way, and who have the time and capacity to do so, there are many actions we can take to have some real impact in this extremely challenging time.
Before you begin, think about your goals and the kind of impact you'd like to have. Use the SMART Goals framework to design specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely goals, and corresponding actions.
1. Make direct, personal offers
If you know someone who is looking for a job, contact them directly to offer assistance. Imagine the pleasant surprise and ego boost from such a personal gesture.
Take it from Paige—personal and specific offers for help are the best!
2. Be specific
Think about what you can help with based on your capacity and capabilities. While you can leave it open and ask them for what they need, you can also make suggestions like a resume or portfolio review.
3. Target your assistance
Focus on the people you are most qualified to assist (and most interested in helping), rather than trying to help everyone. Sometimes we can have more impact within a smaller scope.
4. Put your efforts where they are needed most
Prioritize people who may not have access to certain privileges (time, money, socioeconomic, etc.). E.g., people on work visas, underrepresented groups, first-gen students, etc.
5. Write a tailored LinkedIn profile recommendation
A high quality, tailored (not generic) LinkedIn profile recommendation serves as a testament of what it's like to work with someone. I like the idea of a surprise recommendation, but you may feel more comfortable asking them if they want one. You can also revise the recommendation later if they'd like you to add, remove, or emphasize something in particular. See this article from The Muse with tips on what makes for a great testimonial!
6. Share a public testimonial
If you know someone really well and have a good relationship with them, write a post on LinkedIn with a testimonial about their strengths, impact, and general awesomeness. For this one, I would make sure they are ok with it first. You don't want to unintentionally invoke discomfort if they are not ready to share their situation, or prefer not to for whatever reason.
7. Play matchmaker
If you identify a great fit between a job and job seeker, and you know the hiring manager or recruiter, take the time to facilitate a connection them via email or DM, and follow up with a referral into the application system. It helps to keep track of what people are actually looking for so any roles you share with them are relevant.
8. Gift a small escape
As a kind gesture, send a gift card for a local coffee shop (or $5-$10 bucks on Venmo/Paypal/etc.) so they can get outside the house and relax with a treat. Except not Starbucks, which deserves your boycott because they are currently on a major union busting campaign.
9. Scale your impact
Help more than one person at a time by creating open access, evergreen resources to share on social, like curated lists and directories, or job search guides (as long as you feel qualified to provide such information!). You could even share a copy of your personal resume (one of the most difficult documents to create) or some other professional material. Many people re-share job openings or posts by job seekers, to get them more exposure to the intended audience.
10. Join forces
Create a free public event (interview Q&A, panel discussion, webinar) on a specific topic of interest to job seekers. You could do it on your own, or partner with a meetup or other organization that can host the event and help you get the word out to their members.
11. Make scheduling easy and efficient
Set up a Calendly or other scheduling tool so people can easily book time with you. If you post this publicly, update it so people know once the spots are full so they don't get their hopes up.
12. Know your limits
It makes a difference to help even just one individual. Be realistic with your time and energy. And it's ok if you don't have the ability to contribute right now. You don't owe anyone an explanation, nor do you need to feel guilty about it.
Let's ease the burden on stressed out peers who didn't choose this situation.
Many of us have a strong desire to help others, and it's possible to have meaningful impact within our individual capacity. When we support others, it makes our communities stronger. And we don't do it with the expectation of anything in return, but people will remember you and reciprocate in your eventual time of need (because no one is safe from job cuts).
A major benefit of proactive offers of support is that it doesn't require someone to reach out for help, which some people will not do for a variety of reasons. Traditional American culture values independence and bootstrapping over community and mutual support. Most of us were socialized to avoid asking for help or burdening others, even when we really need it (especially true for women). We may not feel we deserve it. Or we are so thoughtful and generous that we want others to be prioritized, even if we could use a life jacket.
Shame is also a common emotion when it comes to layoffs, even though they are unlikely to have anything to do with someone's performance, let alone their inherent value as a human being. Same goes for not having a job altogether, which in this world means you're lazy and not good enough to get one. /s
One final request—please, please don't forget those who weren't laid off but who didn't have a job in the first place and are dealing with the social stigma. They are equally in need of help but tend to be forgotten because they are not the primary focus of the layoffs conversation happening on the socials.
And for even more ideas, check out this excellent post by Felicia Ng: How Can I Support My Community During a Mass Layoff? I especially love her role typology of Feelers, Fixers, and Rechargers, and her points about creating community and addressing and improving systemic causes.