As of November 20th, 2022, there have been a staggering 136,989 employees laid off from 849 tech companies since the start of the year. This month has been especially savage, with 42,356 people let go, and we're only 2/3 of the way through it.
Tech layoffs as of November 20th, 2022, via Layoffs.fyi
It's been difficult to watch so many people lose their livelihoods in real time because of factors that are outside of their individual control. They just happened to work at companies where executives decided to (note that I didn't say "had to", because, did they really?) lay people off due to bad strategy, over-hiring, flawed business models in risky industries, and the fiduciary duty to protect investors who are obviously more important than workers /s. Naturally, none of these fuckers will have to experience any financial hardship, lose their health insurance, and they definitely won't face any kind of meaningful accountability for their actions.
Then we have the outlier of a particularly horrendous case of layoffs at Twitter by its sociopathic asshole of a new owner who clearly doesn't know what he's doing and sucks for so many reasons beyond just the layoffs. Although I do love that an additional 1,200 people were like BYE BITCH and chose to voluntarily leave what apparently used to be a pretty decent company to work at.
I'm not an expert on this topic, but I've been paying close attention to my LinkedIn feed and the media so I can make sense of what's going on and try to have an informed perspective. This week I joined Corey Nelson, a UX design manager and career advisor, for a talk hosted by Rosenfeld Media as part of its monthly Advancing Research community conversations series. We discussed the current layoff trends, how to manage a layoff if you're one of the unlucky ones, and how to prepare for the possibility of experiencing one as a UX professional.
Here is a link to the event recording hosted on Dropbox. You can sign also sign up to receive updates on future events and helpful resources from Rosenfeld Media Advancing Research by following this link.
Key takeaways from our conversation:
Now that we have more data, there are some apparent trends for why layoffs are happening:
Companies that grew too fast and over-hired during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic
Industries that are fundamentally risky like crypto and mental health startups
Stock price needs to go brrrrrr in an upward trajectory
Macroeconomic trends like rising interest rates, inflation, etc. (easy scapegoat imo)
Layoffs are happening across all job functions, but recruiting/staffing roles have taken a big hit because of the hiring slowdown, as well as marketing and sales
Note: Some companies are still very profitable and don’t really need to lay people off, and silent layoffs have been happening all year, including full time and contract roles
Layoffs are a personal and collective trauma that harm individuals, teams, companies, and communities.
It’s shocking because tech has felt secure for years, especially during the pandemic when it experienced major growth and hired a lot
It involves a process of grief and mourning, and a range of emotions that are important to acknowledge and experience
It's causing anxiety amongst anyone who relies on someone else for a job
You might experience survivor's guilt if your peers were dismissed and you weren't
If it happens to you, know that it's not personal, it's business. Even though it doesn't feel like it. And it's up to you how you respond.
We exchange our labor for money, and we get laid off when we are no longer needed to make the company more money. We will never have full safety when we rely on others for employment, within a capitalist system.
Many of us see our jobs as a place to get fulfillment, validation, and have impact on products and people
Don’t immediately sign your severance package because it may be negotiable. Contact an employment lawyer to see if you can negotiate more severance, extended COBRA coverage, termination date, signing bonus payback, equity vesting, coaching and outplacement, equipment, etc.
It's crucial to take some time to pause, reflect, and recoup. What do you really care about? How do you want to live your life? What are your core values? Did you even like your job? Do you want to continue doing this type of work? What else can provide you with fulfillment? Who are you beyond your job?
Then, identify your goals and implement a strategy and confident decision-making to move forward. Do things from a place of data rather than fear or scarcity.
There is more competition for fewer jobs, but you are not competing against every single person out there because you are different and want different things.
Check out Tech Workers Coalition's A Layoff Guide for Twitter Workers which has relevant tips for anyone.
If you still have a job
Same advice as above on the importance of reflecting, assessing, and strategizing, so you can weather a storm or decide to leave at any time; network, level up your skills, build your reputation
Pay attention to signs of layoffs at your company and understand its finances - stock price or funding issues, hiring freeze, generally risky industry or shaky business model, slashing budgets, pausing travel or in-person events, the visibility and criticality of your team and its impact on the business
If you are prepared, you will feel more in control, more confident
Always be looking, whether actively or passively. Keep your professional materials and LinkedIn up to date, maintain relationships, track your work
How the community can come get through this:
UX is already a fairly tight knit, generous, and supportive community, and we can continue this practice and bolster mutual aid by sharing resource, information, mentoring, and referrals in a fair way. Everyone has something to contribute.
Competition is antithetical to community, so there is a tension between our human-centered philosophies and job competition as it currently exists.
Layoffs and hiring slowdown will continue into next year. There will still be a good number of jobs, but we’re likely past a golden age of hiring for the moment. Some folks who have been around for a minute in the UX/tech industry are calling it a correction that will not be nearly as bad as previous recessions.
Recruiters and managers who continue to hire will have a bias for people with FAANG brands on their resume from places like Meta, Twitter, etc.
Increased difficulty for people with no or minimal private sector experience (e.g., academic transitioners, bootcamp grads, career switchers), who are seeking their first UX job.
Compensation may decrease a bit, especially because the highest paying companies have freezes and layoffs, and the average/median pay will be lower. But overall it will remain financially cushy.
Tech workers waking the fuck up about capitalism and doing more collective organizing, continuing the trend of the past couple years. Unions are especially helpful in negotiating severance during layoffs, as illustrated by Kickstarter in April 2021.
And I'd like to share this insightful post about the current state of the tech industry, from design recruiter Dave Miller.