I bought an engagement ring… and then got laid off

As we head into 2024 it may seem that the layoffs experienced last year just keep coming. It feels like every day there is another announcement in the media. The impact of post-pandemic hiring sprees and continued economic uncertainty have led to a market correction. But there is some indication that large-scale layoffs may be decreasing.

But what still remains, is employee uncertainty. The emotional impact of of every news story or social media post about more layoffs. Layoff trackers in biotech and the tech industry tick up.

So how do you navigate a layoff, and acknowledge the emotional and psychological impact, while also creating an action plan?

I know how a layoff feels 

It was 2009, the economy had just imploded, and I was laid off before the Holiday Season. I had just purchase my wife-to-be an engagement ring and boom I was unemployed. I was shocked, nervous and I made A LOT of mistakes in my job search.

Here’s my advice if you have been recently laid off, or if you just want to be a bit organized for that “what if” scenario:

  1. Be prepared: Companies are tightening the boot straps and deciding what programs or teams will ultimately suffer budget cuts. I always tell candidates to at least have some level of search on-going even if you are content and happy. Don’t let your employer make career decisions for you.
  2. Research the market: talk to a good recruiter, make some lists of target jobs, employers and key contacts in your network.
  3. Write down your accomplishments: We are so busy doing our jobs and working we forget to recall our “feather in the cap” type moments or major accomplishments on a project. You will thank yourself if you keep track of them. 
  4. Identify what you want: Start asking yourself questions that could help define a job search. Do you fit into smaller start-ups fast pace and rapid decision making environments? Do you like a larger organization with structure? Would you relocate? What type of work do you want to wake up each day motivated to do?
  5. Create a job-hunting schedule. Just as it is important to have a work routine. Your job hunting schedule should also be thought out. Make time to network, to apply, to research AND make time to rest. Job hunting is stressful, take some time to care for yourself each day.
  6. Find jobs that look interesting – but don’t apply right away. This was one of the biggest mistakes I made in my search in 2009. That engagement ring was burning a hole in my pocket and I sent my resume EVERYWHERE. I recommend a targeted approach to relevant jobs and network first. Apply second. Who you know matters, so do some research. Network through LinkedIn or use a solid recruiter who specializes in your area of expertise.
  7. Don’t self-eliminate: Don’t shy away from jobs that match 75% of your experience. There is always some wiggle room.
  8. Feel the feels: Getting laid off stinks. It’s ok to feel sad, scared, angry or overwhelmed. But remember your worth and the value you brought to your employer. And don’t worry about the competition. Control the controllables.

Job seeking is a full-time job. Your career is a constant evolution so you should never stop considering new opportunities – even before a layoff comes around. Own your worth and if a layoff does affect you, you will have a plan in place. You’ll be able to take it on, re-energize and harness your passions to find that next big job.

And… that ring thing? It went pretty well.

Chris Clancy is Practice Director leading the HireMinds Life Sciences & Biotech team. With over a decade of experience, he and his team have successfully filled hundreds Biotech search assignments, and he is widely recognized as a trusted leader in recruiting for Discovery Biology, Discovery Chemistry, Computational Biology, Immunology, Pharmacology, Toxicology, Translational Biology, Preclinical Development, Process Development, Manufacturing, CMC, Program Management, Clinical, and Regulatory roles at all levels of the reporting structure.