I was laid off twice and ghosted more times than I can count. After heading down a dark spiral, here's how I bounced back.
- Alex Cheney was laid off from recruiting roles at Sendoso and Atlassian within one year.
- He faced high competition, rejection, and ghosting during his search for a new role.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Alex Cheney, a 47-year-old former Atlassian employee from La Quinta, California, and the founder and principal of A Little Bit Alex LLC. It's been edited for length and clarity.
My first layoff happened in June 2022 when Sendoso went through its first job cuts of the pandemic.
I had been there for nine months and was recruited out of my recruiting-lead position at Robinhood to build Sendoso's entire product team. I was laid off just after launching the company's first employee-resource group as part of a newly created strategy for diversity, equity, and inclusion, one of my biggest passions.
There were a lot of signs before the layoff happened
There was a "hiring pause," or slowdown in recruiting, and a "prioritization exercise," so I'd already started putting out feelers into my network.
I had 17 introductory calls in the first week I was laid off. A former coworker connected me with the team at Atlassian when I heard it was looking for a product recruiter.
I signed an offer with Atlassian two weeks after my Sendoso layoff and started one month later. I was in charge of hiring product-design leaders in North America. I loved the creative aspect of the role and working with the hiring managers.
Around Thanksgiving, I started to hear some of the same terminology — hiring pause, prioritization exercise — and got nervous
But this time, I was also getting messages that said it was looking at ways to deploy recruiters into other places of the business that aligned more with the growth strategy.
This helped curb some anxiety — a layoff causes symptoms like those of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Timelines for completing these exercises kept getting pushed back, but talk of deployments continued, so I still felt somewhat comforted.
I had just started working on process improvement — another one of my biggest passions — when I was laid off.
In March, I was laid off from my role as a senior technical recruiter at Atlassian
I received a companywide update that said there would be layoffs and that we would all receive an email within 15 minutes to let us know whether we were affected.
I was on a plane coming home from a birthday trip to New York City. My layoff notice landed in my inbox one minute before the companywide announcement. Some other colleagues who received it at the same time thought it was a phishing email.
It was the second time in a year I had been laid off. I was surprised, and the added challenge of being thrust into a huge hiring pool wasn't great for me, as someone with generalized anxiety disorder.
The aftermath of the 2nd layoff was different
I was suddenly in a job pool of thousands of people vying for the same jobs on LinkedIn.
As a recruiter, I had seen a drastic shift in hiring from being solidly a candidate's market to an employer's one, and it showed in how companies were recruiting.
I feel recruiters get overlooked, with people thinking all they do is hire. Recruiters are some of the most strategic people within an organization — they have to know multiple aspects of the business, often have direct lines of communication with multiple members of senior leadership, and have to pivot on a dime.
I decided to focus on family and friends for the first few weeks of my 2nd layoff
I also had a planned cruise with my best friend, which became a good distraction.
After the cruise, I jumped headfirst into a job search that was moderately derailed by my first bout with COVID-19 — but it was likely good timing because I was getting virtually no responses from any of the applications and connection requests I put out.
It was abysmal. Companies were inundated with résumés and didn't have the power to respond to all the candidates.
I saw lower salaries for roles requiring the same, if not more, experience than I had
I made $183,000 at Atlassian. Job descriptions listing the same level of experience I had were showing salaries in the $120,000 to $150,000 range.
The few calls that I did schedule led to black holes where I was ghosted — I've been ghosted more times than I can count.
My most frustrating experience came from one of the few interviews I did land — where the vice president of product had sought me out on LinkedIn — that ended in a rejection from the head of talent.
When I asked for feedback, I was told there was concern about the "short stints" in my résumé and that they were looking for someone with more longevity.
I started to second-guess my career path, my level of skill — basically everything. I was heading down a dark spiral when I landed another interview, with a startup. I got through the entire process before I was rejected for being "too specialized."
I had thought about starting my own recruiting consultancy for a while, and in June, the idea took flight
Right after the Atlassian layoff, I was contacted by a former coworker from Robinhood looking for freelance recruiting help, and I took it on.
Shortly thereafter, my partner, who runs his own executive-coaching and organizational-development consultancy, connected me with one of his clients who needed help hiring for an executive-level human-resources role.
I'd always thought about going off on my own but didn't think I was ready. Once I registered the LLC, suddenly I went from fighting for the few available recruiting jobs to taking control of my career path.
I'm still navigating the transition, but it's been successful. I'm on course to surpass my former salary this year.
The biggest thing I've learned from these 2 layoffs is not to doubt my skills, ability, or talent
My layoffs were a result of the economy and market — but honestly, I also think they were caused by companies scaling too quickly and overhiring with the assumption business would keep growing despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. It would've been nice to see organizations such as Atlassian hold on to their talent and shift people around to other parts of the business.
Starting over isn't easy, but my network supported me. I landed the first official client of my business through my network.
Do not ever burn a bridge. I had people offering assistance to me that I hadn't worked with in more than a decade. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and ask for help. And even though it may seem impossible, taking control of your career path is much easier than you may think.
Editor's note: Sendoso did not respond to a request for comment. An Atlassian spokesperson sent the following statement to Insider:
We reorganized our company to better reflect operating in a changing and difficult macroeconomic environment. We made tough calls to prioritize the most critical work for our current and future customers. While it helped us streamline work, we needed to go further in rebalancing the skills we require to run faster at our company priorities. To be clear, this decision was not a reflection of Atlassian's own financial performance, as we will be reinvesting in roles that better support our priorities. We want to be clear these decisions were not a reflection of our teammates' work.
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