Pink-slip parties of the dot-com bust helped laid-off tech workers land new jobs — and need to make a comeback

Pink-slip parties of the dot-com bust helped laid-off tech workers land new jobs — and need to make a comeback
Nearly 150,000 tech workers have lost their jobs in 2022, data shows.Tyler Le/Insider
  • Allison Hemming started "pink-slip parties" in the early aughts after the dotcom bust.
  • The events helped laid-off tech pros network and land new jobs.

Gather round, ye laid-off Gen Zers and millennials, and put down your phones. For this is a tale about how people of yore — Gen Xers and younger baby boomers — found reemployment after getting the ax.

Our story begins with the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001: Internet euphoria faded, venture capital dried up, and stocks slumped. Back then, like now, tech workers lost their jobs en masse.

One of those laid-off employees was Allison Hemming, a plucky New Yorker with a side hustle as a tech-talent scout. One spring evening, Hemming planned a get-together with some friends who'd also lost jobs. At a bar in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, they commiserated, laughed, drank, and talked shop. The gathering was both cathartic and productive.

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It also sparked an idea. Hemming began running regular meetups for laid-off tech workers — misery loves company, after all — giving them an opportunity to network and meet prospective hiring managers. Voila, the "pink-slip party" was born. (Note to readers born after the invention of the iPod: A pink slip is a notice of termination.)

Will the latest tech layoffs spur a return of pink-slip parties? Bloomberg raised the question late last year, citing Big Tech's worker purge. And since then, layoffs have crept upwards: More than 120,000 tech workers have lost jobs since the start of 2023, according to


There's perhaps no one better to pose that question to than the originator of the concept. Insider recently caught up with Hemming, who today is the CEO of The Hired Guns, a tech-recruiting agency, to get her thoughts on everything from the current hiring landscape to Gen Z's social and professional mores to the importance of glow-in-the-dark bracelets at networking events.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

"Pink-slip parties" make getting laid off seem sort of fun. Or is that romanticizing the idea?

The parties were fun! We had live music and stand-up comedy, and there was a real esprit de corps.

Sounds like a "good-vibes only" atmosphere.


As much as the parties were lovely and fun, they were also compassionate. When the turn happened, it happened quickly. There was an element of schadenfreude from people outside of tech — there was a feeling that we were getting our comeuppance.

So we were really about trying to help people find new jobs to feed their families. If you'd been laid off, you got a hot-pink glow bracelet. Hiring managers got green bracelets, and you got a blue bracelet if you were there in solidarity. In the early days, some pink-slippers told me they didn't want recruiters there. I said, "No, you want them there. Trust me." A lot of people got hired out of those parties.

Do the recent tech layoffs at Amazon, Salesforce, Google and Meta give you a feeling of déjà vu?

No. The industry is totally different. Back then, tech was its own little bubble. Now tech is everywhere, and overall, the layoffs are small relative to the sector. The tech workers losing their jobs today have a nice runway because a lot of big nontech companies are still hiring. They view these layoffs as an opportunity to upgrade their tech-talent pools and go after people they wouldn't otherwise have had access to.

Do you think there's a role for pink-slip parties to play today?


Yes. I look at what's happening at Musk's Twitter, and I think, "They could use a pink-slip party." But more importantly, I think Gen Zs and millennials would benefit from them. And they'd make the parties their own, which is as it should be. But I'm willing to help, so call me. Let's mix in the old-schoolers with the new-schoolers!

But would such a shindig translate for younger generations who perhaps might be more comfortable networking online?

Absolutely. Gen Z and younger millennials want camaraderie and togetherness. Of all workers, they feel most vulnerable at this moment. Many of them have worked remotely during the pandemic, and they've missed out on critical networking and mentoring relationships.

In my recruiting practice, I'm seeing that this group wants to be back in the office or work hybrid. They want to be with people and to be in the room where it happens.

Could there even be an equivalent online pink-slip party?


Nobody's found one yet. The live experience is what made these parties special. During the pandemic, we tried every machination of Zoom and people still craved being together.