I coach workers at Amazon and Google through layoffs. Here's what I tell those who've been let go and those left behind.
- Alisa Cohen has coached tech workers at companies like Google and Amazon.
- She says every generation is using layoffs to find jobs where their values are aligned.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Alisa Cohen, a principal executive coach at Close Cohen Career Consulting from Seattle, about coaching employees in Big Tech during layoffs. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I'm the managing partner of an executive career-coaching practice headquartered in Seattle and San Francisco that serves mid-career and senior-level professionals across North America. Before starting this role in 2020, I directed global teams and led international brand-development projects for Amazon, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Microsoft, and other well-known companies.
More than 50% of my career-coaching clients work in Big Tech, and another 30% are in B2B SaaS or e-commerce. I coach people from Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Meta, Uber, Adobe, T-Mobile, Starbucks, Cisco, Oracle, and Roblox, to name a few.
I'm working with a handful of clients who've recently been laid off from companies ranging from Microsoft and Meta to tech startups. I've also worked with clients at Amazon who've had team members laid off.
Some people need to find a new job immediately. Others are taking their time.
I've worked with clients who are supporting themselves and have no other form of income. I've also coached clients who are the sole providers for their families. The common thread is people go through a mix of emotions, and many experience a grieving process.
Others are taking this time — and the generous severance they've received from the Big Tech companies — to explore their options and carefully decide what to do next with their careers: to contemplate what work means to them, how they're valued, and how they spend their time. I'm seeing some large tech companies like Google and Meta offering 10 to 16 weeks of base salary plus one to two weeks for each additional year worked. I'm also hearing of some companies like Meta offering an additional two weeks per year worked, no cap.
For many, these layoffs come after several years of "grinding," so post-layoff and post-pandemic, they're inclined to either take a short sabbatical or be increasingly choosy about where they land next.
Post-layoffs, I haven't heard clients declare 'I must leave tech' or 'I must stay in tech'
Candidates are looking for a company where they're valued. People are motivated to fit with their next employer. I coach job seekers to consider if the work environment, leadership, and culture are aligned with their values.
Flexibility in where and when they work, leadership that inspires them, and opportunities for career progression or development are important factors. Though less frequent, some people seize this time to move into freelance or consulting roles, launch their own businesses, or go after a dream they've long held.
Many of the important factors hold true across generations. For example, most people, whether Gen Z or older, value flexibility — it gives them more agency to structure their lives as needed and generally leads to improved work-life balance. The difference between generations comes more into play when looking at how they take advantage of the benefits flexibility affords. For example, do they travel more often? Are they home when their kids come home from school? Do they attend doctor's appointments with their aging parents more frequently?
I haven't seen a consistent trend in who "seizes this time" to move into something different, but it tends to be people on the ends of the generational spectrum — younger or older — rather than in the middle. When it comes to contemplating the move to freelance or consulting, I've seen it span from younger millennials to older Gen X clients who've gathered years of experience and want to share their expertise with others.
I'm also hearing from tech workers who want to prepare themselves for ongoing layoffs
These workers seek out career coaches to help them prepare their candidacy in advance — from résumé and LinkedIn help to interview practice and networking strategies.
Fear is prevalent for those who haven't been laid off. The trend of "quiet quitting" has morphed into "scared productivity."
Immediately following layoffs, morale is low for those who remain at the company, but these workers want to prove their worth. A key strategy is to focus on impact over effort. I coach clients to connect their actions to their results — and importantly, to communicate the value they've added and impact they've made. Not only does this help workers stay relevant, but it positions them for increased scope and leadership opportunities. Additionally, making meaningful contributions increases job satisfaction and motivation.
Managers at companies dealing with layoffs face a difficult challenge
Their teams are short on resources, head count has been frozen, and morale is low. These managers are in a precarious position to keep work moving and motivate their teams, all while worrying about their own futures.
I coach these managers to take care of their own mental and physical health first, create a safe and open listening space for team members, and recognize that their remaining team is looking to them for reassurance as they experience their own form of grief, anxiety, or frustration. It's important that they reevaluate their team's priorities, rebalance workload, and determine what expectations need to be reset cross-functionally.
I tell laid-off clients to breathe, believe, and be choosy with their job search
To help laid-off clients get new jobs, I coach them to clarify their value proposition, or the value they bring to their future employer.
I also coach them to eliminate blind spots in their candidacy. Candidates may be unaware of things they're doing or saying that might hold them back from shining throughout the job-search process. For example, I point out subtle ways clients diminish their seniority, experience, or results during the mock interviews in our coaching practice.
On your résumé, speak directly to your experiences and achievements that align with your job prospects' needs. On LinkedIn, optimize your profile with keywords, so recruiters and hiring managers can find you in their searches.
Finally, prepare yourself for interviews by studying the company, the role, the market, and your interviewers. Craft your stories to connect the dots between the role you're discussing and the experience you bring.
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