Navigating a layoff in tech, from someone who just went through it


Navigating a layoff in tech

Raza is a Strategy & Operations Sprint alum and community member at The Commons. After completing his Sprint, Raza leveraged the community to land his first BizOps role in tech at ResQ. After four months on the job, he was a part of company wide layoffs. In recent months, Raza landed his second BizOps role at Webflow. He joined us to share more about his experience navigating and bouncing back from a layoff in tech.

What was your layoff experience like?

It was a really strange experience! Since I worked Toronto hours while living in Calgary, I woke up at ~6:45 am and I saw a few texts from coworkers like “what’s going on”. I was freaking out thinking someone hacked me… which became worse as I couldn’t log into any of my company devices! And then I got the email that said I was terminated effective immediately. I remember calling my parents, having them laugh at me thinking it was a bad joke, only to realize it was the real deal.

It was honestly the best layoff experience of my life. Genuinely, I am really shocked that I didn’t feel resentful or “woe is me” through any of it. I was sad because I found something I was passionate about, received good feedback, and saw the opportunity to do such good work, but beyond anything I was really grateful.

ResQ was gracious enough to have the CEO make a personal call to me, as well as the Head of People, and it really helped me feel ok knowing it wasn’t a Raza issue – it was a ResQ issue. I figured I did my best and dared to be great, so the onus was on me to focus on what was in my hands.

I’m a very antsy person and am very impatient. I knew right away that I wanted to focus on getting the next thing lined up. My girlfriend made me promise I would take the day off and focus on networking only the day after, but I remember sneaking into my room and working on my resume right away.

Overall, it was a surreal experience. I’m really proud of how I handled the layoff, and what it’s taught me about myself (I can be positive even when the situation isn’t). However, it has caused some fear in me since I know it’s always a possibility!

How did you bounce back from your layoff? Any tips for someone going through the same thing?

Personally, I knew the risk of job security going into a start up and wasn’t angry or resentful about being laid off. I was surprised (since I thought things were going so well and I was doing a great job), but it didn’t taint me or make me upset. So, there wasn’t much of a recovery period to go through.

The first thing I wanted to do was track what I learned, and thank the people I learned it from. I’m a massive believer in giving people flowers while they can still smell them, so I sent quite a few thank you messages to the people I admired.

I knew that no one was going to give me the kind of job I wanted (biz ops), in a macro environment that was headed south (this was as of May 2022), so I needed to focus on getting employed right away. I could process any emotions in parallel or later, as I figured more layoffs were going to happen and the amount of outstanding jobs would get more competitive.

In terms of tips, I think I can distill it down to two things:

  1. What are you grateful for out of the situation? And how can you anchor on that? For me, since I know my goal is growth, as long as I’m a new and improved version of myself, losing my job doesn’t matter. I’m long Raza Khan and know things will work out if I don’t give up. My time horizon (~40 working years) is too long for a blip of a few months to ruin my momentum.
  2. It’s important to be realistic. Do you still want to work in this kind of industry? Will it be difficult to get a role in it? Will it be harder as time progresses? If so, you have to make the iron hot by striking and get on it right away.

What was it like to go so quickly into a job search?

Honestly, it was really interesting for me. Most people I spoke with were kind of surprised I didn’t take time to myself and enjoy myself. I was anxious that the conditions would get worse and I wouldn’t be able to find a job I wanted which drove me to work harder. I tried to take some time off, but was so focused on the next thing that I didn’t get to make the most of some time off.

My stress for getting a new job seemed to be well-founded. I had a few very strong interviews that even went into final rounds, and got cancelled or postponed indefinitely due to the lack of funding / layoffs / loss of headcount that occurred with the macro environment. So, I’m glad I was extremely proactive.

The one good thing was – since I was only at ResQ for ~4 months, I was still on top of my game for interviews! 

Has your thinking about tech changed due to your layoff experience?

I’m still super super excited, and have reaffirmed that this is where I want to be. Between ResQ and now Webflow, I know:

  • The most challenging work I’ve done is in tech
  • The most impactful work I’ve done is in tech
  • The smartest and most inspiring colleagues I’ve worked with are in tech

Candidly, I think about getting laid off again on a daily basis. It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind and is a scary thought. But, as long as my goal is growth (defined by how much I’ve learned), there just isn’t a better place to be than in tech, especially working in biz ops. And, I know for sure, if I get laid off, I’ll figure my way out. There’s too much possibility in the world. Even if I have to re-enter at a more junior level or work in a role that isn’t my dream job – I can tough it out and find my way back here eventually.

Looking back, what would you tell your past self once you were laid off, now that you’ve landed your next role?

You’re doing things the right way. I wish I had something more profound to say, but honestly, in hindsight I’m really proud about how I handled this experience. For instance:

  • I worked on my resume, shopped it around and took notes within the first week of getting laid off
  • I spent time studying things I could improve in order to be more competent, i.e. SaaS metrics, industry context, case prep (even when I didn’t have interviews lined up)
  • I networked profusely, and would aim for 1-2 calls a day. The goal was to learn – not get referrals, but instead figure out how I can become smarter and deserve the job I want
  • I took notes on all the questions I was asked in interviews, and thought about how I could learn from them in future experiences. I never wanted to make the same mistake twice
  • Through these steps, despite the market conditions, recruiting really was night and day different than when I was at TELUS. I had ~10 interviews and only one or two that didn’t go past the first round!

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