Layoff Resilience

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked.” – Warren Buffet

Downsizings happen. While most mentally healthy individuals don’t like firing people and upending their lives, sometimes it can’t be avoided. There can be many reasons for this. When times are good, people forget how bad things can get and during their optimistic planning, they assume the good times will continue. And even during good times, major disruptions to industry can obliterate thousands of jobs with little warning. It’s not just in tech, lots of old mining and manufacturing concerns all over the planet suddenly dried up, leaving their empty husks in towns full of the recently unemployed. It’s a cycle as old as human civilization and it always visits us again.

However, there are usually warning signs. Whether it’s an overheated market (*cough* real estate *cough*), war or threats of war, or even demographic changes, such as the large scale retirement of the baby boomer generation, the world is always going to shift under our feet. We simply have to be ready to deal with it. Recessions, even really bad ones, are survivable (as evidenced by the fact that we’re still here), but they are unpleasant. However, it gets much harder to survive them if your habits are unsustainable and predicated on good times continuing forever. And as developers, we tend to get lost in our own worlds of new libraries and frameworks, while the rest of the world “does its thing” outside. But it will intrude someday.

It is daunting to consider the possibility of getting laid off. You may think your employer will cut you loose, but you should understand that it is not always under their control either. As a result, to the extent possible, you should always be making sure you aren’t the first target of a layoff and that you are positioned well to survive a layoff if and when it happens. You may even find that if you do this well, that your situation actually improves during a recession, as not everyone goes broke during a recession. Most of the advice here is good even when the market is booming. We hope this has been useful for your preparations for the upcoming “festivities”.

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