Mar 25 2020

Job hunting in the midst of a crisis

My posts last week (which included predictions of pending lay-offs at technology businesses) prompted a number of people to reach out and ask a variant of the question: “How can I find a job in the middle of a shutdown/meltdown?”. I don’t know that I have a great answer to that but I thought I’d take a stab at it with the hope that some of these ideas will be at least somewhat helpful to those that find themselves in the position of being out of work during this crisis.

TBC, while we’ve already seen a number of layoffs, I think there unfortunately are many more coming. Early lay-offs were widespread in the hospitality, travel and related industries. We’re just starting to see these in the tech sector – especially for companies that have exposure to travel and hospitality. I think we’ll see many more as companies get their hands around the cost cutting measures that will be required for them to weather this crisis and (hopefully) stay in business. I wrote the other day about companies considering measures such as covering a few months of COBRA and/or allowing for longer stock exercise periods as some tools they can use to help mitigate the pain, but the reality is that being out of work right now is challenging and something that millions of Americans are going to be dealing with over the coming month. This advice is focused on people working for tech companies, as that’s the world I know. Some of the advice is applicable outside of that sector, some not.

Don’t Panic. That’s my first advice for just about every situation and in this case it can be significantly easier said than done. But it’s important in this case, even though your emotions and fear may be running high. Take it one step at a time, form a plan, then get out there.

Companies are still hiring. Yes it’s true that many startups are locking down hiring (and that’s been the VC 101 advice that most investors – including Foundry – have been giving in general to their portfolio companies). But most are still hiring for at least some key positions. There are many companies that are actually seeing an uptick in business (sustainable uptick, not just the near-term “WFH” bounce that many saw last week into this).

Focus your profile/resume on return on investment. More than typically, companies are measuring return on all their spend. Crisis brings focus and focus brings out the data analysts to measure everything. This is probably a good thing (as long as eventually budgets free back up for experimentation) but it’s something you should have in mind as you think about how to best position yourself for another role. Be clear that you fit into this paradigm of measured expenditure. You’re comfortable with it; you’ve done it before; you think everyone should be measuring return and focusing their dollars (whether marketing, sales, development, etc) on those things with the highest near term return.

Expand your geographic focus. Everyone is working from home so at the moment we live in a “post-geographic” world. Might not be the first thing you think about when you’re starting to look around (maybe in this environment it is, so sorry if this is obvious). Go broad and don’t worry about location. Most companies are much more open to WFH as a longer term prospect now that they were 2 weeks ago.

Get your Zoom game on. It’s not ideal to interview over Zoom, but that’s today’s reality. Make sure you show up like a pro. And embrace it – it’s the new normal.

Keep at it. Lots of companies that put hiring on hold a week ago will have a better sense for how their business is really being impacted over the next few weeks (and to be clear, most companies are making week-by-week assessments). Pace yourself and keep at it. Companies are changing their views continually through this and what their plans are today (no more hiring) may be completely the opposite a week from now.

I’ll keep thinking about this and will post updates. I know this isn’t a great time to be looking for a job. But markets are cyclical and I know that we’ll ultimately recover from this.