11 Lessons Learned From Losing A Job

So in November 2019 I lost my job. Without warning or reason. And it hit me like a tonne of bricks. 🧱

I'd delivered everything expected of me, built a great team, and increased conversion rates for the business. In 1:1s with my manager I was always showered with praise.

I thought I was safe, even my manager thought I was safe. We were wrong and I was out on my ass.

I spent the best part of three months before I landed my next role, and here are the lessons I learned and some tips that might help you out too.

1. Start looking right away

I made the mistake of taking a month to relax before I started my job search. Under contract I couldn't take another job until a month after my period of garden leave, or the company could refuse to pay me.

I chose to spend that time feeling sorry for myself, and I lost a lot of sleep through anxiety. Four weeks in and the novelty of being off work was wearing off.

2. Keep a record of your applications

As time goes on in your job hunt, it's so easy to lose track of who you've spoken to and which roles you've applied for.

This is probably going to come up, recruiters are going to ask you if you have any applications with companies they might already be working with.

What I do is track my applications Google Sheets. I include information like salary, location, status, date, link to the job spec, and the recruiters information.

Here's a copy of my spreadsheet to help save you a little time. View Spreadsheet

3. Some jobs don't exist

I used LinkedIn, Reed and Indeed for most of my job searching. And between them there's a lot of duplication. Keeping track of the job descriptions helps prevent applying for the same role twice.

Though what I didn't realise is often I would see roles that didn't exist. Roles priced above market rate and in very specific areas of Salford seemed too good to be true!

They were.

When contacting the agency responsible for posting, I never got a callback. The jobs are duplicated, by different agents all working for the same company. I can only imagine that it's some of of technique to boost their listing numbers? 🤷‍♂️

4. Apply for your dream job

You've got nothing to lose by doing that. I found that many of the applications I completed for bigger companies asked probing questions. Those were great for helpings me answer other applications much more easily. See point 5.

Reach out to people you already follow on Twitter or LinkedIn. Sell yourself, use the template in point 7 as a guide to help if you need to. Tell them what value you can bring to their company.

5. Document your application questions and answers

After you submit an application, you don't tend to get a copy of what you submitted. If you get to the next stage interview it's almost certain that you'll get asked about your application answers.

Having a copy of exactly what you wrote will be invaluable. And you may even need to answer similar questions on other applications, so work smart not hard. 🤓

6. Have a cover letter prepared

Cover letters seem like a complete burden. Especially when you're regurgitating the same information that's available on your CV.

But the thing is, they often work. Recruiters and hiring managers don't often have time to read every CV front to back. By spelling out why we're a great candidate for a role, you're chance of being considered is higher.

Bonus points for using plain language, and getting your personality across.

7. Have a summary ready for recruiters

What I found worked well for getting recruiters to notice me was making their job easy.

By summarising the information relevant to a position, I was giving them every incentive possible to contact me.

For a role as Senior Engineering Manager at an ecommerce company I emailed the recruiter the following.

Hi [Recruiter],

I'm interested in the position as Senior Engineering Manager you posted on LinkedIn.

Summary of my experience:

- 14 years working with JavaScript, Vue, and Angular.
- 8 years managing and mentoring teams of developers and designers.
- 10 years of my career spent in ecommerce.
- I specialise in web performance and accessibility.
- Also been a designer for a very long time.

Summary of me:

- I built the new app form in Vue that increased conversion rates by 20%.
- I was made redundant in November and I'm available immediately.
- My favourite part of my job is mentoring people, especially developers.

I'm currently interviewing for other roles with:

- Company 2
- Company 3
- Company 4

If my experience sounds like it could be a good fit for the role, please get in touch.
I've attached my CV and my website benjaminwalsh.co.uk has examples of my work too.

Thanks
Ben

[Mobile Number Here]

8. Some recruiters are awful

While most of my conversations with recruiters were very positive, there was one common trait that frustrated me the most.

Ghosting 👻

It seems that the moment a recruiter knows you're no longer on the short-list for a role, they forget you exist.

9 out of 10 times I'd get rejected without even knowing about it. Having chased the recruiter about the role, I'd get radio silence.

Not cool.

9. Prepare for coding challenges

In my experience live coding challenges aren't a realistic way to assess a developer. They don't show you how an engineer will actually work on the tasks you give them on the job. What they're like as a person, and exclude many who don't do well with anxiety inducing conditions. 🙋‍♂️

Many of the roles I applied for did this anyway. Because even though it's not perfect, it does give the hiring manager some kind of benchmark of technical skill.

So get prepared, there's a lot of resources available on preparing for these online, far too many to mention here.

One of the better experiences I had was at MoneySuperMarket. They gave me a task and a laptop, then allowed me to work how I felt most comfortable to complete their challenge.

So I was able to work without feeling under too much pressure. And nobody was looking over my shoulder at me Googling things. I'm a developer, not an encyclopedia, and there's no shame in that.

10. Build a financial buffer

My family was lucky. Until October 2019 both my partner and I has been working in full time work.

This allowed us to save a good amount for renovating our gardens front and back, but I'm glad we'd not touched it, otherwise we'd have been borrowing money.

As soon as the money stopped coming in. We knew we'd need to use that to keep up with our mortgage payments and bills. And as it's taken me this long to find the right job, you know I'll be making sure to protect myself against this happening in future.

This comes from a position of privilege and I know for many this is an impossibility.

If you're struggling to get into a position where you have 3-6 months worth of finances set aside. Please consider speaking to professional debt management organisation or financial planner.

11. Keep your CV and/or portfolio updated

I'm so bad at doing this. I always leave things way too late and it makes it difficult to even remember what I've done let alone piece together some good examples of my work.

A good manager will encourage you to keep these up-to-date and might allow you some time to do that. Either way make sure it happens, you won't regret doing so when you actually need it!

Heck, set a reminder to do this often, shouldn't consume too much time but will pay off in the future.

Feedback

Have you had a similar experience? Have I missed anything important? Let me know on twitter, or comment on Dev.to 👍

Good luck finding your next role!