Personal story of a Big Tech layoff
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Last November, Jordan Gibbs headed into the office for what she thought would be just another routine workday. For a while it was: There were meetings to go to, emails to respond to, and coworkers to make small talk with.
Then the world stopped. Gibbs received an email telling her she was being let go, effective immediately. She had four hours before she lost access to her work computer.
“I just sat there in shock for the first hour,” Gibbs, 31, tells Fortune. “It was surreal.”
Gibbs worked in human resources at Lyft for just shy of four years. She was part of what she considers one of the first waves of tech layoffs last year, when the Lyft cut 13% of its staff.
Though it didn’t feel like it at the time, Gibbs now considers getting laid off in early November a blessing. It allowed her to start looking for a new job before the current “bloodbath” started, she says. Since the start of the year, more than 210 tech companies have laid off over 68,000 employees (as of Friday, Jan. 27), according Layoffs.fyi, which tracks job cuts in the industry.
Not that the search process to find a new role was exactly easy. Getting laid off decimated Gibbs’s self esteem and made her feel like a failure. She’s still working through those feelings.
“I’ve never felt like more of a loser in my life,” she says. “It’s embarrassing, but I define myself a lot by what I’m able to do for myself. When that tenant of your personality is gone, it’s like, who am I without this job?”
Layoffs are traumatic. Those affected can suffer from anxiety and depression, and their self confidence and self esteem can plummet. Feelings of shame and worthlessness are common. And that’s before the financial stress hits. All told, it can take years for someone to recover from a job loss.
By all accounts, Gibbs had exceeded her performance metrics at work. She couldn’t figure out why she was the only person on her team who was let go and that bred resentment. At the same time, friends at other companies who were also laid off received more generous severance packages—Gibbs received 10 weeks of pay and the vesting period for her equity was sped up—which compounded her feelings of frustration.
Wallowing in the hurt and anger, she says, is much easier than keeping a positive attitude, especially when there’s no specific reason why something is happening to you that you can control. She was also watching job losses pile up across the tech industry, complicating her search process; she lost weight due to all of the stress.
“You go through the dark, disgusting rabbit hole of, ‘Why was it me?’” she says. “It’s death by a thousand cuts, the comparison. It became overwhelming. You really let the negative stuff to creep in.”
But Gibbs says she’s a practical person with bills to pay, which is why she went into recruiting at a tech firm in the first place. Though she allowed herself to cry and binge Real Housewives the day she lost her job, she started making calls and filling out applications the next.
Over the ensuing days, Gibbs applied for 173 jobs. She had 42 interviews—some with multiple people—and received a couple of rejections from positions she was excited about. She vlogged about her job search process on TikTok, growing a small community who cheered her on and held her accountable. Because she was filming her job search, she had to get up every day and do something.
On the 69th day, right before her 10 weeks of severance would technically run out, Gibbs received a job offer making a comparable salary (but less in equity compensation than her previous role) that she accepted. She will no longer be working for a tech company, which is fine by her.
“I’m really grateful for this teaching me humility and resilience,” she said in a TikTok video about the search process.
‘Finding a job is a full time job’
Gibbs declined to share exact numbers, but said she made well into the six figures at her previous role, between her base salary and equity compensation. She knows being so well-paid is a blessing, but it also restricted what kind of job she was willing to apply for. She wanted to make at least the same base salary, given her expenses.
“It gets very overwhelming forming your life around that salary and then losing that money,” she says.
Luckily, Gibbs had prioritized building up her emergency savings before the layoff. She also received the severance as a single lump sum, so she knew how much she had to spend. The financial stress wasn’t as acute for her as it is for many facing unemployment.
Still, she experienced many of the indignities familiar to anyone who loses a job. Dealing with New York’s unemployment system and COBRA health insurance has made Gibbs a more empathetic person, she says.
“Finding a job is a full time job. Making sure you have your health care, filing for unemployment and doing it every single week…the administrative costs of being unemployed are so mentally taxing,” she says. “It’s a very scary thing. The government does not make it easy to understand or get these resources.”
She also cut out virtually every non-essential expense, including her coffees, dinners out, trips to the nail salon, and gym membership, and moved moved back in with her parents in California so she could sublet her apartment in New York. She recognizes the privileged position she was in.
The best advice Gibbs has for those currently dealing with a layoff is to embrace help from family, friends, and even strangers, if you can. Her parents let her live at home rent free. Friends sent her $5 for coffee and a spa gift card; others took her out for dinners. A stranger on TikTok offered to send her workwear for her interviews.
But help comes in all different forms, not just financial aid. Gibbs credits some of her success finding a new job so quickly to the words of encouragement she received from people following along her journey.
“You realize it feels like shit now, but it’s going to be okay,” she says of having a support network. “Having that little bit of mental peace for even a second helps you get through the next four hours of hell.”
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