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Job search after the Microsoft layoff, how to bounce back

Microsoft Layoff

How to overcome a layoff from a Large Box Employer

Microsoft Layoffs and how candidates can bounce back

Here in Seattle, Washington the big news this past week was the Microsoft layoffs of close to 18,000 employees and vendors. This is huge number for any company but until something like this happens in your city, it is an easy topic to read and forget. When it happens in your hometown it becomes very real. An internal memo published in Geekwire is linked here. With Microsoft being one of the larger employers in the Seattle / Redmond area, everyone knows someone who works for this tech giant and we are thinking about how the announcement of the Microsoft layoff will affect our friends.

First, I would like to say I feel for those that were laid off last week. Getting laid off sucks under any circumstance. I am sure that for current Microsoft employees, questions about the future are looming as well. With job uncertainty in mind, this week’s goal is to provide job search insight for those affected by the Microsoft layoff.

For those new to the site, I started this blog in 2008 to help candidates that were displaced from their employer when the economy turned. The goal was to provide current insights on the job search process. Although today’s post is applicable to anyone, I will specifically message Microsoft employees as they search for their next gig. It has been less than a week and already I have received half a dozen resumes from friends or friends of friends that are looking for new positions including employees that were tenured and full-time employees.  The Microsoft layoff isn’t just vendors.

There will be a number of long-tenured employees affected by the Microsoft layoffs and in my experience, it is this demographic that has the toughest time making a transition to another company. When the economy took a turn in 2008, there were a lot of folks who couldn’t find a job. Obviously, there were fewer jobs, but I saw something else. There were a lot of unemployed candidates that had been employed by a single employer for 10 – 15+ years.  For these laid off candidates, so much changed in the job search world over those 10 – 15 years while they were employed that it was like stepping out of a time bubble and into a new era.

Unemployed candidates were writing their resumes and conducting their job searches in 2008 – 2010, in the same way, they wrote their resume and conducted a job search in the 1990’s.  Each of those 15 years was the equivalent of a dog year (7).  

Both Big Box Employer / Long Term Employer provided job security. The fear of being laid off by these employers was eliminated and there was no reason to keep up with current job search practices. The assumption was that we were going to retire with a company so there wasn’t any reason to think about LinkedIn or professional networking. There wasn’t a need to keep updating our resume.

With fewer jobs and plenty of unemployed candidates in 2008, employers become very picky. I observed first hand how candidate interview skills had become outdated and the interview process had become more sophisticated. Applicant Tracking Systems, LinkedIn, and other online resources provided employers with more tools to leverage and this tightened the interview gauntlet.  Sophisticated millenniums with their personal blogs, digital portfolios, and online job search savvy, upped the ante for both schools of candidates. It was a perfect storm of job security, technology and a new generation of skills. In the end, candidates that didn’t keep current were passed over.

Standard dating example

If we were dating our significant-other and then became married in the early or mid 90’s we were done with single bars. With marriage, we are no longer worrying about the dating scene. If we added a child or two, our priorities shifted from the latest dance steps to our kids. We were hanging with mommy groups and we didn’t worry about the evolution of online dating resources like Craigslist, FriendFinder, or Tinder. Maybe we went an extra season or two before updating our wardrobe and visits to the gym became less frequent. AKA, we let ourselves go.

If we find ourselves separated/divorced in 2014, we shouldn’t go back on the dating scene with our Running Man and Cabbage Patch dance moves. The newspaper’s personal ads and bar scene have been replaced by Facebook and Tinder. Our 5-year-old baggie jeans are now replaced with straight legs. In the end, singles that didn’t keep current are going to be passed over. Sound familiar?

If we interview for a job with the same process and practices that landed us a job 10 years ago we will remain unemployed.

If you are in a situation where you have tenure and suddenly find yourself swimming with the sharks, I would like to try to provide some insight so that you can win this game. The following is what I have counseled to Microsoft employees that have been laid off in the past.

The first thing I say to anyone that is laid off from any company: Sign-up for unemployment. This is not the time to be too proud. Unemployment isn’t the last resort, it is a proactive move. Unemployment checks are funds that you are entitled to and I would say you really need help if you pass on this. Sign-up can be done online and there isn’t a need to visit the unemployment office every week. If you received a severance package that is being paid out over a course of time, we are obviously not eligible for unemployment yet, but we can start the networking and interview process. Sign-up as soon as you are eligible because it takes 10 days before your first check is processed.

Feel good about your assets as a Microsoft employee.

  • Microsoft is a great brand to list on a resume. Microsoft is a world-class employer so they don’t have to hire just anyone. Know that you have a solid skill set. As opposed to working for an unknown employer, everyone in the world knows Microsoft. You won’t have to explain your last employer’s product or results.
  • Microsoft has had a lot of successes in the past, so chances are that you were working in a business unit that will provide you significant resume material. This makes it easier to quantify our accomplishments and talk about results on our resume and in the job interview. Just explaining what you didn’t isn’t enough. We need to explain how we helped the bottom line.
  • This layoff isn’t your fault. This is a company decision and everyone in the city knows that this isn’t an individual performance issue. Everyone in town heard Nadella’s message so you won’t have to go into the details and explain it over and over.

We will be hired for our strengths but we will be declined for our weakness.

We need to learn to hide or disguise the following Microsoft stereotypes. What are the stereotypes of a tenured MSFT employee or any Large Box Employer? All large companies have their reputations and we need to be aware of and overcome these in our communication with potential employers. Microsofties may be offended by the below, but I say this not to insult, but to provide insight on how hiring managers look at the tech giant’s workforce.

  • If we were employed by only Microsoft for a number of years, the assumption is that we only know how to do things the Microsoft or the Acme Publishing way. It will be assumed by hiring managers that these will be hard habits to break. To break these assumptions, explain how you have kept current with new technologies outside of .NET and C. Inform the interviewers that you are comfortable with a MacBook, are not a slave to Outlook or use an iPhone. 
  • A lot of tenured Large Box employees have a “look”, specifically the employees who thought they were going to retire with said employer. Wardrobe and our presentation layer become less of a concern when we know we aren’t going to be dating anytime soon. This “look” is going to create our first impress so we need to overcome this stereotype.  We don’t need a whole new wardrobe. We just need to get through a couple of interviews. The Nordstrom half-yearly is going on as we speak and there is a Banana Republic outlet mall right up I-90. If you wear glasses, make sure your frames are current. We want to create the image of an employee that has kept current in all aspects of life.
  • Large Box companies grew because they are successful. World class companies more so. There is a subtle arrogance that comes across with the candidate who has been with Number 1 all of their career and I get this. If the company has been reinforcing that we are winners for the past 10 years, there is going to be some pride of ownership that isn’t going to be readily shed. Practice humility in the interview. Be open-minded to the new companies process, protocol and “way”.
  • Be visibly excited about the opportunity. If we present ourselves like Nadella just stole our puppy (and he did), the recruiter and hiring manager will see this.  They don’t want someone who is living in the past, they want to hire someone who can look forward to the next opportunity with a positive outlook.
  • MSFT has a reputation for throwing a lot of resources at projects. As candidates, we want to convey that we have experience rolling up our shirtsleeves and getting dirty.  We want to convey that we can complete projects with minimal resources.
  • Which leads me to my last stereotype.
  • Please don’t expect the same level of benefits. Candidates recently laid off from Large Box Employers are worried about benefits and I get this. We have families and need to provide.  MSFT is well-known for having rich benefit plans and it is not uncommon for candidates to leave smaller employers for MSFT when they want to start a family. Most employers in town will not have the same benefits package as MSFT. We should avoid asking about the benefits package in the very first interview.
  • Work Life balance.  With any large company comes a stereotype that the employee force is there for the work-life balance and the 9-5 hours. I know that there are still plenty of MSFT employees that put in a lot of hours, but this stereotype has been forgotten. Proactively explaining that we are looking for work-life balance to take care of the family will only reinforce the message of coasting. I am not saying we shouldn’t find out the expected hours. I just wouldn’t bring this up in the very first interview.

Reading up on the culture of the new company and embracing its differences will go far in an interview to give confidence that you have not just moved on from the Microsoft layoff, but are excited about the next challenge. No one wants to hire someone who is living in the past.

Hopefully the above helped shed some insight,

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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