10 Tips for Recently Laid Off Microsoft Employees

Let’s get this out of the way. It sucks. It’s like being dumped. Even if you were unhappy with the relationship, you wanted the break up to be on your terms, but it wasn’t. If you are reading this, likely you moved from most or all the five stages of grief and you are ready to accept and move on.

Here is the thing. Being laid off doesn’t mean you are bad, unskilled, and incompetent, most likely. It means the overlap of interest and skill wasn’t as large as it should have been. People thrive in different environments, and I have worked with people who sucked at big companies and were exceptional at startups, or were mediocre as developers and rockstars as product managers, or vice-versa. There isn’t a one size fits all.

These are my 10 tips for you to pick yourself up and move on, quicker:

#1 — The Timing was perfect for you
First of all, see this as a positive. You have to. No one wants to hire or work with people who blame their previous company, previous manager or the world. We live in one of the best times for technology, and Seattle’s startup & tech industry is growing faster than ever (faster than the late 90s and during the Dot Com boom).

#2 — Update your LinkedIn Profile
I hope it was up-to-date already, but if it wasn’t, update it now (by “now” I mean today!). There are two reasons to do this. One is that LinkedIn is the new resume. Everyone you’ll meet in a business setting — if you are interviewing, looking for a partnership, selling, buying, etc. — will check your LinkedIn profile, so it needs to be complete and polished. Fill as many sections as possible with your history, not only jobs, but also Patents, Awards, Public Presentations, Skills, etc. Make sure it has good grammar and spelling. The second reason a complete LinkedIn profile is important is because that’s how you appear on Search Results on LinkedIn and other tools Recruiters use to find candidates. If someone is looking for someone who knows “SQL”, “JavaScript” and “Video Encoding” and those words don’t appear on your LinkedIn profile you don’t appear on the search results.

#3 — Reach out to your network
Suck it up and just let your friends know you are one of those who got dismissed during this round of layoffs. It’s no biggie and there are plenty of people who know people hiring right now. Just compose a short and sweet email about you becoming available in the market with a short description of your skills, experiences and interests and a link to your LinkedIn profile*. Make it all under 200 words! It’s not begging if you are not begging. You can send this email using MailChimp or BCC a bunch of contacts, just don’t send an email with 100 people on the TO line.

* Did you know the more people that click on your profile on LinkedIn the higher-ranked you’ll be when recruiters are searching for candidates on it? Now you know.

#4 — Polish your interview skills
When was the last time you interviewed for a job? If it’s anything more than 2 years and you’ll need some practice. The easiest way to practice, IMO, is to interview for jobs you don’t want or are the least desirable for you. Have a couple of interviews with companies you might not be as interested, and leave the ones that you are really interested for last. There are plenty of tools and resources online for you to get better at an interview.

Oh, and here is a tricky issue. Good candidates are not the same thing as good employees. You might be an exceptional employee but people won’t know if you are not a good candidate and pass the interview. Some interviewers believe they know how to spot a good future employee, but the reality is that most don’t and they are measure just qualities of good candidates.

#5 — Plenty of Startup Jobs
There are hundreds of startups in Seattle that are hiring right now. The longer you stayed at Microsoft the more *unlikely* it’s that a startup will hire you. There is a negative bias towards Microsoft, particularly if you worked on groups like Windows or Office in which the skillset, experiences, methodology and processes you are used to are less likely to align with those of a startup. However, for the most part, if you have the intellectual horsepower and motivation, you’ll be able to adjust and learn new tools, technologies and methodologies over a short period of time and quite a few startups know this and will interview you. I wrote a blog post a while ago talking about how a Microsoft employee should think about a startup.

Just in case you are interested, here is a list of *great* startups that are hiring right now.

  1. EveryMove (my own startup, 25 employees, 8 open positions): EveryMove unifies all your fitness data from apps or devices you use to bring you rewards, challenges, and other perks and benefits from brands, your employer and health plan who applaud your healthy lifestyle.
  2. Moz (140 employees, 10 open positions): Moz makes software to help people become better marketers (with a specific focus on making Google and SEO more transparent).
  3. Porch (140 employees, 21 open positions): Porch helps you find the right professionals and discover what’s possible for your home improvement project.
  4. PicMonkey (20 employees, 2 openings): Photo editing made of win
  5. Simply Measured (150 employees, 7 open positions): Social Media Analytics for professional Marketers.
  6. LiquidPlanner (50 employees, 6 open positions): LiquidPlanner is an easy and powerful online project management tool. Our multi-project scheduler streamlines processes, lets teams collaborate in real time, saves hours of work, and offers the best time-tracking, analysis, and reporting.
  7. Rover.com (60 employees, 10 open positions): Rover.com is a sharing economy marketplace connecting dog owners with reputable dog sitters in your area.
  8. RealSelf (40 employees, 9 open positions): RealSelf helps you find the right cosmetic treatment.
  9. Haiku Deck (12 employees, 2 open positions): Haiku Deck believes visual storytelling is more important than ever before and they want to restore the presentation to it’s rightful place as something awesome to build and consume.
  10. Estately (15 employees, 2 open positions): Estately is transforming the home buying experience.
  11. Apptentive (11 employees, 2 open positions): Apptentive makes it easier for companies to build stronger relationships with their customers.
  12. Chef (160 employees, 40 openings): Automation for Web-Scale IT
  13. Buddy.com (9 employees, 3 open positions): Buddy makes data from IoT or “connected” devices, usable. We connect data generated by devices with the tools and systems used to consume data.

If none of those startups appeal to you, check out the list of top startups in Seattle on the GeekWire 200 or at these job boards: GeekWork, LinkedIn, Careers 2.0 (Stack Overflow), Github, Angel List, etc. Also sign up for DevDraft (http://DevDraft.com) — an online hiring event for developers and DevOps where Northwest-based companies compete for tech talent. The process is simple, you sign up, complete a few challenges, and the participating tech companies will compete for you. The pre-qualification round begins on 8/29.
#6 — Go BigCo again
Startups don’t float your boat? No problem. There are several big companies headquartered here in Seattle or who have opened an office here. Pick your poison: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Expedia, Hulu, SalesForce, eBay, Groupon, etc. There are also medium size companies. They don’t fit the startup mold, nor the big company: Concur, Zillow, Redfin, Tableau, Apptio, Zulily and Big Fish Games.

#7 — Take a break and explore
If you could spare a few months without an income, I’d highly recommending learning a few new technologies and skills. Like I said on my blog post from 2 years ago, nothing makes you more desirable to a startup (or even a big company) than someone who can show initiative, is self-motivated and has the skills to do it (vs. talk about it). In no particular order, here are valuable things you can learn: iOS/Objective-C, iOS/Swift, Responsive Web Design, AWS, Azure, Github, Python, Ruby on Rails, Data Mining, Machine Learning, Data Visualization, User Experience, Web Development, Web & Mobile Analytics, etc.

#8 — Get out of tech
I’m sure there is an option here. If you want to go into retail, food, hospitality, bioinformatics, research, academia, or whatever, there are options out there. I’m just not the right person to give you some info here.

#9 — Start your Startup!
I would not advise you to do that, unless you already have a project you’ve been cooking on the back-burner, or if you have done it before. I say that one of the biggest mistakes I did when I left Microsoft was to start my own startup instead of joining someone else’s. I learned (the hard way) at my own dime and my own time, and that’s just stupid. If you are absolutely set at starting your own startup, try to join a startup with 2–5 people for at least 6-months (and be honest that’s your plan) and then go do your startup.
However, if you’ll ignore my advice and you still want to do a startup, consider attending many of the events and meetups in Seattle for entrepreneurs. There are plenty of resources from the Alliance of Angel, WTIA, GeekWire, Seattle Angel Conference, TechStars, and more.

#10 — Retire & travel
Have fun.

On a final note, I’m sure this blog post will evolve and I’ll update with ideas and opportunities here, so come back for future updates. And since you might have a lot more time available to read interesting things on the web, here are two blog posts I wrote that might be interesting: The story of the failure of my first startup (an 8-part series), the story of my second “startup” being acquired by GeekWire (Seattle 2.0), this two posts about the vision and funding of EveryMove.

UPDATE 1: Replace the word “Fired” with “Laid off” to make it more accurate.

UPDATE 2: Added info on DevDraft (http://DevDraft.com)

Marcelo Calbucci

Marcelo Calbucci

I'm a technologist, founder, geek, author, and a runner.