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Laid-Off Techies: Where Are You Going?by@jwolinsky
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Laid-Off Techies: Where Are You Going?

by Jacob WolinskyApril 24th, 2023
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Since the start of 2023, 575 tech companies have reported laying off more than 169,858 employees to date, according to [Layoffs.fyi] January through March and much of April have already seen tens of thousands of tech workers getting the boot, with January marking more than [84,000 layoffs]
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This year is shaping up to be yet another grim time for white-collar tech workers after enduring a tumultuous year of mass layoffs and dozens of tech giants putting thousands of employees’ heads on the chopping block.


The tech layoff pulse is still beating strong. In mid-March, Amazon announced it would cut a further 9,000 corporate jobs. This comes right after the tech giant already sacked more than 18,000 white-collar jobs last year.


Amazon isn’t alone in this. Just a few days earlier, Zuckerburg-run Meta announced that it will slash another 10,000 jobs on top of the 11,000 workers they laid off in November 2022.


Elon Musk-owned Twitter has also trimmed the fat in recent months. When the CEO and founder of the global electric cars manufacturer and distributor of Tesla became the sole owner of the social media platform, there were more than 8,000 employees.


That number has since come down to a mere 1,500 according to recent reports.


Tech companies big and small, and even new-age startups have announced that they were planning on lowering their headcount as they try to navigate macroeconomic headwinds.


What’s more, since the start of 2023, 575 tech companies have reported laying off more than 169,858 employees to date, according to Layoffs.fyi.


January through March and much of April have already seen tens of thousands of tech workers getting the boot, with January marking more than 84,000 layoffs alone.


Still, tech giants remain hopeful that conditions will start changing in the later stage of the year and perhaps reach full recovery again by the end of 2024.


With news of more layoffs to come in the months ahead, many wonder where the thousands of disgruntled techies will be going or have gone.


The mass layoffs come at a time of general labor market weirdness and when experts suggest that job vacancies have started declining for the first time since the post-pandemic era.

The Hiring Freeze

Let’s start with what some companies have already been doing for several months in an effort to clamp down on excessive employee headcounts and lower their expenses.


Many tech companies, and more recently, businesses in finance, crypto, and blockchain have initiated hiring freezes. Instead of bringing onboard new employees to fill vacant roles, employers are pulling back on hiring new staff.


Companies such as Meta, which have already laid off thousands, have announced that it’s closing hiring for nearly 5,000 open roles and are looking to cancel low-priority projects that are eating away at their bottom line.


Some tech names that have been struggling to navigate the tough economic climate have announced that hiring freezes could continue well into next year.


This would mean that existing employees, at least for now, would need to double their efforts to handle increased workloads and take on more responsibilities before the business hits rock bottom.


The available jobs, however, do not come with the illustrious perks enjoyed by those tech workers that flocked to Silicon Valley by the thousands during the 2010s.


Many companies, including names such as Apple, have resulted in cutting down on employee benefits and perks as a possible cost-cutting measure.


While those that are hiring may offer substantial compensation, techies won’t have access to the employee-only benefits they once had, such as hybrid work, staff meals, paid time off, or even paid team-building events, among other things.


In a time where employment in the industry is at an inflection point, and the outlook is growing increasingly grim, giving up a free club sandwich to secure your job in the short term doesn't seem like a bad idea, now does it?

Now Hiring, Part-Time

In the past, tech workers and professionals could job hop as frequently as possible, leaving one job and stepping into another. Unfortunately, the current market and economic climate do not allow them much room to shuffle or transition.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and industry group CompTIA showed that payrolls of tech companies have slightly decreased in March 2023. Overall, the industry employers added more than 76,546 new job postings, bringing the total number of openings up to 316,000.


Other sources estimate that the industry could add more than 272,000 new tech jobs this year, but this all hinges on the prospect of improving economic and financial conditions.


Yet, the number of unemployed people across the country remained relatively low, hitting a five-decade low of 3.5% in March this year.


Elsewhere, some sources have claimed that access to full-time paid positions has decreased, making it harder for tech workers to find vacancies that can pay them their market value but also offer them secure employment opportunities.


One former tech worker said that although recruiters are actively contracting previously laid-off employees, merely 20% of them are looking to hire full-time. Most companies seeking new hires are only bringing on people on a contract or part-time basis.


Having more employees hired as contract workers and instead offering them full-time jobs gives them more leverage to let employees go once their contracts have ended or fire them if conditions deteriorate further.


It’s also worth mentioning that even if laid-off techies do land a part-time or contract gig, it doesn't necessarily come with the pay that they’re used to.


Contract workers in content moderation or customer service teams are being paid substantially less than their full-time peers. In some instances, it’s been recalled that some part-time employees are making around a quarter of the salary of a software engineer.


The use of microwork platforms has allowed tech giants easier access to wider pools of tech talent and hiring them as they were needed.


Now that funding and investments are drying up, and advertisers are pulling back on their marketing dollars, companies can easily let employees go without it affecting their bottom line.

What About the Jobs That Are Available?

Well, in a time when tens of thousands of workers are being let go globally, the competition has become increasingly tough. Those applying for roles will need to outsmart and out win other applicants in the hopes of securing a full-time job.


Even once they have managed to sign on the dotted line and get to work, there’s little certainty that they will be kept around for the long term and fall victim to being laid off at a later stage.


These worrisome and seemingly anxiety-induced conditions have led to greater issues that have now started affecting current employees and those actively seeking new employment.


A Gartner report found that roughly 77% of British tech workers are currently unhappy in their jobs. Many of them are seeking greater and increased mobility instead of job security, the opposite of what some laid-off employees are hoping for at the current stage.


What’s more, the Gartner research found that around one in five techies are ready to leave their jobs as soon as possible, with only 11% citing being happy in their current role.


Lower headcounts, budget cuts, and fewer hands on deck have meant that many tech workers have now been driven to increase their capacity to meet productivity demands.


This doesn’t only come at the cost of the employer but also employees that are now experiencing increased levels of job-related stress and burnout.


Finding balance and even finding a job in the cooling tech job market requires techies to be more agile and mobile than ever before. Being more open-minded to available jobs while at the same time being more versatile and willing to sacrifice certain qualities to secure a new job.

Find a Job, or Leave

For decades, tech giants have nursed specific visa programs that attracted thousands of foreign workers to Silicon Valley. Employers were dishing out thousands of dollars in visa sponsorship every year to secure the best tech talent the global labor market has to offer.


One thing was non-negotiable, as long as foreign workers remain employed, they can legally reside in the country.


Many foreign workers that migrated to the U.S. on an H-1B visa have now been left to fend for themselves as mass layoffs continue. Those caught in the crossfire, having been sacked in recent months, are now on the prowl for new employers that will sponsor their immigration status.


The risk of deportation is high; in some instances, laid-off foreign workers have roughly 60 days to find new employment before they are forced to leave.


Without a full-time job or employment, thousands of foreign tech talent, which the U.S. desperately needs at the moment to keep up with rivals such as China, would be forced to leave once their visa terms expire.


This would not only be a loss to employees and their employers, but some experts suggest that the American tech and technology sector could lose an entire generation's worth of tech talent if foreign workers have no other option but to go back to their native countries.


The problem with America's foreign immigration system isn’t anything new. For decades, big tech companies have relied on student and work visa programs including F-1, L-1, and H-1B to attract top talent to the maturing tech sector.


Limitations on visa programs, such as H-1B, which is capped at 85,000 per year have remained the same since the 1990s.


Even as the country’s tech sector starts to mature, and more technology companies start popping up outside of Silicon Valley, stringent immigration reform and a notoriously difficult immigration system have been a blow to America’s tech landscape and the foreign-born talent that helped it grow into a global superpower.


Now being forced to leave the country, if they’re not able to land another job that can sponsor their immigration status, many foreign-born techies that have found their jobs on the chopping block in recent months are heading abroad.


Destinations such as Australia, Singapore, the UK, and America’s neighbor, Canada, have allowed many workers more freedom to start their own company or to find a new job.


While some companies have offered to help foreign working techies find new employment to secure their immigration status, others were simply left in the dark and had to self-deport to avoid long-term immigration issues or blockades on their passports if they’re likely to return.


America was for long a top destination for tech talent, but outdated immigration policies and systems have now forced them to self-deport or leave for other foreign markets that can offer them more attractive opportunities.

Opting for Other Prospects

The grim labor market has led to many tech workers changing lanes into other sectors that currently require their expertise.


Several industries that have been enjoying steady growth and investment opportunities due to increased consumer and corporate demand have meant that tech workers could potentially find new opportunities in jobs that are outside of their general scope of practice.


Businesses in healthcare, cybersecurity, and data analysis, among others have become attractive options for many tech workers.


Although these roles are somewhat different than what they have been used to, they can, however, provide them with new employment opportunities and give them a fresh perspective on their careers.


Elsewhere, jobs in supply chain management, digital infrastructure, tourism, and hospitality and information technology, to name but a few, are also hiring laid-off tech workers.


While the work itself is slightly different, but still requires specific expertise and may not offer the same perks as their former employer, duties and responsibilities remain heavily tech-related.


The change of industry allows employees to keep working on projects they’re well-known for, but at the same time, broaden their experience in different industries and network with a completely new set of employers.


It’s still a very interconnected position, but this time, it’s not purely based on tech derivatives, and tech employees may become more humbled by their change of scenery in the long run.

Looking Forward

The short answer, however, is that America's tech workers are still here. They're just working in different industries, looking to diversify their career options and grow their expertise in fields they've previously never considered.


While tech workers may be facing a tremendous amount of challenges and uncertainty, especially for foreign-born workers, opportunities in other industries could be a possible solution to their tight labor market conditions.


However, they can’t bank on finding similar tech-related jobs in other sectors such as healthcare or cybersecurity infrastructure, as these may be limited, and competition can be stark at the same time.


For those former employees that have been placed in a position where they have to self-deport to avoid immigration troubles, other developed markets could be a potential solution to their crumbling American dream.


Years of sporadic growth and ambitious hiring, against the backdrop of slowing economic conditions, outdated immigration systems, and a lack of innovation has now left America in the backseat in the field of tech advancement.


And with the sector only experiencing further headwinds, America will be left behind while its top local and foreign-born talent seek new ventures in more prosperous and advanced markets.