So approximately 6 months ago, I got on LinkedIn and told everyone I lost my job. Now seems like the right time to tell you all exactly what happened next…
So, in the UK when a company plans to lay off more than 25 people at once, there’s a consultation period that legally has to happen. So, we were told we might be laid off before we actually were.
When I got that information, I started to take action immediately.
Step 1: I Emailed My Lawyer
I emailed to understand if there’s anything I should plan for such as:
- whether my non-compete clauses would be enforceable
- what to do if I was not paid my full entitled garden leave
- when I should publicly start looking (as we were not officially let go yet)
- as I was unfamiliar with the consultation process, I wanted to know if they recommended that I put my hand up as a representative
- If there’s anything they recommend I plan to do before I am no longer an employee.
A few weeks later, my previous employer, Pollen failed to pay the final paychecks of their employees so I also helped coordinate with my legal team on how to proceed with legal action against them to get funds owed for dozens of employees.
Shout out to Simkins LLP for being the best legal team a girl could ask for!
Step 2: Started Looking at Roles & Companies
As I posted a weekly jobs roundup on LinkedIn, I already had an idea of what was going on in the marketplace. So I immediately identified roles that looked like a good fit and started applying or inquiring. I always keep my resume up to date and am continuously networking, so I didn’t need to do much there.
Step 3: Started Contacting My Friends
As I was advised not to go public yet, I started messaging friends privately immediately. I just said, I wasn’t sure I would be safe and to keep an ear out for roles that could be a good fit.
It was actually quite fortuitous timing that Music Biz Conference was going on at the time so, though I wasn’t there, a lot of my friends were. There was a role at a DSP that I specifically had my eye on and I ended up with multiple friends at the conference with the hiring manager, so that poor woman heard about me from multiple people for 3 days straight 😂.
Step 4: Get a List of Everyone Laid Off
While we still had access to our work emails and Slack channel, I created a form to collect everyone’s contact info that would potentially be laid off to facilitate steps 5-7.
Step 5: Contact My LinkedIn Account Manager & Put Together a Workshop For Former Colleagues
I had recently been reached out to due to me being a LinkedIn creator, and thus had a contact at LinkedIn at quite the opportune time. As over 150 of us had been laid off, I reached out to ask what LinkedIn could do to help us. He was able to provide some support in the form of LinkedIn Premium trials and we planned together to lead a “Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn & LinkedIn Premium” session tailored to my former colleagues that we held virtually a few weeks later. I used the email list I compiled in step 5 to be able to invite everyone. Big thanks to Patrick Shea-Stamford for the help. It meant a lot to a lot of people.
Step 6: Posted On LinkedIn Marketing Myself & Help Others
Once we were officially laid off, that was when the real work started.
I wrote a series of posts with all my co-workers that had agreed to be tagged on LinkedIn that they were looking for a role. I organized by job function and included their (desired) location to make it easy on recruiters and asked people to reach out if they could help. In the form I used to collect everyone’s email addresses that I mentioned earlier, I also asked for this additional info and permission.
I also wrote a post on LinkedIn explaining that 150+ of us had been laid off, giving a rundown of my skills and experience, talking about the role I wanted to do next, establishing my boundaries & dealbreakers, explaining that I didn’t need a visa, linking to my personal website/portfolio, and linked to the posts I made of my former colleagues that had also been laid off.
I recognized there would be a lot of people writing about their recent layoff so rather than taking time to post about personal relationships/time at my previous employer I talked almost exclusively about the skills I could provide to my new employer. I still made sure to stay positive in my post.
There was plenty of time for reflection later but while I had everyone’s attention, it was time to sell myself.
I happened to be on vacation when we found out but I believed that time was of the essence so in my downtime during the vacation, I got these posts up.
This is where when the floodgates opened. Many people laugh when they hear my surprise, but though, at that point, I had 15K+ followers on LinkedIn, I truly expected maybe a dozen people to reach out.
That post got over 100K impressions & 70 different organizations reached out. 😲
People offered up to myself and my former colleagues everything from referrals, to part-time projects, to discussions about full-time roles.
Step 7: Get Former Colleagues Referrals
I maintained a spreadsheet of every company that reached out to provide any help and madedirect asks to most people.
I find that making direct asks and explicit offers of help rather than vague statements like “let me know if I can help?” or “any help you can offer…” saves everyone’s time, sets expectations and most importantly gets sh*t done.
I asked if I could send up to 3 referrals their way for whatever company they worked for.
I limited it to 3 to be mindful of people’s times and to make sure I could vet each referral to make sure it was a match.
From then, I sent my former colleagues a list weekly of companies that reached out. I told them to look for relevant roles at said company (sometimes for specific departments depending on who reached out). If they found a role that seemed like a fit, I asked them to send over their resumes/CVs and the job description link. I reviewed each one if I was familiar enough with the company to be able to provide feedback and then compiled and sent the requested referrals to the relevant people. I did this weekly for at least a month. I also included a link to the former employees at the bottom of all of my weekly job round-up posts for several weeks.
Several people followed up to let me know if interviews and even roles they secured from the referrals!
Step 8: Say Yes To (Almost) Every Meeting
I was privileged enough to be able to afford to continue to pay my personal assistant to help support me in scheduling calls, meetings & interviews, especially while I was on vacation. This resulted in me taking an interview moments after landing from a trip in a back room I may or may not have actually allowed to be in in the airport 😅.
So, from May through July, I basically said yes to almost every meeting. I had the advantage of free time (and what I thought would be my full garden leave payment… 🙄) to be able to take my time in my job search. This gave me an opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t in a while and people I’d always meant to reach out to.
Of the 70 companies that reached out to help, 30 of those had roles or were open to discussing a potential role that was relevant to me. So, over those 3 months, I spoke with every single one of those companies. I had one day that I just spent in the cafe at Tileyard London‘s cafe where many music tech companies are based taking meetings all day like my own personal office hours.
The only meetings I didn’t say yes to were people that reached out wanting me to do free work such as advising/mentoring them or their company. Given that I had lost my primary form of income, it was not something I could prioritize. My canned response back was essentially, “I’m really flattered that you reached out but for the next few weeks I have to focus on paying my rent.”
Step 9: Create My Roles
One new thing that emerged from this job search that was different from any previous is that this time people wanted to create roles that were made specifically for me.
I was asked, “what do you want to do?” at least 3 times per week. So I had to craft that answer.
Over the course of 3 months, I wrote out several job descriptions (some quite high-level & some that were completely flushed out decks). I think I only had 3 completely traditional hiring processes throughout with an existing job description. Everything else was molded to me. Most of my conversations were with those at the EVP, President & C-suite level which made me always have to think strongly about what value I could bring to the organization as a whole. It was exciting but also quite daunting because I knew I had to be sold to other C-level execs and often boards & investors for the level of roles I was looking at.
The key to writing out your own role (or pitching your own ideas) is to always make sure you highlight why you’re the only one that can execute on this idea.
What is your unfair advantage? Is it your network, your education, your skillset, or all of the above? I always made sure to include that in my conversations so I’m never concerned that someone’s going to run off and give someone else the job because it doesn’t work without me.
Step 10: Be Everywhere.
For 3 months, in addition to talking to everyone, I was everywhere. If there was an opportunity to be in a room of potential employers, I was in that room.
I know additional forms of income are something people talk about quite often (because it’s very important!) but I think people don’t talk enough about having multiple titles/projects (be it paying or not).
Without a full-time role I was still able to get opportunities based on the volunteer work I do with shesaid.so as their UK Director and the work, I do running my conference & community, Measure of Music.
Thankfully, my network was incredibly gracious and despite not having a full-time role, the invitations were always extended that fell into one of the aforementioned current roles as well as looked to my past experiences.
So, all summer I was speaking, traveling, networking & more.
In three months, I had 9 speaking engagements including events organized by the PRS Foundation (Keychange & POWER UP), the BPI, Brighton Music Conference, and a talk at the LinkedIn offices to name a few. I was also invited to be a delegate by Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, to attend A2IM’s Indie Week in NYC, asked to provide nominations/judge 2 music awards shows and managed to get invites to YouTube’s Black Excellence Party and the Music Week Awards. I used every single one of these opportunities to help my job search. I think I managed to fit around 7 actual interviews into the 3 days I was in NYC alone not including all of the coffees & informational meetings.
Since I had been so public about needing a new role (plus, my layoff was mentioned in a Music Biz Worldwide article and Music Ally daily email update 😂), most people I encountered already knew and just really wanted to help. These invites went a long way to getting referrals but also intel on different companies & people I was interested in.
I was also very online throughout the time. I continued to post regularly on LinkedIn both my weekly job roundups in addition to long-form posts about what happened at Pollen and choosing a startup to work for. I kept my website & LinkedIn up to date and still applied for things like the LinkedIn for Creators‘ #LICreatorAccelerator Programme (which I got!).
Step 11: Ask For Advice & Make A Decision
As I was having ongoing conversations, I asked trusted friends about their opinions about opportunities, bosses, company culture, reputations of companies, etc. It was a lot of decisions by committee to help figure out what my next move would be. I was even pretty transparent with companies I was talking to about other companies so I could hear their feedback about their competitors/partners. I collected as much data as I could before making a decision.
In the end, I accepted a C-level position at Shoobs, a small Black woman-owned Y-combinator-backed startup in the live music & events space which is giving me the opportunity to flex a lot of muscles and execute a lot of ideas. My now boss was a previous contact from my time at Warner Music Group that I’m glad to have stayed in contact with.
Caveat About Mental Health, Privacy & Taking a Breather Before Taking Action:
I should add, many people needed time to unplug, reflect & take time away. It’s completely acceptable to not start your job search immediately.
I think this article, How to Navigate Being Laid off by David Fano is one of the best I’ve ever read that covers both the practical and emotional side of being laid off. It includes tips ranging from self-care to remembering to download your pay slips.
Some people also choose to remain private about their job search, which is also completely fine. Not everyone is comfortable telling the internet they lost their job and in some cases, there could be a competitive advantage with new potential employers not knowing you’ve already been laid off. Everyone’s job search is different, this is just how I approached mine.
Really my laid-off job search steps can be summarized as:
- Give help
- Ask for help
- Help yourself
This journey helped me identify the companies & people I wanted to potentially work with not just immediately but also in the future. It helped me identify potential partners & collaborators on projects for whatever role I did end up choosing. It helped me narrow down the companies to where people (especially ones that look like me) were happy, where people had good bosses, where people felt excited, and where people saw the value in my skillsets & expertise. I felt like I was evaluating the companies just as much as they were evaluating me and I used the opportunity to catch red flags (like multiple rounds of interviews/meetings and never speaking to a person of color…) and also managed to make some new friends along the way.
Overall, I want to give an enormous thank you to all of the people that reached out to offer help, support, and straight-up jobs! I told a friend I was literally flabbergasted by the outpouring of love.
It’s turbulent times out there right now, so even if you feel secure now, that’s not always guaranteed. You have to set yourself up to be able to help yourself (and ideally others!). It’s incredibly important to build genuine relationships and keep your support systems strong because you never know where your next opportunity will come from, who will help you and who you can help along the way.