Quality Bits

Navigating Through Layoffs and Change with April Johnson

October 03, 2023 Lina Zubyte Season 2 Episode 3
Quality Bits
Navigating Through Layoffs and Change with April Johnson
Show Notes Transcript

Laid off? Or know someone who was? How do you navigate it or help someone navigate it?

In this episode of Quality Bits, Lina talks to April Johnson, a change manager who recently experienced a layoff. April shares her experience and offers advice for others going through a similar situation. You'll learn about the importance of reaching out to your network, the power of community, taking care of yourself, and being open to new opportunities.

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If you liked this episode, you may as well enjoy this past episode of Quality Bits:
Finding Your WHY with Dr. Rochelle Carr

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Lina Zubyte (00:07):
Hi everyone. Welcome to Quality Bits, a podcast about building high quality products and teams. I'm your host, Lina Zubyte. April Johnson is a change manager who went through quite a change recently, which is a layoff. So in this episode we're talking about the feelings you may face if you have a layoff, what to do then. April decided to help out other people who are navigating through a layoff. So let's see what kind of tips and stories she has to share with us. Enjoy this conversation.

Hi, April, welcome to Quality Bits.

April Johnson (01:03):
Hi, Lina. It's great to be here.

Lina Zubyte (01:05):
I'm really looking forward to our conversation. So before we begin, could you shortly introduce yourself?

April Johnson (01:12):
Sure. I'm April Johnson. If you can't tell it from my voice, I'm American. I live in the mid-Atlantic, the middle of the eastern coast, and what I do on a daily basis is I'm basically a change in program manager, and for me that means I've done things like leading agile delivery transformation, leading agile teams, building teams, doing things like integrating companies, building new business capabilities, that kind of stuff. So really all of the work that I have done for the last several years is about helping people decide what they want to do differently and how they want to adapt to that, whether it's at a team level or whole company level.

Lina Zubyte (01:51):
Nice. So there's one change that you have gone through recently, right? Could you tell a little bit about that?

April Johnson (01:58):
So I joined the folks in the tech layoff round of 2022/2023, earlier this month, and I'm still smiling. And that was as a part of a restructuring of the company I last worked at - ThoughtWorks. It has been a roller coaster of all human emotion as I think anyone else who's been through a layoff has probably experienced. And the most interesting thing for me of course, is that because my brain thinks change, I imagine the same thing happens with you, right? Your brain thinks quality. My brain thinks change. So as soon as, my first response is, okay, what change do I want to make here and how am I going to adapt to this change I did not decide on for myself originally. So that's very much where my thoughts have been for the last several weeks, and one of the first things I did is reached out to my whole network, let them know that I'd been laid off. People were so kind to me and I wanted to give something back to everyone. So one of the things I've been doing is coaching other folks who've been laid off through their own career transitions and what's going on with them. So just really dived deep into the change of moving from one job to the next over the last few weeks, both for myself and understanding the vibe around me.

Lina Zubyte (03:21):
So you do work with change, but when this happened to you, as you said, it was really sudden you do not anticipate that you're going to be laid off the other day, was it very sudden to you? Was it like the layoffs that they explained sometimes that you just join work and then in two hours you don't have access to Slack and all the systems? Was it extremely from this point on you're laid off and were you prepared for that? I know you work with change, but were you?

April Johnson (03:51):
So I want to tell you one thing. Part of why I'm good at working with change is that I hate change. I hate anything that I'm not in control of. I'm a complete control freak, and so the reason that I'm good at change is that I can very easily empathize with other users of whatever change we're creating. I'm like, yeah, I don't like it either. Let's try to figure out something together that we can make work. So I guess that mindset helped a little bit. I'll say the layoff the day of in the scheme of possible layoff experiences was certainly not the worst of anyone I've heard, right? Got an email, this was after an earnings call, so I'd already kind heard how things were on the call, then I got an email, then I got another email invite that was like, Hey, just FYI, your position is one of the positions impacted.

And it was not super miserably abrupt and it wasn't pleasant, obviously. No one enjoys getting on a call with somebody and getting laid off. I think we all cried. There are a lot of feelings, so I had a little bit of time to know that it was happening that day and you can kind of see what's going on in the environment around you. So it wasn't a complete shock, but it was definitely not, I wasn't expecting me that day. All of those kinds of things. I think most of us weren't expecting right then for stuff to happen. And I will say my first feelings were... I wrote down a whole list of all the feelings that I felt early on like, oh my God, oh my God. Just excitement, relief, panic, curiosity about what's next, dread of having to go into the market. Connected: as I started realizing all of the other people who were impacted and hooking up with them and virtually hugging each other, my team members and the other people I knew who were laid off are all over the world. So it was a very 24 hour group virtual hug kind of experience for me, and it was very emotionally intense. And then at the end of a day or so, I had time to reflect and think, okay, well, I don't like this change, but also how do I take some control over it for myself? How do I decide how I want to adapt and how do I decide what to do next? How do I want to be in this experience?

Lina Zubyte (06:20):
I really like that you also decided to help out the community and talk to people and help them navigate the layoffs because I haven't faced one, but I know people who have and it's extremely scary time, and as you say, change is unpredictable. So when you have these calls with people, what are the common themes that you see in them usually? What are people asking about? What are they facing and what do you advise them?

April Johnson (06:50):
There's sort of two different groups of people that I'm talking to, folks who've been laid off and in the job market for a while, and folks who were laid off even at different companies, the week I was laid off. It was a popular layoff week apparently, because I've talked to a number of people from other companies who are basically on the same schedule as me. And I will say folks who were laid off a bit earlier, their experience is much more, some of them have never been in a job market that's this slow. And so what they're looking for is proof that they're doing the right thing, that a positive outcome is coming eventually, advice about the best things to do and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. It's pretty frustrating to be in a slow job market for a while and a number of people out there have been, and that doesn't mean that there aren't people who are surfing that really nicely and super happy, by the way.

They didn't take me up on my offer of coaching because feeling pretty good themselves. And then there's the folks who are also reacting to surprise change the same way that I am who are trying to think about what they do next. And maybe because so many of them are ex-ThoughtWorkers, one of the things that I think is really common is people have multiple skill sets. They have multiple different ways their careers could go and a lot of folks want permission to do something different actually to take their secondary skillset that they haven't been working on for that long and explore that as a new job, explore that as a consultant or a self-employed approach to things or building a new product or things like that. It turns out when you start talking and just somebody asks you a few questions, most of us have this incredible well of creativity that we could draw on.

So a lot of what I do when I coach people is help them find that for themselves and then I don't know where they're going to end up, but now they've got multiple directions they can work on and they get excited about going back and learning something or doing something that they haven't done before. Really, really taking the fact that change has been forced upon them and deciding to amplify that, make it even bigger and make a bigger change in their life and the way that they balance things. Some people are like, oh, I could work different hours. I could work the hours I want to work. How would I make that work going forward? Other people, like I said, are thinking, oh, I don't need to report to anybody else anymore. I could do my own thing. And some folks are just doing some other kind of career pivot.

I know a number of people who are realizing they'd rather be data scientists or technology leaders. They'd really like to get back to being hands-on, which they haven't done for years because IT careers tend to sort of shoosh you into more of a team leadership, team management experience in a lot of companies, and they miss being technical and they're looking around at all the technical trends going on and they want to go do that. It's really inspirational, honestly, to talk to people at the start, especially, of their forced change journey, I guess because you just ask a couple of questions and this huge amount of creativity springs forward.

Lina Zubyte (10:11):
What questions would you ask? What are some of the questions we all could consider?

April Johnson (10:16):
So one of the first things I ask people is are they safe right now? And I mean that in the sense of depending on the circumstances you were in, you may need to be thinking about employment faster. You could be in an immigration situation that you need to worry about and start managing really quickly, or you could be fine, you could have months of ramp. But each of us is in a really different situation, and it's not just financial, it's legal and otherwise, and just interpersonal and I talked to at least one person who's sharing an apartment with other people and their entire apartment got laid off. So their whole household is in this situation, people who live alone or in a different circumstance than people who might have a partner or a family they can live with. So that's why I always start with folks just like, where are you?

How are you doing? And then how are you feeling, first? I think it's important to check in with yourself and how much pressure you're feeling and how much of that pressure is real before you start trying to launch into your job search or how you're going to market yourself or even what you want to do. So that's Point 1 is: are you safe? Are you going to be okay? And for some people, more people than not early on we're like, actually, I'm going to be okay. And then we take a deep breath and the next question I tend to ask them is, how do you want this to go? How do you want this search to go? What are you hoping for? What do you want it to feel like? Something like that, which helps people tap into are they excited about getting out into their network?

Are they more extroverted and their way forward is connecting with people? Or are they curious and exploratory? And their way forward is going to be learning a new skill or finding communities that are focused on the skills that they have and meeting up with people that way. And every now and then, someone will just surprise me with something out of left field where they're like, you know what? Actually it turns out I kind of hated my job, so I want a completely different job. And just taking that moment to take a deep breath, realize that you're safe for now, and check in on what you want. I think literally at least one person has told me they hated their job and that was a surprise to them. So anybody who's listening to this and has recently been laid off, if you haven't taken a moment and just sat calmly with yourself and then said, alright, how am I feeling and how do I want to go forward? Just feeling wise, I really recommend that as a place to start and a place to reset. If you've been, even folks who've been out in the market for a little while who never took the time to do that, I think get some benefit of reflecting on how they want to keep going.

Lina Zubyte (13:14):
I think we go on autopilot in a sense. We go to a job every day and then if suddenly something happens, it's a cold shower for us to reflect, but maybe it's a good one. So we're forced to reflect, we're forced to ask ourselves how we feel. And the feelings in general is such a topic that for me, it took years to reflect my own feelings. And as you say, sometimes it's very much mixed feelings. It's not only that you're devastated and extremely sad to lose the job, it actually could be that you're relieved, you made them feel guilty, that you're relieved, but you still may need the job, you may be scared. So there's such a mix and lots of dimensions of those emotions. And to be kind to ourselves and to say, okay, what am I feeling now? It's valid even though it feels contradictory. That can be quite a task, I guess.

April Johnson (14:15):
Yeah, absolutely. And I will add to that. I feel like I'm handling this period reasonably well, but I am still on an emotional rollercoaster. And one of the things that I think is really helping me recognize that that's kind of okay is that I'm not alone. So as people actually get ready to start their job search, one of my early recommendations is find a team, whether that's a formal structured team or just people who are in a similar situation to you who you can talk to and bounce ideas and experiences off of. Oh my God, it's so valuable. I have a friend, Elena, who invited me to join her job search work team on day two of both of our layoffs. We've been having daily standups on Slack since then. We chat once a week, we review each other's resumes, we review each other's marketing plans and approaches, and we have enough in common that we mostly understand each other, but we're looking for pretty different jobs at the end of the day.

And it works. It works really well. I cannot recommend it enough to people, especially Agileists, right? So if we've been getting out of bed in the morning and doing our morning routine and then being very gently held accountable by our team members for let's say, in my case 10 years or more, really being able to still maintain some of that connection, that mutual accountability and that support and shared work even in a very, very different kind of project is really nice. And it creates a continuity as well as a sense of support. So it's keeping me organized as well as keeping me feeling less alone and more connected.

Lina Zubyte (16:10):
That's such a great tip. Where would you find this community though? Because in some cases you may have colleagues who also went through it, but what if you don't feel like you have anyone?

April Johnson (16:23):
You almost certainly have someone. In my local community here in the states, there are groups of people who are working on getting reemployed, finding jobs, for instance. So I could go find an in-person group. Elena just approached me on LinkedIn actually. So I mentioned that I'd been laid off and she said, oh my God, so have I. And we just really quickly bonded over that fact. We have never actually worked together, although we've worked at the same company before and she brought in a friend of her sister who had never worked with either of us. We barely knew each other. So if you are part of any kind of network, so like a women in tech network almost certainly has a group of people who are job seekers in it, ask them if anybody wants to be on your team. If you came from a company where a bunch of you got laid off at the same time, that's an obvious source. If you get out in your local area to any kind of meetups and things like that, especially if you're in tech, there are almost certainly going to be other people there who are also looking for jobs.

And in fact, I talked to somebody yesterday who said, well, I go to these meetups and everybody's looking for a job, and what I was really hoping for from the meetups is a job. So that tells me that there's enough areas in the world where there's a significant portion of people who are working on the same project together, that there's almost certainly resources out there for anybody who would benefit from working in a team. And I realize not everybody is a team-oriented kind of person, but I think a lot of agileists are just used to that team accountability, and I certainly am. It's made a big difference.

Lina Zubyte (18:11):
Yeah, work group sounds wonderful. I'm also thinking that maybe this is an example where social media can be beneficial. We may say, Hey, it's terrible, it's toxic, and so on. But we can connect with each other in all kinds of networks, groups, discussions. There likely are some that are related to our skills or skills we would like to learn or grow into. There are mentoring programs, so I know for example, Women Go Tech in Lithuania. That's a program for women who are career changers and they may also get this mentoring from volunteers. And there are sessions so they learn more and they can connect with each other. And very often a mentor may see something in this person and say, Hey, there's a job. And as you said, meetups, I also sometimes think that I'm an introvert, but I'm an extroverted introvert. But when I think about my previous jobs, my last three jobs I got because of a conference or a meetup because I got put somewhere and then by accident I met this person. So a lot of job getting in general is networking, as many things are, as much as I would hate this, right? And I would say, Hey, No, no....

I get it because I'm this and this, but we have to make ourselves be seen. We have to show that what we have sometimes so that people would know where to go because otherwise they just don't know us. It's not that they are not interested in working with us. And one of my friends as well did TikToks on his job search, so he would share his journey. And I thought that's also a nice way to connect with people and say, Hey, I'm on the lookout and this is my system.

April Johnson (20:00):
I bet he helps so many people that way. And then he also let folks in his network know who he was and how he thought about things and made some connections. So what you just brought up by the way, is a brilliant thing. So anybody who is really not sure how to start a job search, which is fair, I hadn't searched for a job in at least 10 years. There are books that people have written about searching for a job and how you look for a job really has not changed significantly in the last 20, 30 years. The tech that you can use and the data you have available to you has increased, which is amazing actually in some ways. So I thought hated LinkedIn, but it is a really wonderful data mine, and I take it back, sorry, LinkedIn. One of the things that we've been using in our job search team is a book called The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Successful Job Search.

It is old, I think it is from at least 20 years ago. LinkedIn wasn't even really a thing when this book was written, but the advice that it offers is quite good. It's basically: figure out first what you want. You don't need unless you're really desperate. And you may be, that's fine, but if you're not, figure out what you're looking for. Have a pitch for the kinds of skills that you have, and then get curious, start asking questions of the people that, by the way, while I'm more extroverted, I really don't like the concept of networking. I feel like it's very transactional. Oh, you have a thing that you can give me. That thing might be information, it might be a job, it might be a connection to another person, but thinking of it as networking, it just feels really kind of gross to me.

Thinking of it as offerings and exchange and curiosity changes my behavior a little bit. I still have to reach out to people, call them, email them, hit them up on LinkedIn. But when I'm thinking from the standpoint of, oh, hey, now I have time to catch up with all these old friends. So I first went to the people in my network who are just really loved working with to find out what they're up to now. And that really jives with this, the unwritten rules book that says, Hey, just ask people for information. Ask to get to know them and find out what they know about the companies and the kinds of work that you're interested in. And that eventually is going to lead to connections where you realize that your skills and somebody else's job go together. So that becomes kind of a mutual networking in a way where somebody needs you and yes, you also need a job probably, or you need work, you need clients, you need whatever.

And I find that a much healthier, more generative, more mutual approach to job seeking in the first place. I have things that other people need, and if I talk to the right combination of people, I will help some of them and eventually will find a place where they need me so much that they will offer me a job. And in the meantime, I get to catch up with all my old friends and remember what I liked about working with different people and in different places. So that a big piece of my advice is however, it helps you think about reconnecting to folks do that. It doesn't have to be about somebody who can find you a job. It can be just someone who knows something that you're interested to know more about.

Lina Zubyte (23:43):
Exactly. I love this differentiation. Think networking for me also always was sitting so badly because I'm bad at it. If it's something that, oh, you have something I want and I'll get it from, no, I'm not hiding it. I'm terrible at it if I have that kind of intention. But I always see this more as curiosity as you said, we meet a person and we're curious about what they're doing, and sometimes there's this beautiful connection that happens between that person and you. And very often actually I'm standing in a different position where I share my thoughts and then I allow people to come to me because I'm not comfortable somehow to go to people myself. So I like to be a speaker rather than an audience member because then I get people come to me. I also had this friend who was a UX designer, and he would say, you wear your why.

The only thing that people see, you're outside if you're not speaking right? And then they can make conclusions about you. So it's important how you look, right, how you dress, because you may find someone who's actually similar mindset person as you. So for me, this is about conferences. I speak at the conference, I share my thoughts, and that somehow invites people to come over who somehow share these thoughts and mindset. So I always like this kind of networking rather than, Ooh, hi, what's your name? This is my business card. And it happened once in a conference. We met speaker's dinner and there was this man who had no conversation with anyone and just started handing out his business card. And everyone was like, oh my God, this is so awkward.

April Johnson (25:26):
It's so awkward. And I think that's an incredibly great way to build your network is just walk out and speak, offer to present something, share an opinion. And you can do that in a lot of different ways. You could do it on social media, you could do it at a meetup, you could do it at a conference. That's a great way to get people to come to you, honestly.

Lina Zubyte (25:50):
Yeah, and it's in general just sharing what you're facing right now, what you're going through. So even if it's a layoff, you can just say, Hey, I'm going through a layoff. Does anyone want to make a job group with me and try to share tips or have conversations? And this is coming from curiosity, not like, oh, I need a job and you get me a job. And this sometimes happens, and this is why it's not successful usually because it's a bit selfish, it's a little bit yucky to even face this. But what happens when the situation does feel urgent, as you said, I may not feel secure or safe. I may think that, okay, I need a job tomorrow because I just lost one and I don't have a plan B because often when we change jobs, we have something lined up, and in the case of a layoff, we don't, how do we handle this in a more sustainable way, not burning ourselves out and not just taking any random job we can find first.

April Johnson (26:53):
So it absolutely is important to start from a real understanding of how urgent things are. And you may hit a point where you're desperate. I know at what point I will feel desperate. It's not for a while. That may not be the case for everybody. It depends on the circumstances that you start with. I will say no matter what is going on for anyone, like you were saying, the guy who just throws business cards at everybody, hoping that someone will offer him a job without really helping people understand who he is and what he offers to the world, that does not work. And I think it comes from a place of panic and anxiety versus possibility. And even when you're really scared, there's still possibility out there. So one of the things that I think everybody should be doing in everyday life, but especially in a stressful time, you've just been laid off, is what's your self-care plan?

What do you need as a person to be whole, balanced? What job does work play in that for you? But also, what do you need to do to take care of yourself? Is it exercise? Is it how you eat? Is it how much sleep you get? Is it your social stuff? Is it having a creative outlet? One of the things I know about myself, and so one of the things I ask people for help with right away is I wither like a sad flower if I don't have collaboration in my life. So one of the first things I did is just look, anybody who wants me to read your conference talk ahead of time or brainstorm ideas or that is something that I need in order to feel like I'm still contributing to the world and my brain is still in use. So one of the things I'm doing is getting out and doing some mentoring and coaching for other people, not just folks laid off, but folks in my local community.

That's me though. That's what I need in order to feel good. Other people are going to need different things. And yes, other people who feel frightened and desperate still need those things. They still need to be well cared for. And then from there, if you're in a financial position where you could take a break and be broke for a while and that sounds nice, take a break and be broke, you can come back. It's also okay to take any job that you're qualified for temporarily. I think. We'll see how the market responds to that later, but I suspect everybody's going to understand that you did six months in kind of an unusual role that feels like a little bit of a backup compared to the rest of your career. All that's fine. And I think we attach so much of our identity and our status to what we do at work that if we are really, really worried about how we're going to pay the rent, it can be hard to admit that actually the best thing to do short term is to take maybe a job with a smaller role scope a job that's easy, but a job that's easy with people you like will give you the energy to keep working on finding that bigger job that you want to do.

And maybe it just takes you a year instead of a few months. So as I talk to people who are a little later in their searches, that's one of the things we talk a lot about is, okay, can they do something where they like getting up and going to work, but it's not very difficult. So they still have some energy at the end of the day to keep up with their search for the bigger impact job that they would like to have. And we'll see how that pans out for folks over time. But a lot of folks are sounding pretty optimistic as they go down that path.

Lina Zubyte (30:38):
It's important, I guess to admit as well to ourselves that hey, I may need to have a pay cut here and do something else, but then have this maybe in the back of our heads that it's for this certain time I have an urgency and I shouldn't just drop all the offers just because I want something extra level. I can still look for that and maybe it won't be very pleasant, but it'll take some time and we need patience.

April Johnson (31:10):
And through all of that, make sure that you're taking care of yourself in whatever ways or most important and sustain you most. And I think in general, tech workers have picked up on self-care as a thing that is important to us. At any point in life, if you haven't yet, a career break is a great time to figure out what it is that sustains you and helps keep you whole and happy as a person, which incidentally also makes you more effective at finding a job and connecting with other people and all the other kinds of things that you need to do at this stage.

Lina Zubyte (31:46):
So talking about self-care and reflecting back on your time that you got laid off. So the first few weeks, is there something looking back that you would be like, I would do this differently and maybe here I rushed a little bit more and I should have taken care of myself better?

April Johnson (32:05):
Lots of people I know took a few days to sort of decompress. I was in a unique circumstance, which is that I had taken a three month sabbatical just a couple of months before I was laid off. So I was energetic, I was ready to solve problems. I wanted to do stuff so badly. So I started doing stuff right away, and I ended up booking up my schedule so tightly that the first couple of weeks I was working a 60 hour work week on finding a job and helping other people find jobs and helping people manage that transition. So I said yes to too many things, and that meant that I was a little bit slower getting started with deeper reflection for myself. Part of that is because I had done that reflection and I had built a bunch of those self-care habits through the course of the sabbatical I had just taken.

So I was really energetic and I had a lot of resources, but even then, even with that energy and that positive outlook, I still would've done the first week exactly the same way, which is basically, oh my God, where is everybody? Let's make sure everybody's okay because that's who I am as a person. And that made me feel good and made me feel connected. But the second week I would've started with more of a deeper reflection and really thinking about what I want to do next instead of spreading that out over multiple weeks. I could have just really sat with that for two days and would've made a ton of progress really fast and would've started out feeling really solid.

Lina Zubyte (33:39):
Well, we live and learn and hopefully listeners also will learn from you and your experience.

April Johnson (33:45):
Yeah, don't work that much on finding a job. It's not a sustainable pace on any project. It's a very short-term effort kind of thing. And so I've just had to adjust my schedule and what I think about, but now I have a work week that I think after just a few weeks I feel pretty good about where I focus on checking in on my team and getting organized on Mondays, Tuesdays through Thursdays, I try to spend a balance of time on connecting with other people, doing things that help the world, putting some kind of useful content out there or coaching somebody else and obviously actually looking for positions and things like that too. And then the end of the week, I tend to give myself sort of a reset and reflection period. And now of course I'm like, this is actually a very nice work structure for a week. I wonder how I can continue that forward, whether I'm doing work for myself or for others in the future. Because having a nice consistent shape to the week is really, I enjoy it a lot. Not everybody does. Some people don't like a routine.

Lina Zubyte (34:58):
It feels like you have sort of a better work routine than most of people without actually having an employer.

April Johnson (35:06):
I mean, I am my own employer right now, right?

Lina Zubyte (35:09):
Yeah, that's true. You're a strict employer to yourself.

April Johnson (35:15):
And that's something that I would say, right? Looking for a job is a challenging job in and of itself. You get to be the CEO, you get to be the CIO, you can choose what tech you're using and how you manage your processes. You can also be the Chief People Officer, so what are the benefits you afford yourself? So you can take that metaphor as far as you like.

Lina Zubyte (35:42):
I guess as you said as well, that sometimes our professions come to our life. So we're doing the habits we learned. So if we worked in these agile ways, it could be that we're looking for a job in very agile ways. Like that friend I mentioned, he had a Trello board as well. So he would move, okay, where am I in the process?

So layoffs are something that most of us heard about right now. We know people who faced it or we faced it ourselves. What about if we haven't faced it, but we would like to help? What could we do then?

April Johnson (36:19):
So I think the number one thing is if people who've been laid off and they haven't reached out to you, reach out to them first and foremost. Just say, Hey, it sucks, and thank them for whatever they added to your life and your work. And then if you have a specific way you can offer to help, like you are a great resume reviewer or you have fun projects you want to connect with people on, or you know a lot of people in your network or your company is hiring, all of those are great ways that you can very specifically offer to help somebody. Lots of the things that I see people offering as advice, by the way, are very like, how do you reach out to somebody who might be grieving and struggling? And actually the advice is really similar to the advice that you would give somebody who's lost a family member or something recently that they say some of the emotions are very similar and the kinds of help that you might offer are very similar. Yeah, this is bad. Do you want to talk about it? Would you like some help? Here's some kinds of help that I could offer. So that's a really great thing.

Lina Zubyte (37:35):
Bring some food.

April Johnson (37:36):
Yeah, bring some food, exactly.

Lina Zubyte (37:41):
Or get someone a coffee and then talk about their future goals as well.

April Johnson (37:48):
Yeah, absolutely. And be open to whatever they're open to, because like anybody grieving or anybody else in a layoff, they may be at some sad low point on the emotional rollercoaster, or they may be at a high, they may be very excited and they're ready and happy to share. So yeah, that's really my advice. You don't have to have a job offer or supportive advice to offer. You could just offer friendship and connection.

Lina Zubyte (38:18):
Or sometimes even maybe reflecting on their skillset and reminding people that they're capable, that what you appreciated about them, right? Absolutely. That's our best appreciation. If we say, when you did this, it's really helped me. And I think that helps people understand where they shine, what they like to do and what they would like to do in the future.

April Johnson (38:41):
And it also just makes you feel good and feel valued. Being laid off can make you feel like you're not valuable. Your impact is not that important. And certainly one of the things that people around me, both people who hadn't had not been laid off at the same time did that was really helpful, is just tell me their memories of great work we've done together.

Lina Zubyte (39:03):
We don't say enough, the appreciation, we just somehow take it for granted. And just even saying that, Hey, I'm sad that you got laid off because I really appreciated working with you. I think what you did, this initiative was awesome. It really helped us. That's a great thing to say in the citation because a person may feel like they were not valued at all.

April Johnson (39:24):
And people receiving those inputs, by the way, put those things in your resume story, some things like that. So that's one of the things that I hear people struggling with is how do they highlight the impact that they've had? Well, the people who give you compliments are telling you the impact that you had. So believe them and use that.

Lina Zubyte (39:48):
I really like that. So to wrap up our conversation and the topics we discuss here, what is the one piece of advice you would give for building high quality products and teams?

April Johnson (40:02):
So I will say this is very parallel to the change that people experience getting laid off. Teams do best when they get to experiment and decide to change together. So one of the best things I have ever seen on a team is permission to change, permission to try different things, permission for those things to work out badly and to change them again. And alongside that, of course, is the old reminder that anytime your team changes, lose a member, gain a member, get new capabilities. It's a great time to reflect, reestablish, and decide how you want to work, how you want to be, and how you want to move forward together.

Lina Zubyte (40:50):
Love it so much. Thank you so much for the conversation, April. Well, change is the only constant in our lives, so hopefully this conversation also reminded us of that. As much as we sometimes struggle with it.

April Johnson (41:04):
That is the thing people like to say. Yeah. Lina, thank you so much for the time. It's been a real pleasure chatting.

Lina Zubyte (41:10):
That's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for listening. If you are navigating a layoff, remember you're not alone. And until the next time, do not forget to continue caring about and building those high quality products and teams. Bye.