COVID-19 Diaries: Facing a Layoff in LA
Davy Vikner is a friend of mine. Until recently, he worked in Business Operations at Bird, which held massive layoffs due to COVID-19. Before that, he worked in consulting at Capgemini Invent. This is his first experience with unemployment, and he was kind enough to openly share his experience as one of over 17 million people who have reported unemployment in the last three weeks.
I truly hope that Davy's experience gracefully handling this tough situation can help shed some light for those facing layoffs related to COVID-19 or generally motivated to prepare for job instability. He was fortunate to build strong financial habits including saving during the early years of his career. We'll also share some helpful resources below, after the interview too.
Interview with Davy Vikner, formerly at Bird
Davy, thanks again for your time during this hectic period.
Could you talk about how you view your recent layoff? Did you see it coming at all? Since this was a massive layoff, how are your other former coworkers handling it?
It was a mix of being expected and being a surprise. I figured something was going to happen given how hard COVID-19 hit the economy, and especially Bird as a company. But I definitely didn't expect it to take place on the scale it did. A lot of really good people lost their jobs, so it was definitely something difficult to fully comprehend in the moment. Most coworkers are using this as an opportunity to re-evaluate where they are and what they want to do. Mass layoffs are never fun to deal with, but the Bird team was extremely driven and talented, so in the end things will settle and people will end up killing it in new roles.
Of course, you couldn't have predicted this happening to your company. But was there anything financially you were glad you did in hindsight? Do you feel like you have enough savings to weather this period?
Definitely setting up an emergency savings high-interest account. Having that money set aside as a security blanket definitely makes my situation a little better. The savings I've built up will definitely give me a few months of coverage assuming the job market stays as volatile as it is.
What are your next steps related to unemployment benefits, healthcare or the job search? Do you have a time frame or goals for this period or are you easing into it?
Luckily, Bird is providing at least a month of healthcare, and is working to cover the costs of two additional months of coverage through COBRA. I've gotten my unemployment application filled-out online. But given the volume of people applying for benefits it's a little difficult to get things into the system. Since I recently moved to LA and worked in a different state in the past 18 months, I technically can't apply online and need to apply over the phone or by fax. But the phone lines are completely jammed and I don't have a fax machine. My goal is to get my application in (somehow) early this week to at least kick off the process.
How have you changed your finances because of this layoff?
I'm currently doing my best to cut costs where I can (e.g. cooking more, reconsidering a few lesser-used subscriptions, avoiding unnecessary shopping, etc.). I don't have many mid-term investments. All of mine are retirement accounts, so I'm doing my best to maintain those scheduled deposits but if cash becomes a problem I'll probably pause them. I'm lucky enough that I have savings to fall back on. Given that quarantine has shut down a lot of places where it's easy to splurge, I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot.
Lastly, any advice you'd want to share on job security or the job search?
On job security:
Given how uncertain times are, nothing can really be guaranteed. Unless you're the one making headcount decisions, your job is in the hands of someone else. Transparency isn't always going to be there either, as sometimes even your manager can be out of the loop on these decisions.
The only advice I can give (and most won't like this) is to not worry about it. If you're employed right now, that is better than some. As of this week, we had 17 million people file for unemployment over the previous 3-week period. Many more people probably haven't even filed yet like myself. Keep doing your job and keep lines of communication open between your managers. But worrying too much about something that is completely out of your hands is just going to stress you out more; given the current climate, the less things you can stress about, the better.
On job search:
Do everything you can and want to find your next opportunity. Reach out to friends or old coworkers for referrals; if you're pivoting to a new industry, try to meet people sincerely and learn about their story instead of just asking for a job. Consider another degree if you're interested in higher education. Schools are delaying or even waving standardized testing requirements due to COVID-19. You'll only go as far as you take yourself if you're looking for a new job, so fire up LinkedIn, schedule some phone calls, tighten up that resume, and dive in whenever you can.
And one final piece of advice, both during this crisis and more broadly: don't burn any bridges. It's tempting to go off on your old firm if you lose your job. That bitterness of being laid off is tough to swallow. But you'd be surprised at how willing people are to help you out. Since I was laid off about a week and a half ago, around 20 people have reached out to me offering help in one way or another. They range from college friends to old coworkers to ex-directors. Do your best to leave the best possible impression you can on people during your career, and I promise you that during struggles, they'll be there to help.
An Afterward by Young Money Plans
I am impressed with how Davy is handling unemployment. He's been active on LinkedIn in supporting other colleagues and also making tangible steps to move forward.
Below, I share a few resources I personally found in scouring the internet, but ultimately recommend similar steps to Davy's:
- Check your finances.
- Check on your health and personal / professional relationships.
- Apply for unemployment.
Helpful Resources for Unemployed or Financially Strained:
- Employment requirements by state details
- Employment Process breakdown (beginner friendly!) by Ellevest
- Hiring / Firing Companies Lists (WSJ and more granular Candor) - check for your broader industry and competitors if you're uncertain about layoffs.
- Renter's options (including breaking leases) by NY Times
Anecdotal Stories I've Appreciated:
- The Cut: "My Experience Applying for Unemployment in New York"
- SaveSpendSplurge's experience with layoffs as a freelancer
If you're less impacted and want to contribute, here's what you can do:
- Check your finances first. I cannot emphasize this enough. Please responsibly make sure you have 6+ months of emergency funding before you give money. I've seen careers across all sectors (even healthcare) at risk given the uncertainty of COVID-19 spread. There are plenty of ways to help!
- Donate. Last week, the news was weighing on me. Rather than dwell too much on those struggling the most, I decided to donate to the NYC Food Bank and NYC Healthcare Heroes fund by Robinhood.
- Check in with friends, family and neighbors. "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family." The deepest impact you can have is often personal - make amends for past fights, call your isolated friends and be thoughtful. I love sending Venmo gifts for specific uses and shipping groceries or dinner.
A Personal Note:
What a wild few weeks. I began these thoughts in early March, but held off as I handled my personal life. I've personally been working long, long days recently to understand COVID-19's impact across the companies I work with in my day job.
Beyond anything else, I've been carrying a sense of heaviness from seeing friends struggle and following the news closely. I am not exactly care-free or fully comfortable in my own situation but consider myself blessed on all the basic fronts. I started this blog truly to help others prepare for these exact times (I don't monetize), so reach out if there's anything I can do for you.