Let’s talk about layoffs

The layoff news is bleak. Last week, 3.3 million people filled for unemployment, as COVID-19 spread and states issues stay-at-home orders. We are in a period of mass layoffs. Seeing those company layoff numbers are brutal but this chart from CNBC is what really put it into perspective:

As someone who graduated into the 2008 recession, that chart blew me away. I didn’t get laid off in 2008 but it was nearly impossible to find a good job in those years. I ended up taking loads of random jobs, mostly temporary, to get me through and pay my bills. Family and friends were laid off then too.

Seeing a chart like that just hurt my brain. Most of us know what it felt like to job search or work in crappy jobs during the 2008-2010 period. I’ve been talking with friends and we’re wondering if it’s going to feel like that again. Some say it’s temporary. Others can’t say we can be sure at all because global pandemic!

On top of that, I was laid off two weeks ago. I was contracting as a conversation designer for a conversational AI startup. So I’m joining the ranks of job seekers looking for work. It’s an odd position to be in – a career expert with a new book who has recently been laid off. It’s an identify shift for sure.

Book plug!

So I’m doing something a bit different for the time being. I’m interrupting interviews with career changers on my podcast to talk about layoffs. Instead of interviewing people about their career changes, I’m putting together a series to help job seekers navigate layoffs. Ironically, the last episode I did before our

We don’t talk much about layoffs as a society. Unless a family member or friend goes through it, layoffs are simply a number on the screen as we scroll through our daily news.

I want to change that. I want to talk about layoffs and more importantly I want to talk about how to get through it. From dealing with the initial shock after a layoff, to making a new budget, to finding a new job in a very competitive market, people need help finding their way after a layoff.

I intend to help them. If you know someone who has been laid off, send them my podcast, 50 conversations.

Here’s the first episode in the new series: An intermission: I just got laid off and everything is weird

Call for podcast guests: How did you make your career change?

tl:dr: I’m curating some specific career change stories. If you fit, fill out the intake form here.

I have a podcast for career changers. It’s been a ton of fun listening to stories about career adventures and how people navigate it all.

I recorded the first 20 episodes back in May. Now I’m looking to do another 20. I’m only doing 50 interviews (hence the name, 50 Conversations), so I’m looking for a few specific stories.

The goal of the podcast is to normalize career changes and show people the many paths you can take to a career change. In the first 20 episodes we covered everything from unexpected career changes, to mid-career changes and how to create your own career path. I heard from guests about what it’s like learn new skills by bootcamp, talked about international careers, and even how to bounce back after a layoff. The stories have been so good and I can’t wait to hear more.

The focus on this career change podcast is to highlight the how. Specifically, I’m interested in how people make these big changes and how they learn the skills needed to make the jump in to a new career. I’m focused on how the world of work is shifting, and how we need to upskill in order to adapt. The how is what makes this career podcast different than others.

This time around I’m specifically looking to dive into the learning paths that people choose as part of their career change. Whether it’s going back to school at 40, taking an online course to learn a new skills, or teaching yourself things from YouTube (all topics I’ve covered in my podcast), I want to hear how people learn new skills for their career.

So I’m looking for 20 new interviews! I’m looking to interview people who:

  • have graduated from a bootcamp and found a job in their target industry
  • taught themselves the skills they need through any combination of YouTube, online courses
  • learned new skills from an online course (like Coursera or Udemy) and changed careers
  • taken an online skill development course (like SkillCrush or Udacity)
  • changed careers after 40 or 50
  • changed careers into a remote job
  • had kids or were out of the workforce for a while to be a caregiver and then changed careers (shout out to the new moms!)
  • changed careers from a traditional path like medicine, law, firefighting, science research, or architecture into something completely different (see the episode: A Multifaceted Career: Scientist, Teacher, and Entrepreneur)
  • are working in a cutting edge field that most people don’t know about (example: I interviewed two guests who worked in conversational design last round – would love to interview someone at the intersection of AI and ethics)
  • have a liberal arts grads who have found multiple ways to apply their skills in their career
  • took an apprenticeship
  • aren’t college graduates who have made career changes

I’m also prioritizing stories from BIPOC and LGBTQ people!

Also please note: I am not interested in interviewing people who have started their own business. I have interviewed many of them for the first round and at this time the focus is not on starting your own business.

Interested? Fill out the guest intake form here and I’ll be in touch! Come same hi to us on Instagram while you’re at it.

The podcast is based on my new book for career changers.

Punch Doubt in the Face: How to Upskill, Change Careers, and Beat the Robots.

We need to hear more success stories after layoffs

Transitions like this are difficult as the impact is felt by teammates, colleagues, and friends we have known and partnered with through ups and downs. For those who will be leaving, we thank you for your many contributions to Expedia Group and wish you safe travels as you find your next opportunity.

Expedia cuts 3,000 jobs, including 500 at new Seattle HQ

As I read the statement above from Expedia I couldn’t help but wonder if layoffs are just the new normal now. While that statement has obviously been through the corporate PR wash machine, it sounds exactly like what flight attendants say as you leave the plane. “Thank you for flying with us today. If you’re continuing on your journey here at JFK, we wish you safe travels.” Maybe that’s intentional; it’s a travel company after all.

The statement is really an acknowledgement that all jobs are temporary anyway and that we shouldn’t don’t get too comfortable.

Layoffs suck. There’s no denying that. The numbers appear as blips in our feed as we scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, which makes it easy to ignore. But layoffs are emotional affairs by those who are hit by it. People who are laid off feel shame, sometimes embarrassment, and of course, anger.

But given how frequent layoffs are occurring, and how company layoffs are now applauded as part of a business getting it’s shit in order, we need to change the narrative on layoffs.

There should be no shame in getting laid off. If you’ve been laid off, it’s not always your fault. Its the companies fault for not having their business in line or adapting to the new work realities. It’s their fault for not caring about their employees enough.

Companies continue to talk about employer loyalty without addressing that there isn’t any loyalty to employees. It’s rare to find a company who is loyal to their employees.

The Google alert I have set up for news about layoffs

As workers, we need to be proactive in our new world of work. We need to always keep in the back of our heads that we may be part of a future layoff. And that means thinking about your work in a totally different way.

I’ve got a new podcast episode that talks about the reality of layoffs. In it, my guest covers how to be proactive in your career and expect the unexpected:

How to bounce back after a layoff to come back even stronger

We’re talking about:

  • How she felt after her first layoff and how it differed from her third lay off
  • How she prepared for
  • How she because a Salesforce power house thanks to her proactive approach post-layoff
  • How to answer the question “Why did you leave your last job?” after a layoff

Kelly’s story is part of the success stories after layoff that you rarely hear about. And with layoffs feeling like the new norm, we need a lot more of these.

If you work in higher education you need to push back against facial recognition on campus. Here’s how.

Beyond being abused, there are many ways for this technology to fail. Among the most pressing are misidentifications that can lead to false arrest and accusations. … Mistaken identity is more than an inconvenience and can lead to grave consequences.

Joy Buolamwini, “Coded Bias”: New Film Looks at Fight Against Racial Bias in Facial Recognition & AI Technology

tl;dr: Support students and alumni on March 2, a day of action against facial recognition on campus. 

If facial recognition technology is being used on your campus, would you know about it? If it is being used, do you know how it’s impacting the communities you serve?

It’s easy to check out when you hear about facial recognition technology. The term still conjure up images of Minority Report or more recently, thoughts of China. Facial recognition use in every day life feels kind of far off if you’re not working in AI or security industry spaces.

But I’m asking you to check in. Because facial recognition technology is being deployed rapidly here in the US with little to no oversight into how it’s used or who it impacts. Facial recognition technology is being used in school districts, in churches, in restaurants, in grocery and retail stores, in job interviews, in the workplace, in public housing, on flights and cruises, and by police departments.

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The brutality of data-driven management

“We’re not treated as human beings, we’re not even treated as robots. We’re treated as part of the data stream.”

If you’ve followed the news about Amazon warehouse workers, you know what they’re up against. High rates of injury. No time off for sickness or death of loved ones. Fear of taking bathroom breaks because it may wreck their productivity numbers. Constant tracking and surveillance (and maybe being fired by robots?)

If you’re working in a cozy office, it’s easy to ignore the plight of Amazon warehouse workers and scroll right past their stories in your feed.

So I encourage you to watch this short clip from Frontline, not just so you understand what happens behind the scenes when you click on that purchase button. I want you to see how Amazon is shaping our workplaces.

This focus on data-driven management and efficiency over people won’t be limited to Amazon in the future. Amazon is a leader in everything they do. When they experiment with data-driven management and efficiency and it works, others will follow. From the video:

“Amazon is the cutting edge. Other warehouses are starting to adopt these technologies. Other companies are starting to do what Amazon is doing. Data collection can become the standard for all workers. You’re never good enough. You’re never able to keep up.”

Data-driven management mixed with workplace surveillance creates a brutal work environment. This shouldn’t be what we’re building for the future of work.

I don’t know what the solution is. Listen to these stories. Support unions. Don’t order Prime (or order it less). If you’re in tech, don’t use your talents to work for Amazon.

These workers don’t deserve this. This isn’t the future of work we deserve. We have the power to change it.

Podcast rec: The Quantified Worker and Worker Surveillance with Ifeoma Ajunwa

Just dropping this magnificent podcast episode off here.

Ifeoma Ajunwa, the author of the upcoming book, the Quantified Worker, goes pretty deep on automated hiring systems, and how humans encode bias into AI-powered hiring systems. She shares examples of how hiring platforms powered by AI are problematic and the impact on job seekers:

“A lot of hiring systems make use of machine learning algorithms. Algorithms are basically a step by step process for solving any known problem. What you have is a defined set of inputs and you’re hoping to get a defined set of outputs like hire, don’t hire, or in between. When you have machine learning algorithms, it kind of makes it murkier. You have a defined set of inputs, but the algorithm itself is learning. So the algorithm itself is actually creating new algorithms, which you are not defining. The algorithm is learning to how you react from the choices it gives you. It creates new algorithms from that. It can become murky in terms of discerning what attributes the algorithm is defining as important because it’s constantly changing.”

Plus, she covers how employers spy on their workers. This is a must listen for anyone curious about AI in the workplace.

Follow her @iajunwa.


LinkedIn can write your profile summary now

I spend a lot of time writing and speaking about how new technology reshapes job functions and industries. Specifically, I focus on automation tools, how they alter traditional roles, and how employees can adapt. So I’m always on the look out for new features and tools that automate something a human normally does.

This week, I noticed that LinkedIn offers a new feature: LinkedIn will write your summary for you.

My wife was on LinkedIn the other day, a place she rarely visits. She works in healthcare, isn’t job searching, and has zero reason to update her profile. As such, her profile is a barren place. But she checked in and saw this in place of her empty summary:

When she clicked to expand, she saw this:

Her first reaction was surprise followed by laughter. Though she doesn’t like writing a summary, she told me she’d never write something like that. It’s not her style.

The summary is slightly inaccurate and reads like an outdated objective statement from a resume in the 90’s. It sounds like a corporate website devoid of personality.

But that’s probably the point. A lot of professionally written LinkedIn profiles read like corporate websites. I used to work for an outplacement company that has an entire team dedicated to writing resumes (those resumes which always included an outdated objective statement, much to my disappointment (side note: objective statements are a polarizing topic in resume writing circles. I land firmly on the side of hating them with a passion)). No matter how the resume was written before the review process, they all sounded like the statement above after the resume team worked on it. Standardization is easier than personalization.

Corporate speak written by humans is very popular on LinkedIn and within the resume/LinkedIn writing community. Since this feature was likely trained on data from LinkedIn profiles, it’s not surprising to see this type of summary.

That’s not a bad thing either. Style aside, this feature is actually really helpful. If you can’t afford a professional LinkedIn writer to redo your profile, you’re in a rush, or you’re just not one for words, LinkedIn’s automated summary will most definitely do the trick for you. At the very least, it’ll get you started on writing a summary.

Writing LinkedIn summaries is hard. Writing them with flair and personality is harder. It takes practice and skill for a human to do it well. It’s impressive to see this coming from a machine yet still a good reminder machines still generally suck at creative flair and personality.

I’ve got a sweet spot for automation tools that are creeping into my former industry: career coaching. In my talks, I tell a story about how a machine came for my job when I was a global career coach at Yale School of Management. I use it to show audiences how automation tools aren’t limited to warehouses and accountants, and that we all need to adapt, even career coaches.

Career coaches do many things. They give direction. They review resumes, write cover letters and LinkedIn profiles. They listen to your stories and give you feedback. Career coaching at its heart is a people profession. It’s about relationships and communication.

But that doesn’t mean it’s immune to new technology. I wrote before about how machine learning and artificial intelligence are changing career coaching. From resumes built by AI, to resumes reviewed by machine learning, to chatbots that coach you, to an automated summary for LinkedIn, automation tools that do the work that career coaches do are growing.

They might not be that great right now. But these machines will learn how to get better. They’ve got plenty of humans to teach them.

Should your boss have access to sensitive data about you?

Think about the the worst boss you’ve ever had.

Think of the most toxic work environment you’ve ever worked in.

Now imagine those people having access to:

  • Your work productivity levels
  • When you leave the work building, return to the work building.
  • Your sleep habits.
  • Your health habits.

How might those people use your data at your place of work? Would access to more data about your habits make things better for you or worse?

These are the questions we need to be asking as workplace surveillance tools being to creep into our workplaces.

The Wall Street Journal has a new, and rather uncritical, look at the surveillance technology that companies are using to monitor and assess employee behavior. And it’s creepy af.

The Humble Office ID Badge is About to Be Unrecognizable

Give it a read.

And if you’re tempted to say but I have nothing to hide please read these three articles:

Why ‘Anonymized Data’ Isn’t So Anonymous

8 Things You Need to Know about Surveillance

AI is going to make your asshole manager even worse

Thinking about a career change in 2020? Pick one of these conversations to fire you up

“It’s insane to think that we should know what we want to do forever or that it’s somehow a better life or we’re a more successful person if we’ve done one thing. I mean, it’s really just outdated. It doesn’t make any sense. You know that’s not true.” – Alexandra, episode 5 of the 50 Conversations podcast for career changers

In my podcast for career changers, there’s a reoccurring theme when it comes to our careers: lifetime careers no longer exist. And while we all kind of know that, it’s so damn refreshing to hear people talk about it openly. It’s even better to hear how people have adapted to this new world of multiple career changes.

I’ve been slowly releasing episodes from my podcast for career changers over the past four months. The goal of the podcast is to both normalize career changes and show the many ways people make a career change.

In the podcast, I ask guests who have changed careers exactly how they did it. It’s a casual conversation, usually under 20 minutes, and perfect for a commute. We chat about the ups and downs of career changes, the many ways to learn new skills, the process of upskilling, and always end with outstanding advice for career changes.

podcast for career changers

My podcast for career changers is like having a career coach in your pocket; you’re sure to find something in these episodes that resonates with you. It’s better than taking a career assessment any day.

So I’m sharing a round up of episodes that shows you the many ways to change careers. Whether you’re the person who needs a career change but don’t know what to do or someone who just needs career change help these are the podcast episodes for you.

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Upskilling higher education: University staff need professional development too

I left my last job in higher education because I saw no professional path forward. When I looked at my options for professional development I saw a future with no chance to upgrade my skills.

Despite loving my job, the students, and my talented colleagues, I left my job in pursuit of new challenges.

I hear from many talented people in higher education who are curious about leaving. They feel torn. They love the work but worry about their professional futures. They don’t see a path forward. They have ambivalent managers. They also don’t know how to leave.

I hear this from others outside the higher ed too. These are common complaints in my generation:

My job doesn’t offer any opportunity to learn anything new.

My job doesn’t challenge me.

My manager has no idea how to help me.

The data shows that higher education staff want to upskill

While I’ve been collecting anecdotes from higher education staff, the researchers at Academic Impressions have been collecting quantitative data. In the report, Beating Turnover in Higher Ed,Academic Impressions surveyed 2,577 higher education professionals.

Among their top findings: people in higher education leave because they’re not provided with professional development opportunities.

The numbers are rather shocking, even for someone who is used to hearing from people asking how to leave higher education:

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