5 Tips for Baby Boomers Facing Tech Layoffs

For years, older tech pros have complained of ageism in the tech industry. Age discrimination lawsuits against IBM and other firms have only aggravated the suspicion that, if you’re over 50 (or even 40), you’re going to have trouble finding or keeping a job—no matter what your skills.

In fact, this viewpoint is relatively widespread. Some 29 percent of the 3,993 respondents to Dice’s 2018 diversity survey reported either witnessing or experiencing discrimination based on age, outpacing those reporting discrimination due to gender (21 percent), political affiliation (11 percent), and sexual orientation (6 percent).

Whether or not companies are actually discriminating against older workers, the fact remains that Baby Boomers, like other tech pros, may face layoffs at some point in their later careers—a particularly perilous time, when expenses are often high and retirement isn’t quite close enough. Adjusting to a layoff, especially when it seems that only tech pros under 30 have a viable chance of landing a new job, can prove daunting.

Here are some tips for recovery:

Keep Your External Network Updated…

If you’ve been working at the same company for ten, twenty, or even thirty years, with no intention of jumping to a new gig, it’s easy to let your personal network wither a bit. For older workers, the danger is twofold: Even as you neglect your network, it’s dwindling as people retire, shift to different industries, or die.

With that in mind, it’s important to strengthen your networks. Maintain your valued contacts with regular “check in” emails and phone calls; if they’re local, offer to take them out for coffee every so often. Although conferences can prove stressful and annoying, they’re worth attending in order to further grow your web of connections.

…and Your Internal One

Companies rarely launch a big round of layoffs without warning. Signs that job cuts are imminent include declines in corporate revenues, management shakeups, outsourcing announcements, and big budget cuts and/or downsizing. If you’re an older tech worker, you’ve likely been through all this before; you’re also probably plugged into your company’s rumor mill.

At such moments, it’s important to have a strong internal network. Not only can this spare you from layoffs; if you do end up cut, your manager may offer you a better package than you might have otherwise received.

Although it’s easy to tuck inside your own silo and focus on your work, make an effort to spend some face-time with employees from other divisions. Offer to mentor, or just share your knowledge about a particular project or problem. Also, make a point of spending at least some face-time with your supervisor, sharing news of your accomplishments and current projects.

Yes, these kinds of moves can often seem like a waste of time—until it’s your name on a list of potential cuts. The manager who’s aware of your vital work is more likely to spare you when the axe threatens to fall.

Leave with Everything You Can

The day you’re laid off is emotionally brutal; it’s easy to walk out the door without some things that will prove vital to your future job hunt. Make sure that you don’t leave your company for the last time without your performance reviews, any letters of recommendation, and any documentation that might help with a future job search.

In addition, many companies offer outplacement services of some sort to laid-off workers. Sure, the effectiveness of such services is often debatable—but you have nothing to lose by asking about them, and taking whatever’s offered. Make sure to ask HR the following questions:

  • How long will my health insurance last?
  • Can I consult for the company?
  • What payout can I expect from bonuses and PTO?
  • What about my outstanding expenses?

If you can land freelance or consulting work with your former company, that could provide a good source of transitional income until you figure out your next step.

Take Some Time for Yourself

If you do end up cut, make sure to focus on your inner self. Everyone needs time to deal with the inevitable feelings of anger and disappointment (and fear, frankly) that arise at times like this. If you plunge back into the job hunt immediately, you risk making emotion-driven decisions that may not pan out well.

Also, discretion is your best friend in the post-layoff environment. Don’t badmouth your former company, or vent too much negativity to friends, contacts, and former colleagues; it may make people uncomfortable to be around you, which could make it more difficult to activate your personal network for a fresh job hunt.

Map Your Skills

If you’re a casualty of layoffs, and you want (or need) to land another full-time gig, sit down and make a list of your skills. You might not want to work the same job—or that job might be fading away due to changes in the industry—but you can certainly apply your skills to something entirely new. Having a list will make it much easier to scan for new jobs that closely match your skills.

9 Responses to “5 Tips for Baby Boomers Facing Tech Layoffs”

  1. Iowa born

    The article is well intentioned and I commend the author in bringing light on the 600 pound gorilla in the room. My comments read a little harsh but maybe some personnel folks will listen. Personally, I am 2 years from the governments official retirement age but I have no thought of retirement until age 70. However, with this prejudiced job market there seems little choice. Living in the St. Louis area I know the companies and staffing firms that will not hire people with more career behind them then in front of them. Having worked as an IT consultant for the past 8 years I am surprised when recruiters are surprised at my nonchalant attitude toward those companies. “Candidates that more closely align to our needs” should be a first clue to your opinion about a company focused elsewhere then with productive, experienced workers. I have 40+ years in project and program management experience but get that “Candidates” line back when I apply for entry level or intern positions. Truthfully, they are afraid I will leave while I am scared for people who would want to stay. Also truthful is the statement when I say employers don’t want to hire people more experienced than they are. Hiring managers who are insecure in their positions are only one hurdle in that regard. Before I got my PMP I was told, to my face no less, “you cant possibly know what you are doing as you don’t have a PMP” but I started in IT before some of these hiring experts were born. My successful experience across 13 industries bears record of just the opposite. It would seem experience doesn’t matter and age does matter. My opinion but what do I know, I am over 60.

  2. Hello,

    I just happen to see this article while updating my resume on DICE…I am in the same exact situation. I was caught in 2 mergers and lost my job both times…I have started up a small business to try to get IT projects and focusing my skills on Cloud technology. I thought it was just me but now I see that it is my age…
    I think my biggest concern here is why is this normal…

  3. happeninginaustintoo

    I appreciate the author’s candor about ageism or age discrimination and I have also felt this first hand. I have been involved in 8 mergers in my 32 yrs. in technology. The last about a year ago which was hostile and the company came in and laid off several of us who were over 40 in one swoop. I do know 15 languages, have been a everything in the food chain from a hardcore developer to a CTO and have worked at Fortune 50s all the way down to startups in 7 business sectors as well as having owned 3 businesses myself. I have been interviewing since June and constantly make it to the on-site interview with either the CEO or the CTO but I get a pass and the consistent perspective seems to be I have more experience than the people who are interviewing my and I feel that intimidates them. Maybe I should wire up with the people on this thread because together we could probably form a heck of an LLC. My biggest concern is why can’t people hire the most qualified candidate? Just doesn’t make sense no matter what age, color, race, gender, etc., you are.

  4. Feeling the heat of ageism

    Have been experiencing the same “Candidates that more closely align to our needs” response for more than a year. Sometimes it seems that the value earned via experience and nimbleness over numerous industries is grossly underestimated by the less experienced narrowly focused hiring managers of today. Why do they fear hiring a few gray-hairs who might actually contribute more than their younger candidates since little or no training would be required? Today’s more youthful hires exhibit remarkably lower loyalty quotients and treat job mobility as a right, leading to the need to hire for the same position over and over again.

    • - NTheSameBoat

      Wow, how many times have I gotten that same line…“Candidates that more closely align to our needs”. (In other words, “you’re too old”). It feels better to know I’m not alone.
      After over 30 years of IT and Telecom expertise, and an MBA, suddenly some kid right out of undergrad is more qualified than me! Age 55 is too young to retire and too old for IT.
      After a year and a half of trying to do what I’ve always done, I decided to find a profession where my age doesn’t matter. I’m currently working temp jobs and working on getting Teaching certification.

      • I actually entered the IT world at the ripe old age of 45 in 1995 when Visual Basic and Delphi were the hot technology. I managed to get a job with a big insurance Co in 1997. However, I realised, that once the all things MS boom was over that the industry would rapidly revert to kids only. So no overseas travel, no new house. I paid of this one and saved for an early retirement knowing it would inevitably happen.

  5. Confidential

    1 .Why companies dont hired the MOST qualified candidate today. My comments and to why this happening….2. Sometimes it seems that the value earned via experience and nimbleness over numerous industries …..I’m going to comment on these two statements, but first where is my situations.
    Ever since the recession of 2009, I have seen a downsizing of job opportunities in the IT industry. I have been in the sales and marketing of IT since the early 1990s. I was using technology well BEFORE it was MS DOS….or for that matter used in general by the general public…..28 years. I have done it all from consulting services to product shipping….everything from CRM/ERP, infrastructure, security, to PCI software for POS systems. My primary background has been business development and sales of IT. Because of that very recession, and thus the lack of real opportunity to evolve for te next three years, I had to experience a DIVORCE forced on me by my Ex, for economic reasons…..I know act as single Father of two twin girls age 12…as of today five years later, I have had to STRUGGLE to live in 950 sq ft apartment for my TWO daughters, have been LET GO OUT OF NO FAULT OF OWN THROUGH FOUR COMPANIES (All layoffs, severance) good references….SO my resumes LOOKS like SWISS CHEESE…..I cannot get interviews…even for $15.00 hour jobs that can be permanent…I’m PENALIZED….FOR the WRONG REASONS… I have had to many times withdrawal from ROTH IRA to pay my minimum bills…I’m going to do that again this next month all because I still have not LANDED a job to support my chidlren…and my Ex has had the SAME problem. I’m in state where we supposed to have GREAT employment right now, BUT for WHO and HOW much…lots of $12.00 and BELOW but anything $17.00 an hour above…good luck OR NO we don’t want OLDER WORKERS…excuse me, but I have CHILDREN to support…I’m looking ofr LONG TERM employment, NOT A SIDE gig.

    The REAL PROBLEM WE HAVE today is THIS….the IT industry has decided the “human being” is NOW a machine and NOT PERFECT and therefore EVERY RESUME…HAS TO BE PERFECT….HOW STUPID….the statement.“Candidates that more closely align to our needs” …illustrates EXACTLY what I’m talking about. We have THROWN OUT the responsibility that companies used to have of doing pre screen communication or explain whythedidn’t choose the candidate. Recruiters USED to do that…now they DONT even do that…they have GOTTEN LAZY…. And that fall in line with the SECOND MAJOR reason….younger generation CANNOT accept the fact someone maybe MORE qualified than the BOSS or THEM. My answer…SO WHAT!!!!….if they are QUALIFIED…it doesn’t matter…hire them!!!!…us PEOPLE that are over 50 KNOW THAT….if anything you would WANT that person because they have GREAT VALUE to the company. They are not living in the past, they have PEOPLE SKILLS and GREAT connections.