Fired during the pandemic with a baby on the way
August 1, 2020 12:53 AM   Subscribe

Hello, I'm a software developer. Up until yesterday, I would have told you that my life was going great - I had a good job and my wife is seven months pregnant with a child that we're both very excited about. Yesterday I was suddenly and unexpectedly fired. I'm not so much looking for job search advice as I am advice about how to manage how freaked out I am about this situation.

We have some savings, and I get 6 months cobra covered by my former employer, which is extremely useful right about now. But I'm having a hard time not feeling like I've profoundly let my family down. I was never a person who derived much of his identity from a job, but I think I may have shifted into a provider mentality with a kid on the way. Now I don't know what to do. I've always found it relatively straightforward to get another developer job when I need one, but with the job market in the toilet and the most recent item on my resume now lasting only eight months, I'm having a really hard time not catastrophizing.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
First, I think your standards of comparison are a bit off and that might be part of why you're feeling so bad about it. We're in the middle of a pandemic and that changes the standards. Yes it might have been a bad sign a year ago to have a short-tenure job that ended abruptly, but that is INCREDIBLY common right now. No company that is interested in hiring is going to care at all about the fact that your job ended early when so many others have. If your employer gave you cobra on the way out, they'd probably be willing to give you a good recommendation, and I doubt anyone will even ask why you got let go. So don't worry about that part at all.

Second, it's totally normal to catastrophise right now, you just had a massive negative change in your life one day ago! It takes time to come to terms and deal with something that dramatic. Luckily you do have some time: because you have 6 months of health care that means you don't need to rush and look for desperate full time employment right away. Now might be a good time to try doing some consulting while you look for your next job. Or maybe take a look at your skills/languages and see if there's something you can focus on improving. This part depends a lot on what your specific niche is as a software developer. In my very specialized software development field, full time employment has been rough but there are plenty of consultant jobs available. I would recommend having at least one "side goal" like that you can make progress on while doing your job search. From my past experience the roughest part of my unemployment was when I felt like I wasn't getting anything done because the job search was going poorly but I wasn't doing anything else.

You're in a rough situation, and it's normal to feel awful about it. I would feel awful too. But there's a very high chance you will be able to work your way out of it, and you will have the opportunity to give it a try. Good luck!
posted by JZig at 1:52 AM on August 1 [8 favorites]

I hope this isn’t too weird, but - my own father was diagnosed with a brain tumor when my mom was about 7 months pregnant with me (a long-anticipated baby) and consequently wasn’t able to be the partner my mom had expected to have. There are many aspects of being “a provider” at that stage - being a loving, present, involved spouse and parent is invaluable, way more than a paycheck in the long run.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:58 AM on August 1 [22 favorites]

My sense right now is that a lot of places are still hiring for developers, unless the software they make is heavily tied into industries like travel or hospitality that are struggling in the pandemic. The company I work for (in the UK) just opened up hiring for senior and mid-level SE roles again after pausing recruitment at the start of the pandemic, as our industry hasn't been anywhere near as badly hit as we expected. It might be weirder or harder than usual to get a job right now, but based on LinkedIn and the number of roles coming through in my own specialism, my instinct is that professional-type jobs haven't been hit nearly as hard as service industry-type roles.
posted by terretu at 3:43 AM on August 1 [6 favorites]

I got fired near the end of June. It feels shitty even if you don't derive your identity from work. An existing meditation practice was a great help but if you don't already practice it's probably not a great time to take it up.

Don't panic. Get yourself to LinkedIn and click the thing that tells recruiters you're open to new opportunities. They'll start messaging you and that will make you feel like you're doing something. Use other sites too of course, and reach out to everyone you know that might know of an opening. It took a month to find another job and when I accepted I had two other second-interviews scheduled. It seems like IT is still hiring as I was surprised at the number of positions available. Don't obsess over recruiters who take your resume and then disappear for a while. The one I ended up with was silent for 2-3 weeks and then I did two interviews and got the offer the same day. Ping them once a week and see if the position is still there.

Best of luck.
posted by Awfki at 5:04 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]

I got laid off six weeks before our first baby was due. It was stressful, right?

I found a new job and was able to get in a week of work before she was born, thank goodness (though some people were confused when I worked for a week then was gone right away).

Concentrate on what you can manage: your health insurance is already sorted. Good. Do the job-search stuff: resume, networking, calls. Make sure the area behind you for a video interview is tidy. Work your friends and associates about contracts and positions.

You can do this. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Your wife and the baby will need you, and you're up to it.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:01 AM on August 1

In 2001, during the dot-com crash, almost exactly the same thing happened to me. I was a web designer, and was laid off from a startup in June with my wife 8 months pregnant. When my son was born in July I was still unemployed, two months later 9/11 happened. So apart from a odd job here and there I was essentially jobless for an entire year. Sounds bleak, right?

It may have been one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Rather than having to go back to work after my son's birth, I threw myself into becoming a caregiver, both for him and my wife. Even in the best cases, recovering from childbirth is tough, but my wife had a c-section which extended that recovery period. It became even more important for me to step up. Back in those days I think I might have had two weeks paternity leave? Looking back, I can't even imagine having to go back to work full-time.

There is so much that happens during a human's first year of life, it's amazing. I look at this period now as a gift. I had the opportunity to contribute on a daily basis to the development of my son and the things I learned during that time changed me as a person for the better. I'm generally not one to use language like this, but it is true.

Did I feel moments of insecurity and shame at first? Yep, absolutely. The financial piece is tough, no doubt, and I don't know what your support system is like, but in my case, family and friends were incredibly supportive and understanding. The key to dealing with those emotions in my case was being as completely transparent as possible with my wife as to where I was. I learned not to make things about "me", having a kid kinda dissolves that ego anyway: just embrace it is my advice.

Feel free to PM me if you have more questions, or for any reason at all.
posted by jeremias at 6:28 AM on August 1 [20 favorites]

What you are feeling is normal and they are just feelings. It is hard not to "catastrophize" because you are in the middle of a major life transition at a time when the world is in a major transition. It is okay to have feelings of fear and let down - and also - have feelings of excitement and joy for what is next. Experience the feelings and let them go. When a negative feeling starts to overcome the positive feeling, ask yourself why was it easy to let the positive one go, then perhaps it can get easier to let the negatives go as well. This happened to my family in May - an unexpected job loss and loss of security and identity. I cried for two weeks and I read Pema Chodron's "When Things Fall Apart." YMMV. I grieved what was, and now am more open to new possibilities. Nothing is ever certain, but you will get through this. Focus on what is meaningful to you and take one day, one moment, and even one breath at a time. Congratulations on your new life and baby. What you are feeling now will change.
posted by turtlefu at 6:34 AM on August 1 [3 favorites]

Similar to jeremias, I was laid off during the .com crash when my wife was eight months pregnant. My employer only covered COBRA for a month. Since we had no income we managed to qualify for the women, infants and children program and the state of California covered my wife and baby's health insurance for a while, but it was hard to find a doctor that would accept it. We did manage to find someone though and he was our pediatrician ever after.

I couldn't find a job for a full six months. There were very few jobs and ridiculous competition for each of them. It was very stressful. I also felt I was letting my wife and baby down.

In the end it all worked out though. I got a job the week after my unemployment pay ran out. The job was with a small company that was just starting to take off. I would have never gotten that job without all the circumstances that led up to it.

And best of all I got to be home with my wife and baby for the end of the pregnancy and the first five months of the baby's life instead of working all the time. It was an incredible gift which I'll always be thankful for.

My advice FWIW is to set aside three hours a day during the week for job hunting: updating resumes, networking with every work friend you've ever known, doing online classes to keep your skills sharp, researching companies, etc. Set aside some time for just yourself every day to go outside and get some exercise, read a book, sleep, whatever you need. Set aside some time with just your wife every week if that's possible to maintain the relationship separate from life with kids because that kid will grow up. And spend the rest of the time just being with your new family and taking care of all the needful things. Limiting the time for your job hunt can help with feelings of control (you can check off the box on your list every day for "job hunt" and get a feeling of accomplishment) and perhaps make it easier to be more present with the new baby (don't need to worry about the job hunt right now because the three hours are already done today, etc.). Just do what needs to be done that day.

In any case, the baby won't know or care you're unemployed. They'll be happy you're there. Enjoy every minute as much you can. Babies change so fast in the first year and you're super lucky for every extra day you get to spend with them.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 7:52 AM on August 1 [9 favorites]

Oh, and I just stumbled on this article in my RSS feed from a software developer who did 60 technical interviews in a month. There looks to be some good insights and pragmatic advice in there for when you decide to get back into the game.
posted by jeremias at 12:35 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]

For the last point -- Very few employers are going to bat an eye at your previous job only being 8 months, especially now when many people are out of work due to Covid. Good luck!
posted by nalyd at 12:51 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]

I’m wondering if you would have been entitled to paternity leave, and if that was a factor in letting you go.
posted by momus_window at 1:46 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]

I got laid off exactly four months ago today and the profound sense of failure I had can’t be overstated. One thing that really helped me was to reframe in my head the difference between fired and laid off. I don’t know your situation; maybe you were fired for ‘cause’. If you were, though, I doubt your employer would have covered six months of COBRA.

Anyway, if you were laid off, just keep telling yourself that it’s not personal. Heck, even if you were fired, it probably wasn’t personal. Businesses are panicking right now and making a lot of really dumb decisions and you’ve likely been swept up in that.

You are not a failure. There couldn’t be a time to be laid off that people will look at LESS askance. Literally nobody is going to look at your resume and wonder why you got let go - everybody gets it. Heck, in five years probably the people reading your resume will likely have been experienced fired/laid off/furloughed during 20202 themselves.

I gave myself two days to really wallow and grieve (my job and my self-image) and then I just...didn’t let myself any more. Obviously I was still sad sometimes and I didn’t deny that feeling, but I just noted it and moved past it.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:40 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]

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