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A guide for #opentowork product managers

Getting laid off happens. It’s never easy and rarely fair, but what’s most important in the short term is ensuring your emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing. Product managers remain in high demand throughout the tech industry, and as someone who has already held the role in some capacity, you’re still a lot better off than if you hadn’t ever been a bonafide product manager before. So, take a deep breath and recognize that there is light at the end of the tunnel - it’s just a matter of finding it.

If you were recently laid off, you probably have a lot of things racing through your mind right now… but what’s most important is taking a step back and ensuring that you set yourself up now for better things to come. Here’s a few crucially important items to make sure you cross off your to-do list right away:

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  1. Get a letter from your ex-company confirming the cause of your unemployment. Hiring managers across the tech industry are well-aware of the current economic climate, and will be sympathetic to job-searchers who were terminated due to causes outside their control. It’s typically standard policy to receive a layoff letter, but if you haven’t yet received one, be sure to request it. This will let your future employer know that you weren’t terminated with cause, and help maximize the value of your previous experience.
  2. Double check your paycheck and look into severance. While each company has different policies regarding the timing of final paychecks and any severance packages owed to newly unemployed employees, it may fall on you to pursue their payment. If your unemployment was caused by a mass layoff, then you will most likely continue to receive regular pay for around two months – giving you enough time to move on to your next opportunity without falling into a financial hole. If you have any uncertainty around how your final pay is structured, be sure to push the issue and get any questions answered by your ex-employer as soon as possible.

As far as severance goes, some companies offer financial severance packages while others don’t. These policies are typically carved in stone and won’t be flexible to your needs unless you’ve been the victim of discriminatory practices. Therefore, for the most part, what you’re offered as far as a severance package is what you’ll get. But, even if your company doesn’t offer financial severance, you may still be able to get some help with finding your next product management opportunity. Be sure to request a letter of recommendation from your direct supervisor (additionally, you can request that your supervisor serve as a reference during your job search if you trust them to give you a good review). In your supervisor’s letter, they should be sure to note specific product initiatives you led, metrics you moved, and/or any other meaningful contributions you made to the product.

  1. Review your health insurance benefits & 401(k)/pension plans. Employers typically pay their employees’ insurance plans a month ahead - meaning that if you were laid off at the beginning of a given month, you may be able to retain your health insurance plan for the remainder of the month. This said, the penalty most people associate with going without health insurance is no longer in place as of 2019. So, while you should try your best to maintain continuity of coverage in the case of a health emergency while you’re between jobs, you won’t be punished for losing your health care.

As far as your 401(k) goes, you’ll want to review your plan and double check to see how much you’ve invested in your account to this point. If you have $5,000 or more in your account, you’re likely able to let it sit in its current setup. If not, you can open up a rollover IRA where you can choose the investment options of your choice. Once you land a new job, be sure to ask whether you’re able to consolidate the plan you had with your old employer with that of your new employer – doing so will help you avoid having to pay unnecessary taxes. If you have no other options, you are able to liquidate your 401(k), but it’s by far the worst option of the bunch, with taxes due on the amount you withdraw, plus a penalty for withdrawing early.

  1. Get registered for unemployment benefits. Unemployment will come down largely to where you live. The dollar amount you’ll be eligible for, the length of time you’re able to receive your benefits, and more will depend on your state’s specific policies. The process of applying for and receiving unemployment benefits can be messy so be sure to get started (simply google your state’s unemployment office to get started) as early as you possibly can to ensure that you’re able to get the most aid possible. If you were laid off as a result of factors outside your control, you should be eligible for at least some level of unemployment, so don’t overlook this important step.

While getting laid off is incredibly frustrating and painful, if you’ve checked off each one of the above items from your to-do list, you’ve taken the first steps necessary to ensure your financial health during unemployment. But just as important is making sure that you’re physically and mentally healthy. Anyone going through unemployment wants it to end as quickly as possible – but now is actually a great time to take a quick step back and evaluate what you want out of your life and career. Use the extra time on your hands to explore your options when it comes to both your career and your hobbies. If you’re able to, see a therapist and discuss your feelings regarding your ex employer, your termination, and the opportunities ahead of you. It is possible to make this time serve both your career and your wellbeing, but it requires effort and balance.

It can also be very beneficial to both your job search and your overall wellbeing to seek out a support group. Whether it’s through social media or a Meetup group like this collection of unemployment support groups, finding people who empathize with and understand your situation will go a long way towards re-instilling your feelings of confidence and community.

Before diving into the journey to find your next product manager job, it’s crucial to set yourself up for success with the right tools. Organizing your job search can be surprisingly difficult, which is why Roadmap developed their new Laid Off Toolkit. In response to the recent wave of layoffs in the tech industry, Roadmap combined some of their best features into this new collection; featuring resume & interview best practices, networking best practices and templates, remote work recommendations, career direction guidance, and free financial trackers to help you manage your finances while you’re in between roles. Plus, you’ll get access to some awesome free Roadmap features like the Roadmap Career Dashboard so you can track the job search actions that lead to more offers, TalentList to help you get matched up with jobs you'll love, and the Salary Toolkit which rounds up the best, most reputable salary calculators for any role, in any region so you know that you’re maximizing your compensation in your new product management job.

If you haven’t already, a good first step to passively get your name out there and in consideration for open roles is to add your name to any relevant layoff lists associated with your company – if you haven’t found one for your company yet, ask your ex-coworkers if they have one and consider making one if they don’t.

Whether you’re looking for entry level product manager jobs, VP of product jobs or anything in between, there are plenty of companies out there hiring people with your particular set of skills - it’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity. Here’s some of the best job boards and lists that we’ve found to help jump-start your job search:

  • The Startup Job Boards list shared by Execs on Deck is a great starting point if you’re looking for product manager jobs in the venture capital, accelerator, or startup spaces.
  • PM, Eng, Design Open Roles, Shreyas Doshi and his friends put together this massive list of over 1,000 open positions for product management, engineering, and design.
  • Primary has a wide array of open roles across the many action-oriented teams in their portfolio, including many for product managers.
  • Elpha is a job platform that specializes in roles in tech for women who are seeking out roles at companies who prioritize diversity and inclusion.
  • ExitUp is a weekly newsletter with curated product roles for you to peruse spanning an array of different industries.
  • Startup Search hosts numerous opportunities in tech-oriented startup & venture for all roles.
  • Work at a Startup features a ton of different startup opportunities curated by Y Combinator.
  • Clement Mihailescu’s viral LinkedIn Post with Open Jobs has accrued thousands of comments featuring eager job searchers and recruiters looking for their skill sets. Be sure to add your name, role and experience so you can passively stay in the race.

Once you’ve found an opportunity that you’re interested in and gotten an interview scheduled, the real work of making sure you stand out from the crowd begins. Product manager interviews are typically half figuring out what you know and half vetting your personality to determine your culture fit. Here’s a few great resources to help you prepare for your interview and brush up on the latest trends in the job market:

Plus, here’s some additional product management content to help you stand out as an authoritative source on all things product:

  • You can sign up on The Commons to learn directly from mentors within the product management space.
  • Skiplevel is a great newsletter for PMs from Irene Yu which sometimes curates tech roles and is generally great for learning more about product management and how to work with engineers.
  • Lenny’s Newsletter is a fantastic knowledge source that touches on just about everything related to building great products. Check out this collection for more content related specifically to building a career in product management.
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