This is an unprecedented time. I won’t go into details about the virus, social distancing, or toilet paper madness, but about how this economic impact could affect our employment and income.

Some economists are noting we’re heading into a deep recession, if we aren’t already. Not to be pessimistic — I’m generally an overly optimistic guy — but I think it’s wise to be prepared without being anxious. I call it “optimistically pessimistic.”

Even if you’re in tech you may still not be immune. If the overall economy continues to slow, the demand for your company’s products and services will also slow. It is very likely your management already had meetings preparing for budget cuts. Just here in Seattle, startup Leafly already laid off 91 employees, Expedia 3,000 employees, and coworking space Riveter 24 employees. 

Whether or not we’re entering another prolonged downturn, I’d like to share my experience and learnings from the 2008 recession.

I was laid off on January 22nd, 2009 from Microsoft, the proudest job I’d ever had up to that point. I had also just bought a house a year prior. I was left high and dry with a $2,500/mo mortgage at age 24. 

I never told my family I was laid off because I was embarrassed. I pretended to “go to work” every day, instead driving 30 minutes to the outplacement service to work on my resume and job search. Some days I just wanted to stay home. But I told myself “I must keep a routine” because I knew falling behind could end up in a downhill spiral. 

I never thought this would happen. Microsoft, one of the safest and most successful big techs in the world, never had a layoff that size before. Why me??

After loads of interviews and 17 rejections, I landed a contractor gig back at Microsoft Bing with a 30% pay cut doing data collection and cleaning. My work life was inside the grids of Excel. But I had a blast. I was working on a consumer-facing product I truly enjoyed. I even worked overtime without requesting overtime pay. 

I wish that no one has to go through what I went through. Ironically, now my job is to help others get jobs. Here’s what I’d suggest doing immediately:

1) Find out your performance at work

Schedule a meeting with your manager and ask. “How am I doing?”, even if you don’t want to hear it. Better to be prepared than caught off guard. If you’re doing well, work even harder. If the answer isn’t something along the lines of “You’re doing great,” work harder but also start updating your resume.

2) Review your career achievements

One of my challenges in updating my resume was remembering what I did. I wish I had recorded all my achievements. Do you remember…

  • What were the top 1-2 achievements at your recent 3 jobs?
  • What were the metrics? Revenue earned, dollars saved, efficiencies gained?
  • Do you have the stories of those achievements mapped out?

It’s easier to collect this information while you’re still employed.

3) Optimize your resume

Browse for jobs you find intriguing and compare your resume against them. Tailor your resume for each job to see where the gaps are.

Of course, you’re welcome to use Jobscan (I bet you didn’t see this coming). But you’re welcome to look for other tools. If you find something else better, I’d like to know.

4) Update your LinkedIn profile

Once your resume is updated, move on to your LinkedIn profile. Over 90% recruiters use LinkedIn. If you’re a premium user, you can use Jobscan’s LinkedIn Optimization tool to see how well your LinkedIn profile scores for jobs you like.

5) Start reaching out to your friends and acquaintances

Reach out to those friends you haven’t talked to for a while. Check in on them to see if they’re doing OK. Catch up over a call. Offer them your toilet paper or hand sanitizer. You never know when you might need them.

6) Tighten your belt


When I got laid off, I started a budget spreadsheet and recorded every expense I made. I set a budget for each category such as “food, entertainment, learning, etc.” and made sure I could still save 15-20% of my income per month. You want to hang out with me? Come have tea at my place.

Rent out part of your apartment/house:

I rented out my basement, which helped cover half of my mortgage. Learning how to find the right tenant is also a skill. The short of it is: set a super high bar.

Review your bills:

I reviewed all my bills and cut back on EVERYTHING. I reduced my garbage can sizes from a 32 gallon to a micro-can of 12 gallon. I reduced my broadband speed, lowered my cell phone plan, and even put a concrete block in my toilet tank to save flushing water.

7) It’s a good time to change career track

If you’ve been wanting to do something new, comfort has likely been your biggest enemy. Welcome to discomfort. This is the best time to start learning those new skills. I taught myself how to code and built Jobscan’s first version. You can too. So much can be learned for free. It’s a matter of motivation and how resourceful you are.

8) Become a digital worker? Now may be a good time

I’ve met many digital workers during my travels. In fact, there’s a digital lawyer sitting next to me right now. Other types include software engineers, designers, content writers, analysts, digital marketers, fitness coaches, career coaches, dating coaches, and much more. In fact, more than you think. See online job sites like for inspiration. Jobscan also hires from this web site.

Also check out Craigslist’s gig or jobs sections. We found our first hire on Craigslist also. 

Having been laid off from Microsoft was the best thing that has ever happened to me. That experience catapulted me into chaos of soul-searching and diving into the ocean of fears. The years following the layoff accelerated my learnings by 10x.

Without the layoff, there would be no Jobscan.

In other words, have no fear. Perhaps the best is yet to come. Embrace whatever is coming your way with agility and open arms, because it will come. This may just be the best thing that ever happened to you, like it did for me.

Take care. Stay safe. Stay home if you can.

James Hu

CEO of Jobscan

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James Hu

James Hu is the founder and CEO of Jobscan, a web tool that helps job seekers land interviews by optimizing resume keywords.

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