The news is all over about the move by Andela, a software development firm that has positioned itself as helping African talent access global opportunities at global rates to lay off staff. The decision to drop over 400 staff sent mixed signals in the African technology community.
I shall weigh in by talking to the affected staff. Losing a job is never a cool thing and even with promises of being placed elsewhere, the fact that you have been used to a certain grouping of people with whom some culture morphed even makes matters worse.
Whenever I talk to people embarking on their work careers, I always encourage them to think about the day they will have to leave. Yes!! The minute you are hired, ask yourself the question, “If I was given marching orders to leave tomorrow, what would I do?” If this question makes you feel uncomfortable, start immediately working on an answer. Therein lies your security.
Some of the laid off staff at Andela probably thought it was going to be bliss for eternity, but they should have known better. All over the world, layoffs do take place on a daily basis, so what has happened at Andela is nothing new. The difference is usually in how the affected are prepared.
At this time, some of the laid off staff are wondering how they shall pay their bank loans, clear the steep house rent or even maintain the lifestyle they had got accustomed to. Will their network of buddies still embrace them? How about the missed trips abroad? How easy shall it be to get an employer that matches Andela’s pay? In this previous article, I share more about job loss.
You could choose to view Job loss as an opportunity. Imagine the ideas you had shelved as a result of your busy work schedule that could have begun yielding fruit by now? How about that App you abandoned the day Andela confirmed your employment? It probably has the potential to launch you into a business career beyond your wildest dreams.
This is the time for you to do an objective self evaluation. Do you want to remain a mere hardcore techie programming code all through or are you considering extending your skills to Project Management? Remember, the multiplicity of skills you bring onto the table can easily endear you to some employers. Look at what you have learnt by being an Andelan and see how you can make the best out of it. They say, when given Lemon, make Lemonade.
Some of the lessons you should be able to learn from this experience are;
1. Never get too absorbed in your job to think that there is no life outside it. Some people make the mistake of turning their employers into the alpha and omega. This is wrong because they never reciprocate fully. Employers have interests and it is those interests that are paramount.
2. Always make an effort to avoid a negative cashflow. It is common knowledge that many corporate employees with high flying salaries are actually leading a hand to mouth life. They are always in debt and can hardly save anything. They can hardly survive two months out of a job without sinking in greater debt. The idea is that you should always have some savings or an investment that ensures you earn outside your job.
3. Learn as much as you can while on that job, even stuff that you may not immediately need. In one of the jobs I once had, I was an IT Administrator focusing on taking care of the network and servers. However, there was an arm of the business that dealt in the installation of VSATs and I was always called upon to participate in the installations. Years later, this VSAT knowledge proved crucial in a contract that I got.
4. A business’ priority is profit. Everything else comes later. Yes, that is the truth. It doesn’t matter what kind of slogans the company may use to show that the employee is king. When the investors and directors sit in those board rooms, the question tabled is simple. How much money have we made?
5. Cut your cloth to your size. It is natural for humans to adjust their spending based on their income. You probably have been living in a rented place of US$ 100, when Andela knocks, you immediately adjust and take on a rented place of US$ 500. This is such a bad idea. Imagine if you saved that four hundred dollars monthly for a year, you can be able to purchase a plot of land or even start up a business without borrowing money. The temptation of living large today should not outweigh your need for future economic security.
6. Always network beyond the confines of your job especially in industry events. The technology industry has different groupings of people that come together to address matters of concern. It is always advisable that you attend such meetings as they are a good opportunity to not only learn from others but also extend your network of friends and influence beyond the office confines. Some of them could probably come in handy when you face that job loss.
7. Think about self employment. For as long as you have an employer, the axe will always be hanging above your neck. A small reason and it strikes. One of the best antidotes to the threat of job loss is to consider employing yourself. Set up your own business and manage yourself and others. It is never easy but with time, it’s rewarding.
Thank God for Andela and the opportunity it brought your way, now that it is time to move on, I hope you have learnt something from what I have shared.
James Wire is a Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala
Follow @wirejames on Twitter
Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com