From Layoff to Dream Job: How I Landed My Second Data Scientist RoleMay 22, 2023
How do you go from killing it at your job to suddenly needing to find a new job as soon as possible?
In 2018, I had to answer this question after being laid off shortly after receiving a great performance review and a raise.
I was shocked and discouraged, and while dealing with those emotions, I also needed to find a new job.
It wasn’t easy, but the journey my layoff pushed me on proved to be an incredibly valuable one for my career, and that’s why I want to share it in this post.
Whether you’ve been laid off or are job searching for other reasons, I hope that my journey can act as an encouragement and give you some practical tips to apply to your own situation.
Before we dive in, you can also head to my YouTube channel if you prefer to learn about my story in a video instead.
Now, let’s start at the beginning.
From Raise to Layoff
I began work with a supply chain management company in June of 2017. It was my first data scientist role, and it had taken me 6 months and over 800 applications to land it. When I got the offer, I packed everything and relocated to take it.
As you can imagine, I was very excited about this position! I put in a lot of time and effort to be the best I could be in my role, and it seemed to be paying off. Within my first year with the company, I had received a great performance review along with a 30% pay increase. I knew that I was good at my job, and my confidence was growing.
However, that confidence was soon shattered.
In December 2018, my manager informed me that the company was facing financial difficulties. We had lost 2 big clients in the last quarter, and keeping the engineering department in the US was not profitable enough. The entire engineering department was being cut and would be built in another country.
What that meant for me was simple. I was losing my job. I would be let go in January and not just me. My manager and my manager’s manager were also losing their jobs. The entire department had to go.
You can imagine how shocking and devastating this news was for me. It was right before the Christmas holiday. I had received a big raise only a few months prior, and now I was losing my job. It was hard to accept, and I found myself constantly asking why. I wondered if I could have done anything different to save my job.
Of course, the answer to this question was no. I didn’t do anything wrong nor did the other people in my department. It was just cheaper to hire people in another country, so for the company to remain profitable our jobs had to be outsourced.
That didn’t necessarily make getting laid off any easier, but companies do have to make business decisions. These decisions get made regardless of your personal skills and performance. Some things are just beyond your control.
Regardless of the reason, I found myself suddenly jobless. I was discouraged and shocked, but the people around me (my coworkers and manager) were very encouraging. They motivated me to get back out there and look for a new job.
As I began my job search, I assumed that the past year and a half of the experience I now had would make it easier for me to land another data scientist role. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
It didn’t take much looking for a new data science job opportunity for me to start panicking. I discovered that the job requirements had changed a lot, and I wasn’t as experienced as I thought I was.
Many job postings for data scientists were for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. These companies wanted candidates who had experience in things like product analytics and designing metrics and A/B tests.
But the company I had been working for was a business-to-business (B2B) company. I didn’t have any experience working with consumer products.
I began trying to figure out what new skills I needed to have a chance of landing a data science role with a B2C company, and I was soon overwhelmed. I didn’t even know where to start.
Again, I was starting to feel a little panicky, but once I processed my emotions I remembered something very important. When I was looking for my first data science role, I found it incredibly helpful to have a mentor on my side. Now that I was job searching again reaching out to my mentors to help guide me could be the best first step I could take.
At this point in my career, I had a few mentors I really trusted, and I reached out to see if anyone was willing to help. My main concern was understanding how to appeal to companies that were looking for consumer-based knowledge rather than business-to-business knowledge.
Luckily, someone said yes! I connected with a Senior Data Scientist working at a B2C company. It didn’t take me long to realize I had the perfect person to help me with my job search journey.
Strategizing and Preparing
With my mentor to aid me, my outlook and attitude improved.
Even though my entire department had been laid off, it was hard for me not to feel defeated. Losing my job hurt my self-esteem, and I found it difficult to move forward with my job search.
My mentor offered me her support and assurance that the business decisions that had caused me to lose my job happen all the time. Having someone in my corner was so valuable and helped me to reprioritize my focus away from why I had lost my job to my new job search and preparation.
Essentially, my mentor helped me take my energy and channel it into productivity. We discussed what knowledge I needed to acquire to be a competitive candidate in the job market, and with fresh motivation, I got to work.
As mentioned above, my main problem was a lack of experience in dealing with customer-facing products. With my mentor’s help, I identified what skills would be most appealing to employers and worked on gaining those.
To improve my skills and knowledge, I used a lot of online resources and read a lot of books. If you want more information about my technical preparation after being laid off, check out this blog. I also have two YouTube videos (Video 1 and Video 2) that include my book recommendations for data scientists.
Working on my skills was important preparation, but I was also worried about my interviewing skills. It had been well over a year since my last interview, so I knew my skills were rusty.
Again, my mentor was so valuable in helping me overcome this! Not only did she share lots of tips, but she also did about five to six mock interview sessions with me. As I looked back at the recordings of those sessions, it was clear that the practice was improving my overall confidence and communication skills.
The results of working with my mentor were almost immediate. Within a week, I landed an offer from a company. However, it was another B2B company.
The offer was extremely tempting. I had just lost my job, and the compensation at this new company would be higher than what I had been making. But ultimately, I decided to reject it.
Looking at job postings had shown me that most data scientist jobs required a more diverse skill set than I had. If I didn’t diversify my skills, I was going to run into the same issue I was facing now later in my career.
I knew I wanted to work at a B2C company. It would broaden my skills and was the next logical step in my career. I had also already begun learning the new skills I needed to achieve this, and I didn’t want that effort to go to waste.
Rejecting that first offer was scary, but my mentor agreed with my decision. It was wonderful to have her support because I then did not hear back from any companies for a month!
I struggled with doubt during this time, but my mentor assured me that hiring is always slow during the holiday season. She encouraged me to take the time to continue developing my skills and trust that there would be new opportunities in the new year. That turned out to be the best advice I ever got!
I continued working, and over the course of the next one and a half months, I landed 3 job offers from B2C companies. Not only had I landed an offer from the type of company I wanted to work for, but I even had options!
I selected the company that I thought was best suited for me and began my new job at Airbnb. I had landed a job that I believed would further my career, and I had also doubled my income. Although it seems strange, losing my job turned out to be one of the best things that could’ve happened for my career because it allowed me to grow.
Landing my first data science job took me six months and resulted in two offers (if you want to learn more about my first experience click here). After being laid off, it took me only two months to find a new job, and I received four offers overall.
Both of these job-searching journeys taught me the importance of efficiency. When you need a job, you want one as soon as possible, especially if you’ve been laid off. You don’t want to waste your time doing things that won’t help, and that’s why working with a mentor was such a valuable experience.
My mentor helped me know both what to do and what not to do, and that saved me so much time and effort. Also, simply having someone to support me was hugely motivating and helped me to move forward even after the shock of being laid off.
So, that was my journey from layoff to doubling my income. It was definitely a stressful time, but with a little guidance, I came out even better than where I started.
I hope you found my journey encouraging, and best of luck with your data science job search!