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Retrenched? How to find a new developer job

16 October 2023, by Jenna Rabie

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Retrenchments are super hard to navigate. It’s easy to lose your confidence and be overwhelmed by your nerves, but it’s important to stay calm, keep a clear head and act swiftly.

As a software engineer job marketplace, we speak with developers and companies hiring them every day and help with the search for a new job or dev team. We see who wins and what helps them be great at navigating this search.

Being retrenched is a hard thing to go through, no matter the stage of your career. That’s why we decided to put together some of the most useful action steps we’ve come across over the years to help you make your next move with confidence.


Here’s what you can do to navigate the effects of being retrenched and confidently land a new job.

What to do right away

Understand your financial situation

Until you’ve found a new job, you’ll likely need to live off your savings or emergency funds and your retrenchment package. Ensure that you understand:

  • Where your savings are at
  • What your severance package and retirement benefits entail and
  • What you’re legally entitled to

Getting a hold of your financial situation will make it easier for you to make a concrete action plan. If needed, contact credit providers, claim unemployment benefits from your government if you’re eligible and seek professional advice if you’re ever unsure.

To help you get started, here are some resources:

Once you’ve roughly calculated how long you can afford to be unemployed, you’ll know how long you have to decide on your next job. If you are only covered for a month, it’s obviously more likely that you will have to reduce your expectations.

Make use of your network

This can’t be overstated: Your network of colleagues and peers can be a great source of support, now and in the future. That’s why it’s super important not to take the retrenchment personally or burn any bridges.

In addition, you should pull on your friends and family. Leverage all of your connections as internal referrals, because these can carry more weight than an external application.

Here are two ways in which you can use your network right now:

  • Think about your most talented friends and former colleagues who work at other interesting companies and invite them for a coffee. You’ll learn a lot about potential opportunities through them.
  • Ask your manager and core peers for references. These will assist in providing evidence to companies that you were not let go due to your performance.

Take a moment to process

It’s important to remain calm and allow yourself sufficient time to reflect. In my role as Talent Advisor, I always remind retrenched developers that they haven’t been let go due to their ability to perform and deliver in their roles. You’re experiencing retrenchment due to factors outside of your control.

Take some personal time to reflect on the loss. After processing your experience, I suggest creating a timeline for your job search.

Reflect on your long-term career goals and what matters to you

Starting another job without properly exploring how the opportunity fits in with your long-term goals may lead to you leaving that role soon after joining.

It’s understandable that you want to approach your job search with more urgency, especially if you’re under financial pressure. Do your research but adapt to what you are seeing play out in the market. You may need to be flexible with some aspects of your job search.

Here are some resources to set smart goals:

Do your research on the current market

You also definitely want to research the market you’re entering – understand what roles are in demand, which companies are hiring and the effects of macroeconomic changes. Try to find trustworthy sources.

Some resources on the developer job market to get you started:

Update your CV and document your accomplishments

You’ll be asked about your accomplishments in every interview you’ll be in – now is a good time to document them and bolster your online portfolio.

It’s important to include outcomes and impact metrics, you can even map out timelines and stories. The idea is to gather material that will help you tell the story of your successes.

Some resources to get you started:


Answering questions about being retrenched

It’s likely that companies will ask you what is motivating your current job search – this is a common question in initial interviews. Knowing you’ve been retrenched, they may ask if it was due to your performance.

This can be a difficult question to answer as it plays on one’s insecurities. If you’ve been told that being laid off was not linked to your performance, having someone poke at this logic can lead to a negative space that spirals out in the interview.

To avoid spiralling in an interview, I suggest preparing to answer questions about your retrenchment.

You can practise answering these kinds of questions with a friend to assist with your nerves around it. Take down notes that you can refer to in the interview in case you feel overwhelmed and cannot recall what you practised.

Common questions that interviewers ask:

  • Can you describe your experience working with your previous employer?
  • How did you react to the news that your previous employer was letting you go?
  • How would you describe your performance in your previous role?
  • Were you given any feedback on your performance while working with your previous employer? If so, can you share that feedback with me?

Prepare questions to evaluate the company’s stability

It’s better to properly evaluate each company’s stability instead of blocking yourself off from potentially promising opportunities.

Often retrenched developers want to avoid startups and scaleups in order to secure a stable job. It makes sense, but these aren’t always the most stable opportunities.

If you have concerns about a company’s stability, rather ask targeted questions in your interviews, such as:

  • What does your company’s funding structure look like?
  • What is the main source of your company’s funding?
  • What is the company’s financial plan for the next year (or the next two or five years)?
  • How is the company managing to mitigate the current market considering fears of a recession?

Download this cheat sheet for more questions you can ask during interviews.

Being thorough will help you evaluate a company from an informed perspective instead of prematurely blocking yourself off from potential opportunities.

Highlight your responsibilities and achievements

Bring your prepared stories and examples of your achievements to your interview. This is a great way to show off your technical abilities as it quickly answers the question about your performance.

It can feel awkward speaking about your accomplishments with a stranger, so let your work promote your abilities.

If you are unable to share projects due to confidentiality, find out if you can disclose some parts of your work. If it’s not possible to get around a non-disclosure agreement, the second best option is to speak about your responsibilities and achievements in previous projects.

Practise how you present these with a friend and take on feedback points they give you. As previously mentioned, practising out loud is a great way to build confidence.

Offer a reference check

If you are comfortable with your previous manager, reach out to them and ask if they would be happy to act as a reference for you. It demonstrates that you left your previous role on good terms due to a situation out of your and your previous employer’s control.

Jenna Rabie is a Talent Advisor at OfferZen with extensive experience in supporting multiple software engineers to navigate their job search. When she’s not helping developers succeed in their job search, she’s playing with her two dogs, walking along a beach or trying a new recipe.

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