In early November, Meta employee Rawan, 29, came across an eerie Sunday headline in the New York Times: "Meta Is Said to Plan Significant Job Cuts This Week."
She put the article in the back of her mind. She had a big presentation coming up and had to focus. And anyway, she was a top performer at the company — what could she have to worry about?
Rawan joined Meta in 2019 after several jobs at various businesses around the world and a year in China on a Schwarzman Scholar fellowship. The daughter of Eritrean immigrants, Rawan grew up traveling between Saudi Arabia and California and knew that she wanted some aspect of her life to be "global." She moved to Silicon Valley on the advice of mentors who told her it was the best place to build a career in tech.
Rawan's last name has been omitted due to privacy concerns.
Upon joining Meta, she fell in love with the work and ascended through different roles, tackling some of the biggest problems in machine-learning and content moderation. In her last six months, she transitioned to a product marketing manager role and was invested in her job until the very end, putting in hours of overtime to prepare for a presentation to her director and ignoring any layoff murmurs.
"I even remember joking to my manager saying, 'All this time and effort spent prepping … imagine if I get laid off and I don't even get to present this,'" Rawan tells CNBC Make It in an email. They both laughed and moved on.
Three days later, Rawan had an email in her inbox: She was one of Meta's 11,000 laid-off employees in the November round.
"My first thought was 'Um, OK. Lemme get up and wash my face because today is about to be a long day,'" Rawan recalls.
Within hours of the company-wide announcement slashing 13% of Meta's workforce, Rawan watched her coworkers' accounts get deactivated. She knew it was only a matter of time before hers met the same fate.
"I remember logging on LinkedIn that day and it was like a memorial board. Colleagues of all roles and levels were impacted, including directors," Rawan adds.
For Rawan, shock came first. She spent the last hours of her time at the company reaching out to close colleagues and mentors, thanking them for their support over the years.
Then, confusion set in. The day after Rawan lost her job, she spoke to more friends she had at Meta, attempting to "make sense of things."
"There was no rhythm or reason," she says.
Of course, there was a reason. In an email to staff, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that he "made the hard decision to let people go" in order to "bring our expenses in line with our revenue growth."
But Rawan was looking for "patterns," something that would explain how the company chose who stayed, why she was specifically impacted. Ultimately, she realized it might have just been as arbitrary as her start date: She was the newest member of her team.
Still, the random nature of such a life-shifting moment felt unfathomable to her at the time. It was especially jarring because she believed she had done everything "right": getting a great education, choosing what appeared to be a stable company and earning high performance reviews. It then became clear to her that the "safety net was an illusion."
Now, she sees the randomness of the decision as comforting — it means it wasn't her fault: "I know it's not a reflection of my value or work ethic."
The question of what comes next is tough to answer when you lose job security overnight.
Rawan first wondered whether she should follow the crowd and post her own layoff story on LinkedIn. She ultimately decided against it, realizing that she was not yet ready to jump into the hunt for a new 9-to-5.
She already had plans to travel to South Africa for a friend's wedding and a week post-layoff, she decided that time out of the U.S. could be exactly what she needed even if it didn't feel like the most "financially responsible thing" at the time.
The distance from New York City, where she moved in 2021, gave her time to reflect on her career path so far and what she truly wanted going forward.
She also had more time to dedicate to her content creation hobby: While at Meta, she had been running social media accounts for personal and professional development. She has a love for making information about college, career and travel opportunities more accessible to under-represented communities.
As she began to build her social media platforms, the passion project turned into something else: a living. Though she did not disclose her social media income, Rawan says she is "able to comfortably cover" her expenses.
Rawan now has nearly 200,000 followers on TikTok and 60,000 on Instagram, partnering with brands like Microsoft, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Canva. But to her, the most important perk of her new hustle is the freedom that comes with it: "I don't have to wake up one day and worry about someone firing me."
Rawan also now has full control of her time and schedule. Plus, the flexibility of content creation affords her the ability to take on other kinds of work when she wants to.
"The benefit of being a content creator is that I don't have to just choose one path," Rawan says.
She is now toying with the idea of reentering the corporate world or starting a business of her own. Whatever she chooses, she says that content creation is a career that can be in her back pocket along the way because she built it from scratch and it is fully her own.
"Getting laid off has been the catalyst I needed to reevaluate my life, my priorities and my career in a way that I'm certain wouldn't have happened had I stayed at Meta," says Rawan.
Bouncing back from a surprise job loss is no easy feat. It took some time before Rawan knew how to move forward.
Now seven months out, Rawan has some advice for other newly laid off employees. She says that the number one way to feel better off after a layoff is to embrace "a fluid career identity." Here are her three ways to do so:
- "Diversify your pursuits": Rawan was experimenting with content creation as a hobby even while she still felt secure in her Big Tech job. She recommends that workers find passions outside of their day jobs so that they have other sources of meaning to lean on if a job falls through.
- "Build transferable skills": Varying your passions also comes with picking up different skill sets. Rawan's time at a wide array of companies and industries helped her cultivate what she called "a strong generalist skillset." She has worked in management consulting, nonprofit work, international development, tech and now content creation. Developing a diverse toolbox that can easily transfer to many industries and jobs is a form of self-protection for any employee who might face a coming layoff.
- "Focus on the outcome": Everyone's path is loose, says Rawan. The ebbs and flows of professional life are perhaps the only consistent thing people can count on in their careers. So Rawan suggests that workers instead keep the end goal in sight rather than fixate on the winding road.
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