Why Techies Get Laid Off and How to Avoid It

I was a freshly graduated Accounting degree holder when I saw Monty Python’s great comedy skit:

Man to career counselor: “I’m an accountant, but I want to change jobs.”

Career counselor: “Why?”

Man: “Accountancy is boring, boring, BORing, BORING!, boring, bor . . . ING!”

Career counselor to the man: “But, sir, our tests show you’re a very boring person.”

You’re not a boring person, so you don’t need to know anything about accounting. It’s just for bean counters. Nothing to do with you, right?

Wrong. To understand how to prevent yourself from being laid off during the next business slowdown, you must learn what a young bookkeeper in 1886 named Claude Hopkins figured out. Because of it, he changed careers and soon became wealthy.

Here’s what important — that financial document known as the “Income Statement.”

Gross income (sales) minus Expenses equals Net Income (profit)

If businesspeople want to increase profits, they must either make the Gross income figure larger or the Expenses figure smaller. Or both.

Simple algebra, right?

Now, as a techie, which category does your salary fall into?

Yes, you’re an expense. That’s why your job is always at risk when business slows down for any reason.

If net income starts to turn into a negative figure, the “suits” must do something to increase it. Yes, in the name of saving the business from bankruptcy (and thereby costing every employee their jobs) these dastardly villains then show an utter and callous disregard for your education, experience, certifications and accomplishments and lay you off – if necessary.

How dare they?

In 1886 Clauke Hopkins was working hard as a head bookkeeper making $75 a month. He aspired to more, and determined to become an advertising copywriter.

In his book “My Life in Advertising” he describes his revelation:

“I began to reason in this way: A bookkeeper is an expense. In every business expenses are kept down. I could never be worth more than any other man who could do the work I did. The big salaries are paid to salesmen, to the men who brought in orders . . .”

You must understand marketing well enough to realize that you are “selling” your company and its products and services every time you speak to a customer.

Displaying technical competence with confidence is good marketing. Every product has flaws — telling your customers how to work with or around them is good marketing. Insulting your product to a customer is not.

Good marketing is also listening to your customers. Let them tell you what software features or equipment they need to solve their problems. Then pass that information on to your supervisor.

You may provide the seed of your company’s next product.

As much as possible, turn yourself into a source of revenue for your employer. They’ll cut expenses when necessary, but only foolish companies get rid of anybody increasing their sales.