What to do after you have lost your VR job

It’s not the best moment for the tech and gaming industry: many startups have failed and many people even from big companies have been laid off. In the VR industry, we are not immune to this trend and probably we have even bigger problems, since after the metaverse hype we entered again in an “autumn phase” for the whole ecosystem. For example, last week, one of the most known startups for enterprise VR meetings declared bankruptcy. Many people have lost their jobs these months and I have also seen a cool project I was working on being put “on hold”.

As every entrepreneur, I’ve gone through a bunch of closed startups in the past. And since I like to try to always be helpful for the community, I thought it could be a nice idea to write a few pieces of advice on things to do when you have lost your VR job, hoping that they could be helpful for the people that may feel lost in this moment.

There’s not a “right” approach

If you think that there is a “right” process to follow when you have lost your job, you’re “wrong”.

A lot of times I see some points in common between work and love, and being laid off from your company feels a bit like being dumped by your girlfriend/boyfriend. And the behavior of people after a break-up are different: some people want to stay alone for a few months, others become party boys/girls before settling again, others a few days later are already ready to embark on a new long-term relationship. It’s the same for job loss: some people want to take time to relax, others want to immediately find the same type of job, others want to change their life, etc…

So take whatever I say in this post as simple suggestions. At the end of the day, you should behave as you feel you should. Don’t be influenced by what your former colleagues are doing either: listen to their advice, but do not feel forced to copy what they are doing. If a previous colleague of yours is rushing to find a new job, but you want instead to spend a few months with your children, that’s perfectly fine.

Evaluate your financial situation

how to VR startup from idea
A random stock image about money

Of course, before making any decision, you should check how much money you have in your bank account. Because it’s great to say “I want to spend two months dedicating myself to my daughter”, but it’s hard to do that if you don’t have the money to pay the bills.

If you have lost your job, there may be many different scenarios about your financial situation. If you were an employee, maybe you got out with a generous severance package or your country offers an unemployment salary for a few months. Maybe you were an entrepreneur and you were able to save a good budget while your company was successful. Or maybe you were a contractor and you have been left with no benefits and no saved money. Every situation is different and things become even more different if you consider the context where you are: for instance, maybe you have been left with zero money from your company, but your wife is a billionaire, so you can still spend some months doing nothing and being happy. (If this is your case… has your wife a sister? I’m asking for a friend…)

What money can buy you in this case is time and peace of mind. The more money you have, the more you can wait before looking for your next job, and do that without the worry of your city cutting down your electricity because you were not able to pay the bills. This time you wait before finding your next job may be used for many activities, as you will see in the remainder of this article.

Keep a positive attitude

Losing your job is a traumatic event and of course, it brings with it negative sensations. I’ve always advocated for living all the negative emotions of life because we are not robots: if one day you feel sad, be sad. You’ve lost your job, you have all the fucking right to be so. But keep the negative moments compartmentalized: if that day you feel sad, motivate yourself to start the day after with a positive attitude. Don’t let sadness or other negative emotions take control: give them some time, but not too much. Try to be lucid and think about how you can improve your current situation.

When my first startup, Immotionar, shut down, it was very sad for me, and I have even written a blog post inviting everyone to fuck off (it was a provoking title, but still, it was a bit strong). But after a few days, I was already focused on trying to build a new VR startup and a new product… I was in fighting mode. That willingness to not stop led to the creation of my consultancy agency New Technology Walkers with Massimiliano Ariani.

huawei vr glasses nolo
My buddy Max looking very badass with a rifle in his hands and Huawei glasses on his face

What I want to say is that losing a job is bad, but it is not the end of the world in most cases. You can find a new job, or you can create yourself a new job. You just have to not surrender, fight for your career, and create for yourself the next opportunities. Many people that I know that have lost their jobs have found a new one in a few months, so there’s hope. If life gives you lemons, punch it in the face until it gives you some chocolate-covered strawberries (hopefully with a few more punches you can also get some whipped cream).

Keep the connections with your previous coworkers

It’s easy to lose the connections with your coworkers when you stop working together because you are not “forced” to speak anymore, so it’s easy to send each other fewer messages until everything is gone. Actually, my suggestion is to put some effort into keeping some connections.

First of all, the more connections you have, the more opportunities you have for the future. I always say that the network of connections you have is the biggest professional asset you have and the more I go on, the more I believe this sentence. More often than not, some previous manager may also point you to some job opportunities, or some former coworker can become a business partner in a new startup.

It’s also good on the personal side: coworkers are the only ones who truly know the story of the company and the layoff, so they are the ideal people to speak together about what happened and elaborate it together. Of course, remember to find a new channel to speak together that is alternative to the company ones: your email and Team accounts at a certain point will be closed.

Immotionar full body vr startup
Immotionar at EIA: actually I’m still in touch with most of the people I worked with in my first startup

Think about your career choices

Think about your career: did you really like your previous job? Did you realize that you actually would like to do something different? What is your goal? How can you reach it better? Without an actual goal for your life, you can not plan how to reach it. Since most probably a few years passed by since when you chose this job, think if now something has changed and you are actually looking for something different.

Ask again yourself what you want to become and lay out a plan to reach that goal. I’ve seen people starting being developers and ending up being product managers because they realized they like to work more at higher levels. Others instead just like to code and stay as developers their whole life. There is no right or wrong choice here: just think about what YOU want to do. In a book I’ve read recently, the author said that society incorrectly despises people who do not want to go up the social ladder: if someone wants to keep doing his job because it is what he enjoys, it is a good thing (provided he/she is paid more for the increased seniority, of course).

Some people take layoffs as an opportunity to start a new business. Maybe you have always wanted to be an entrepreneur but you never did it because you were afraid of losing your good salary. Now that the salary has gone anyway, it could be the moment to try to reach for your dream. But again, also in this case, evaluate if being an entrepreneur is what you truly want (it is not for everyone): maybe speak with some friends of yours who has a company and ask how is life for them.

Talking about technologies, maybe after your VR job, you want to learn a new technology, like AI, or Web3, or video streaming: in this case, you can try to find a new job that uses that technology so that to learn all its nuances.

So question your work life, lay out a plan, and make it happen.

If you can, take your time to do something different

potato party
Thanks to my new knowledge of AI, now I can create a lot of images of potatoes

As I’ve said to you before, if you are in urgent need of finding a new job because of financial issues, go straight to finding a new job similar to the previous one. But if you can afford to wait a bit, I would suggest you do it. There are a lot of self-help articles saying that the end of something may be not a bad thing, but actually an opportunity to have something bigger than before. While I hate these sentences that seem coming out from a fortune cookie, this is actually true… but only if you work to make this happen. You have to think about how to transform this into an opportunity and put effort into it.

Not having a job means having more time, that you can use to do many things, like for instance:

  • Relax: maybe you crunched like hell in your previous work, so it’s good if you take a few weeks where you enjoy a bit of life. This means dedicating your time to improving your health
  • Travel: traveling puts us in touch with new people, new languages, and new cultures. It’s always an amazing thing to do
  • Spend time with the people you love: we are always stressed and full of things to do and it’s easy to sacrifice our time with our loved ones. Stay more with your spouse, visit your mother, enjoy your time with your son, and organize a night out with your friends. We humans are social animals, and it’s good to see more of the people around us and spend some quality time with them
  • Work more on your side hustle: maybe you have a side job and since you have no main job anymore, you can invest more time into it and also think about how you can earn more money from it. The moments I’m unemployed are when I publish the most blog articles, for instance
  • Refresh your skills: more often than not, companies do not work with cutting-edge technologies, but with some stable tech from a few years ago. So it is probable that you are not aware of the latest in VR: the first thing to do when you are at home is investigate what are the latest advancements in VR tech and keep yourself up-to-date. For instance, if you are a developer like me, you can study what are the latest features of the VR SDKs: do you know that the XR Interaction Toolkit in Unity has just reached version 3.0 and has added a lot of cool features like climbing and hand tracking? Being up to date is especially good if you want to find a new job, where these skills may be needed
Me playing around with some Unity tools and Quest 3
  • Learn something new: skills are important for your career and the more you have, the better, especially because technologies are often to be used together. Especially if you aim at going up the corporate ladder, the more you go up, the more you must have horizontal knowledge. If as a developer, I’ve had to mostly use only Unity and VR SDKs, as a CTO I’ve had to coordinate projects using 5G, Cloud, VR, AI, and web technologies together. So if you know you lack knowledge of some tech, the free time you have may be used to learn more about it. This is something I absolutely suggest and I’m doing that myself: since I’ve always wanted to dig more into AI, I’m spending some time learning artificial intelligence and how it works. As a corollary suggestion: read books, they can teach you a lot
  • Do some experiments: you maybe can try to see if that idea you always had in your mind can become a product. Or you can have fun playing around with some technologies. Let your creative mind wander and play around with stuff: you will learn something new and maybe create some new opportunities with what you discover
  • Do something good for the world: help your friends reach their goals, go to your local shelter and help unfortunate people there… you have time to be helpful to others and increase your karma points. Do that, you will also feel better

As I’ve said, everyone is different, so you decide which mix of the above things to do. There are a lot of possible activities, so be active and invest your time in something good for you and for the people around you.

Be open to opportunities

Tell everyone that you are open to opportunities and see what happens. A lot of good things that happened to me were just because I was open to opportunities and when people asked me to have a call I said “why not”. Sometimes people propose us something that could be cool and we just have to be open to start the conversation about it. Don’t be afraid of having a call on what seems like a good opportunity even if it doesn’t come at the perfect time or you are thinking about doing something different. Having a call will not kill you, and if the proposal seems good, then say yes.

Create your opportunities

Also work to create new opportunities: write some proposals for grants and companies. Participate in contests. Contact some people that you know and who are in a good position and ask if they know about some opportunities. Ask your friends if their companies are looking for new employees or collaborators.

Have a look at the job proposals on Linkedin: it is a great tool to find your next work. A friend of mine usually activates the Premium trial when he is looking for a new job so that he can contact all the people that he wants during his job search. Also, go to the websites of the VR companies you liked the most: usually, they have a career page and you can see there if they’re looking for someone like you. If you can’t find a job in VR, try to find one in some similar technologies, like AR, or 3D gaming.

Do not just wait for things to happen, but also create yourself opportunities. Be propositive, be active. As I’ve said before: fight for your career!

But remember: whatever you will do, it will take some time. Even if you find the right job opportunity tomorrow, to go through hall the interview phases you will still need at least a couple of weeks.

Talk about it

potato psychologist
Have I told you I can use AI to create infinite potatoes?

Talk about what happened with your friends and your colleagues, it will be helpful. Some people will just say “oh, I’m sorry”, while others who have lived a story similar to yours will be truly supportive and help go through this period. If you feel the need, also seek professional support.

Venting helps: after the failure of Immotionar, I wrote a long postmortem about the company, and many people at that time said to me that it was one of the best postmortems about a startup they’ve read and felt my story as it was their ones. I remember that after I had written that post I was mentally exhausted, but I also felt better. And having the community close to me made me feel even better.

And if you want to talk about it with me… well, you know where to find me. I will be happy to offer you a virtual hug, and some good advice. Let’s all come out from this autumn of VR together 🙂

(Header picture by UK Black Tech from Unsplash)

The post What to do after you have lost your VR job appeared first on The Ghost Howls.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://skarredghost.com/2024/04/17/what-do-lose-vr-job/
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