The largest companies across the technology sector have been hit by tens of thousands of layoffs in recent months. Unable to maintain major growth experienced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many such companies look to cut back and privacy professionals have not been immune.
Just last week, Google announced it is laying off 12,000 employees and Amazon notified employees of a second round of layoffs as part of a plan to reduce staff by 18,000 people. Earlier this month, Salesforce cut 8,000 employees, while Meta cut more than 11,000 jobs in November of 2022 and OneTrust cut 950 employees in June.
Overall, tech companies cut a total of 154,843 employees in 2022 and 38,815 thus far in 2023, according to Layoffs.fyi, a website tracking the activity since March 2020.
“There are definitely people in privacy that are being affected at every level, particularly in corporate America,” TRU Staffing Partners Founder and CEO Jared Coseglia said. “We’re seeing the world being rocked by all these layoffs and the layoffs happening in tech, aside from the privacy industry as a niche, have really spooked the whole job seeker marketplace across America.”
‘An odds and a numbers game’
Recent layoffs are largely not performance related, Coseglia said, but more about companies looking to improve profitability and “capitalize on all this rich talent” entering the marketplace.
“It’s been a complete candidates’ marketplace. Employers are fighting over job seekers,” he said. “We’re clocking the average privacy professional, even to this day, has a minimum of two but an average of three job offers at the point of hire when they switch positions. There is still immensely high demand and not enough supply.”
Overall, Coseglia said, impacted privacy professionals are higher-compensated employees like privacy engineers, program managers and directors, “not your nine-months of experience privacy analyst.”
“So what’s happening is those people don’t live paycheck to paycheck. They can sit on the bench for three to six to maybe 12 months before they have to take a job because they need to pay the bills. So they are being very choosy, so there’s a bit of a stasis,” Coseglia said. “All these layoffs have not led to massive hiring of all these employees. Not because the employers don’t want them, but because the employees are being picky still.”
Meanwhile, he said, many open job opportunities are in the “middle of the market, those with two to five years of experience, while employers aren’t looking to increase compensation to obtain employees and are being “more judicious” about what they are willing to spend for talent.
“So, it’s a little bit of an odds and a numbers game as it relates to who is available and what is the market looking for in terms of experience. Right now, I’d say there are more jobs open in the lower middle to middle market range. So you may say there are all these people out of work and there’s all these people posting jobs, but the salaries and the regions may not align,” he said.
Watching the “caliber” of “fantastic” candidates impacted by the tech company layoffs, and hiring for two positions, Johnson Controls Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer Sachin Kothari posted on LinkedIn, looking to offer both support and awareness of his open roles.
“Knowing some of these colleagues and their tenure in privacy, I know what amazing experts they are. My first reaction was clearly this is not performance driven,” he said, adding he wanted to highlight that those impacted “are highly qualified individuals that just happened to be holding the short end of the stick.”
On social media the privacy community has been rallying behind professionals impacted by layoffs time and time again over recent months.
“The privacy community is a small community, and it’s one that is very supportive — whether it’s the great environment the IAPP has set up, or the social space such as LinkedIn and other privacy forums, you always see lots of support among fellow privacy professionals for each other, whether it’s knowledge sharing, learnings or support for certain areas of expertise, so I wanted to reach out,” Kothari said. “To tell my network, these are great individuals, make sure you take advantage of this opportunity.”
Kothari said he's never seen a job market like today's.
"It's a great opportunity for privacy professionals to jump verticals and expand their skills to drive an amazing impact for their future employers. The dynamic marketplace also makes it difficult to draw individuals with a specific skill set," he said.
‘Capitalize on all this rich talent’
Coseglia said employers should “capitalize on all this rich talent” in the marketplace through contract or contract-to-hire opportunities. Contract positions can offer a direct path to full-time employment, Coseglia said.
“People who have been through work trauma as it relates to the loss of employment are going to have greater trepidation about putting themselves in a position where they might go through trauma again. And so they’ll be much more willing to take contract or contract-to-hire opportunities because if it doesn’t work out it’s an easy, ‘Hey, it didn’t work out, it was a contract,’” he said. “The same holds true for employers who feel like maybe they’ve made some bad hires in the last few years because of how competitive things were and they have employer trauma, so they are going to be more trepidatious about just going out and hiring full-time employees because the liabilities of hiring a full-time employee are much different than hiring a contractor.”
One Medical Senior Privacy Specialist Adeola Abatan, CIPP/E, started out in a seven-month contract role but recently converted to a full-time employee. While she was looking for a full-time role in her job search, Abatan said she’s glad she went the contract route.
“Being a contractor gave me a feeling of the job, so it really helped me get a feel for the company, the culture, the kind of work I’d be doing and if it was something I wanted to do long term,” she said of the position, which is her first in the privacy field. “The contractor experience is a good way to gain an understanding of whatever experience you are trying to cater towards or to understand if where you are trying to work is a good fit.”
For hiring managers in such a dynamic environment, Kothari said understanding the marketplace, and a company’s needs and expectations is key. He recommended that they not shy away from looking for a candidate with baseline skills and teaching them the more detailed elements of a role.
“For example, if you’re looking for a particular niche, don’t limit yourself to a candidate with that experience. Look for the opportunity. These downturns have really affected some amazing candidates and those candidates may not necessarily have specialized expertise. But that doesn’t necessarily mean can't adapt and quickly pick up the necessary know-how," he said. “Be open to the teaching process. Don’t just try to check the box. Use the opportunity to get the right person, not just someone with a specific job history."
Advice for job seekers, hiring managers
For those in the job market, no matter their situation, Coseglia recommended having a solid understanding of what they are looking for and what they want to achieve through a position.
“The more a job seeker can really define what they are looking for prior to going into the search, the more likely it is they are going to find it and the more likely they will have an engaged conversation with a potential employer to help suss out if they will get what they want,” he said.
He also said many hiring managers may post “catch-all” job descriptions and urged candidates not to “self-select out” of a position, but to be honest about where their strengths and weaknesses are.
“I think a lot of job seekers say, ‘well I don’t have this and I don’t have that,’ and I think a lot of hiring managers are trying to tell the community any of these things, not all of these things,” he said. “So, I think job seekers have to approach it that way. Be open-minded and figure out where your strengths are and where you can have immediate impact and then be honest about where you are going to need training and education. If you know what you are weak in and can articulate it, you’ll immediately give confidence to a hiring manager that it can be overcome and taught. But you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Discernible Founder and CEO Melanie Ensign encouraged privacy pros who bring experience from big tech firms to “be courageous enough to be the first privacy employee somewhere else.”
“You have experience, particularly in scaling programs that these companies desperately need. It’s such a tremendous opportunity to go in and be the first one in a company and really establish the principles and values. There are companies that need your skills,” she said. “If you want to make progress as a privacy professional, sometimes going into an organization that doesn’t have 30 years of privacy debt gives you a leg up. You’re going to be able to do more things.”
In a continuously evolving field, Coseglia said privacy professionals must “continue to be fearless” about exploring the job market, and Kothari encouraged professionals impacted by layoffs not to be afraid to jump back into the marketplace and embrace the opportunity to expand their skillsets.
“You are in a rare opportunity where you control the marketplace in so many different ways. Privacy, as small as it is, is a very broad area. So use this opportunity to explore different aspects of privacy,” he said. “The privacy profession is growing dramatically and touching upon all different disciplines, particularly with regulations that are being adopted. So take this opportunity to learn more and understand what’s happening, not just within your industry or the marketplace, but also the regulatory environment. That way, you'll maximize your value in your next role and all future endeavors.”
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