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The disaster at Zillow and career advice for Zillow employees

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What a disaster!

Zillow announced it’s laying off 25% of its workforce and shutter house-flipping service. 

As recent as October 29th Zillow stock was trading at $103.84 per share. It closed at $61.93 on Monday January 3 2022.

I live in Seattle. I know quite a few people at Zillow. In recent months Zillow executives were still touting how successful their home flipping business had been. Every single Zillow employee I talked to was blindsided by the news.

Zillow employees are very angry. Zillow had a very nice ads driven business. Its previous CEO Spencer Rascoff had built a great culture. He was a leader who walked around in the office and worked out of a cubicle just like everyone else.

Richard Barton, one of the original founders of Zillow (who also co-founded Expedia and Glassdoor), had the bold vision of getting into buying and selling houses at scale. He returned to Zillow and had been aggressively pursuing a new corporate strategy. It failed spectacularly. Richard is also an executive who holed up in his own executive suite and didn’t have much interactions with his employees. 

Externally Zillow executives are blaming the unpredictability of housing prices for their disaster. However, Business Insider ran a great article; ‘Blame leadership’: Former Zillow product manager unloads on company culture after it cuts 25% of staff. I asked Zillow employees about this article and they said there was a lot of truth to this article. 

No Zillow executive has been fired yet but I’m sure some of them are worried about their job security. The layoff of roughly 2,000 people will be conducted in 3 rounds. The first round of layoff took place in early November while the later rounds will happen in January after the holiday. It is like a “slow death” experience as employees are waiting for the words between now and January. 

As an interview and career coach, I have the following advice for Zillow employees.

First, take control of your career. You’re the CEO of your career. The job market is hot right now. There is a shortage of workers. You owe yourself and your family to aggressively look for a new opportunity. Even if you think you’re safe from layoff, it doesn’t hurt for you to look around to see what is available. There are and will be a lot of uncertainties and chaos at Zillow. You want to have outside options.

Second, if you’re laid off, job search is your new, full-time job. When I was laid off in early 2000, I woke up every morning at 7am in the morning, put on my regular work clothes, and established a routine of applying 5 jobs a day with customized resumes, 1 networking coffee/lunch a day, and started a side consulting hustle. I was able to land two job offers in 4 weeks. 

Third, if you need a new job now, take the path of least resistance by leveraging your most relevant experience and expertise. For example, companies in the real estate space such as Redfin, Open Door, Compass would be very interested in talking to talented Zillow employees. You might be disillusioned by the house flipping industry and want to try something different. But, if you need a job now, your best bet is to find something that is similar to what you have been doing recently. The more relevant your experience and expertise are to a job opening, the easier for you to land an offer. 

Fourth, if you work in functional areas such as accounting and finance in Zillow, I think you should get yourself out of there. As recently as September and early October Zillow executives were still touting its Zillow Offer business. This didn’t reflect well on the parts of executives, finance and accounting departments. If I work in finance or accounting at Zillow, I’d be worried about my own professional reputation. You should be prepared to answer interview questions related to the Zillow Offer disaster. 

Fifth, start a side hustle if you haven’t. You cannot rely on a single corporation for your livelihood. You need to diversify your income, and take control of your own destiny. There is no loyalty in corporate America. You must take care of your and your family’s economic future. The fortune of a corporation could change in a blink of eyes. But, if you have multiple sources of income, you’ll be a lot safer and relaxed. 

If you need help, check out my interview and career coaching page.

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