No job? No shame. Younger workers are opening up about unemployment.


Being laid off is typically a private experience: A human resources representative delivers the news to a worker, who might be shocked or upset. But last month, Brittany Pietsch, a young account executive at the tech company Cloudflare, made public the conversation where she learned she was losing her job.

“Enjoy the trauma! :)” says a caption early in a 9-minute video posted on TikTok capturing the emotional roller coaster of Pietsch’s call with representatives from human resources, whom she’d never met before. Pietsch grows frustrated as she’s told she did not meet performance expectations, saying she’d gotten strong reviews from her manager and pressing for an explanation as to why she’s being let go.

“It must be very easy for you to have these 10-minute, 15-minute meetings, tell someone they’re fired, completely wreck their whole life and then that’s it,” Pietsch tells the HR representatives in the video. To her, it felt “like a slap in the face.”

Cloudflare did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post. Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince said on X, formerly Twitter, that the video was “painful” to watch, noting that “managers should always be involved” in a dismissal and that “no employee should ever actually be surprised they weren’t performing.”

As thousands of workers have been laid off across the tech, media and financial industries in recent months, videos like Pietsch’s have cropped up repeatedly as young people open up about being out of work. Young workers say they find catharsis and connection in cataloguing the havoc layoffs have wreaked on their finances and mental health. As they vent about the impersonal nature of the job search in the age of AI recruiters, they’re also being open about their willingness to walk away from work that’s unfulfilling.

Their candor marks a stark change from the shame and silence that used to accompany unemployment. While some have criticized such workers as being naive to the realities of the job market, experts say the impulse to share is helping young workers process a painful aspect of working life.

“There’s a lot of benefit to people saying, ‘Hey, this is what the workforce is actually like,’” said Morgan Sanner, a Gen Z expert in Columbus, Ohio, who also works in human resources. “It has offered a way for people to feel less alone in the corporate space.”

Almost immediately, Pietsch’s post sparked online outrage and appreciation. Some commended Pietsch, who did not respond to The Post’s request for comment, for sharing her experience and shamed the company for its impersonal approach to layoffs. Others argued that posting the video, which has racked up over 2 million views, could hurt Pietsch’s career.

Airing grievances online might bring more problems, employment experts say. In some states, for example, it is illegal to record people without their consent, notes Chambord Benton-Hayes, an employment attorney in Oakland, Calif.

“An employee who feels he or she was treated unfairly may feel it would help to use social media to share the process of being laid off,” Benton-Hayes said in an email to The Post. “I typically wouldn’t recommend my clients recording their layoff process, unless they were suspicious of illegal conduct and they want to prove it.”

Andrew Roth, founder and CEO of Gen Z consultancy dcdx, said that workers of his generation are uniquely uncomfortable with uncertainty, which is omnipresent amid layoffs and the many changes wrought by the pandemic.

“When there’s much out of our control, it becomes a much more daunting process,” Roth said.

On Instagram, Chloe Shih, who worked for Discord, catalogued her growing unease as job losses swept through the tech industry at the start of the year. Last month, Discord said it would cut 17 percent of its staff, about 170 jobs. “Twitch just announced their big layoffs, so that scares me,” she said on Jan. 11, highlighting another company thinning its ranks. “It is what it is, nobody is safe.”

She taped herself the next day, reacting to the news she’d lost her job, eyes wide and hands clapped over her mouth. “Holy [expletive], dude. This is how I’m gonna go?”

Shih did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.

Gen Zers, who are poised to become the third-largest age cohort in the workforce this year, and younger millennials are experiencing more work-related burnout than older generations, according to 2022 data from Gallup. Employees who experience significant burnout are more likely to leave their jobs, Gallup’s report notes.

Right before Christmas, Piper Phillips left a job she loved with nothing else lined up. For over a year, the 23-year-old had enjoyed working remotely as marketing director for a start-up in New York City. But after a work trip where she’d gotten to savor the company of colleagues at meetings, happy hours and dinners, she decided she wanted to work in-person.

In her journal the day before she quit, Phillips promised herself not to let the job search stress her out. Rather than desperately “hunt” for a job, she reframed the process as more carefree “job shopping.” She wanted to explore options and find a great fit, she explained on TikTok, where she’s been documenting her search.

“If I’m in a more positive frame of mind, I’m going to have an easier time getting a job than if I was in a situation feeling unhappy,” Phillips told The Post.

Phillips knows there is “so much privilege” in being able to walk away from her old role, and that not everyone can be choosy. (She had savings to fall back on, and puts the money she makes from TikTok toward her rent.) She’s heard from plenty of people who said it was “ridiculous” to quit her old job, telling her that work “isn’t supposed to be fun.” But mostly she’s heard from other young workers who feel emboldened by her positive spin on job-seeking.

“I got so many comments of, ‘Oh my god, I did this, too, and it was the best thing I could have done’ or ‘I wish I could do this,’” Phillips said.

Many younger workers are finding the job market tough to navigate, according to career consultant Mimi Gonzalez, because the pandemic disrupted their ability to build relationships. Some are “terrified” to talk to people they don’t know, she said, making it hard to network and interview.

“You have so many young people navigating this foreign world because they didn’t have the help,” Gonzalez said.

But on social media, young workers are finding others with whom they can commiserate.

Since the fall, Meolah Delinois has been searching for part-time work she can start immediately and a summer internship. A graduate student in Delaware, the 22-year-old said she’s been frustrated as recruiters reach out and then go months without responding. She’s repeatedly shown up to virtual interviews only to be ghosted. Although her only nonnegotiable thing is matching the salary from her last internship, more than 130 job applications have yielded nothing. She had to move back in with her parents.

“I’ve been working since I was 16, and I’ve never had to struggle to get a job like I am right now,” Delinois said.

Like Phillips, Delinois has been sharing her unemployment journey on TikTok. In one, she describes the challenge of not comparing herself to others. In another, she pantomimes a meltdown cut to audio from the hit television show “The Bear.”

Something that feels stressful and “a little embarrassing” to discuss in person has been far easier to share on the social media platform, Delinois said. Many people have reached out after seeing her TikToks to share their own difficulties finding work, including close friends she hadn’t known were struggling.

“Being able to share it on that app and having many different people talk about their experiences and relating to it,” Delinois said, “that is just so powerful.”


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