The lockdown has brought so much job uncertainty. So what happens if the worst-case scenario hits you? Marina Gask explains how to survive and thrive post redundancy
Are you facing a career change of necessity? Finding you’re surplus to requirements as an employee or losing your position during a company restructuring can be devastating in the extreme.
This week saw more than 140,000 companies, employing a total of about 1 million workers, applying to the government’s job furlough scheme on its first day of operation on Monday. And, sorry to be the messenger of doom here, but many economic analysts believe this scheme is only delaying the inevitable, with the extension of the lockdown expecting to trigger a further wave of redundancies. In fact, the number of jobless is expected to rise rapidly over the coming months as companies react to the lockdown by laying off staff, especially in the hardest-hit leisure, hospitality and retail industries.
Parking the financial concerns aside for a moment, sometimes an unwanted career change can be a blessing in disguise. It’s easy to ‘get comfortable’ in a job that we may have long become bored with but find it impossible to leave. Having the decision made for us can sometimes be just the kick up the backside we need to take our destiny into our own hands.
Of course sometimes it’s impossible to see the silver lining. Losing a job you love or finding your face no longer fits in the industry you’ve joyfully worked in is not a pleasant experience. Nor is discovering that it’s your industry – not you – that’s no longer in hot demand. Clinging on by your fingernails can be damaging to your self-confidence if you’re just met with a wall of silence when pitching for work.
The month I lost my job I almost lost the plot. I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me and was terrified of an uncertain future. But it forced me to pull up my big girl pants and take responsibility for my own happiness. Most people I know have been made redundant, some multiple times, and they’re the people who help you move on when it happens to you. It’s not fun, but it forces you to be resourceful and prepared to change direction, which can lead to some interesting outcomes. Often it can lead to something better than the job or industry you left behind.
But whatever the circumstances, the impact cannot be underestimated. Debbie Smith, a specialist coach, who has advised a large number of people post-redundancy on handling the fallout says we have to first be kind to ourselves. ‘The devastation of being made redundant can leave you freewheeling emotionally for months, even years. It’s very natural for people facing redundancy, regardless of whether it was expected or not, to go through a process of grief similar to bereavement.’
So, after a reasonable period spent punching pillows and licking our wounds how do we take those first tentative steps towards our new future?
1. See this as an opportunity
‘This may be first time you’ve been able to think ‘what is it I really want to do?’ and to explore that,’ says Smith. You may have long harboured a desire to do something different, but been held back by the demands of your job. Give yourself the scope to look beyond your CV and think about what would really make you fulfilled.
2. Realise there are people who want to help
‘Be selective – stick with people who are positive, who energise you, and preferably who’ve been through this journey themselves,’ says Smith. Tempting as it is to dissect your situation with former colleagues, there comes a point when you need to move on. You don’t want people around you who live in the past and pull you down when you’re starting to change your mindset.
3. Use this time constructively
Update and improve your LinkedIn profile and build up your network of contacts. Apart from this being a positive and useful way to spend your time, this could be where your next job comes from.
4. Get some independent financial advice
Whether you’ve been given a redundancy package or not, getting this advice will mean you worry less about how you’re going to survive financially. ‘It will also help you think about issues around pension and the minimum you need to survive – which may open up more choices to you, especially if you are thinking along the lines of a new venture,’ advises Smith.
5. Recognise your small wins and successes
Reach out to people in your network who really rate you. Getting affirmation from someone about your skills and experience, and hearing they’d like to put you in touch with somebody they know is the kind of small but definite ‘win’ to be celebrated. ‘As these start to build up you’ll find your mind set becoming more positive, which cranks up your self-belief,’ says Smith.
6. Reframe your thinking
Recognise what your strengths are and how marketable you are. Start to understand how you can transfer your skills to other sectors and what that could lead to. You need to challenge yourself to be really open to opportunities. Working with a coach can be really beneficial for this.
7. Don’t neglect your health
It’s important to keep up your energy levels up so you look and feel the best you can in job interviews and networking events. Eat well, stay fit and take care of your mental wellbeing so you’re energised and positive, instead of looking like a victim.
8. Don’t do yourself down
When you meet new people be careful how you talk about your situation. When asked what you do, you have a choice how you phrase it. Instead of saying you’re unemployed and hinting at your woes, say ‘I’m between jobs and exploring new opportunities’.
9. Create ‘Project Me’
‘The people who move quickest from redundancy to their next job or career are those who’ve treated their career change as ‘Project Me’, says Smith. ‘Applying the skills they’ve learnt from project management to their own future, step by step.’
* Create a list of five people you trust to give you good advice. These need to be people who have influence in the field that interests you, who can open doors for you and perhaps act as a mentor for you.
* Don’t turn down offers of help, but that help needs to be very focused. Be confident in your own judgement in what you need and don’t be distracted by others’ advice.
* Work on your CV, taking the time out to think about what you really want to do, what you’re passionate about, where you want to work, etc. Your CV is there to get you on the ‘yes’ pile for interview, but it’s got to be the right job in the first place.
* Ask yourself whether it’s a job you’re looking for, or the freedom of self-employment or running your own business. Independence may suit your values better, but the financial insecurity doesn’t suit everyone. This is a major decision so get some help from a career or life coach to help you think it through.
* If you’re looking for a coach it’s best to choose one who has undergone training accredited by one of the three leading professional associations for coaching in the UK, the International Coach Federation, European Mentoring and Coaching Council or Association For Coaching.
* This article originally appeared on audreyonline.co.uk, the online platform for women who need advice on how to make a restart and generally living more audaciously.