coping with redundancy

Guy Day

Losing your job can be one of the most stressful events in your life, particularly if you are mid-career and have been with your employer for some time. It’s usually unexpected and its implications are often difficult to comprehend immediately. However, take heart and think positively because redundancy can also provide an excellent opportunity for you to break the mould and change direction towards a more successful career.

It's not just you

The media continues to report the decline in the world economy and the resulting job losses. Seemingly no country, no sector and no profession has been left untouched and around the world thousands of executives have been made redundant this year. Many organisations with revenue in decline have retreated to their core and profitable businesses. Rationalisations, restructurings and redundancies have resulted.

Quite often in this phase of the employment cycle, layoffs can be indiscriminate with regard to ability, length of service and value to the organisation. Back-office teams are often a target because they are non-revenue generating, and in the short term they are a less emotive cost saving.

So, the message must be - it's not just you. It's happening everywhere and you must use this fact as part of the healing process.

Drain away the pain

When you first hear of your redundancy, you may feel a range of emotions, especially anger, but also relief, uncertainty, betrayal, bitterness and sadness. All these are justifiable and normal. You should spend time coming to terms with the decision and getting the emotion out of your system as much as you can. You shouldn’t under any circumstances start to look for another job until you have calmed down and processed the news of your redundancy.

Your anger and bitterness will be evident during the selection process and will deter potential employers. If you cannot shake your loss after four to five weeks, then you may need to seek guidance from professional counsellors to help you through this stage.

Communicate with family and friends

Don’t try to hide your redundancy. It’s crucial that you explain what has happened and that there may be some changes ahead. Also tell your closest friends, although it’s probably best not to make this a general broadcast until you have a plan and can ask for specific help generating leads.

Make a financial plan

One of your immediate issues will be financial. Whether or not you have received severance pay or bonuses, you should undertake a thorough review of your budget for the year ahead. Make sure you have received all your entitlements from the organisation and that your pension payments are in order. Reduce all non-essential expenditure and assume that your new budget will need to last a full year until you are back on your feet again. Undergo the self-review process as well. Once you feel reconciled to what has happened, it’s time to move on and to think about the future.

Exit with dignity

However tempting it may be to express your real feelings during the exit process, try to harness your anger and exit professionally and with dignity. You will need the help of your former colleagues and managers in the coming months for references and contacts.

Explain your termination to potential employers

Discuss your termination and the reasons for it with your employer and your other referees. Regrettably, there is still a stigma attached to being out of work, so potential new employers may think your departure is performance related until you can convince them otherwise.

It’s important therefore that you understand the reasons for your termination so that you can communicate them with confidence to the market and so that your referees - including your former employer - can back you up verbally and in writing. You need to ensure that there is no doubt whatsoever surrounding the reasons for your departure, otherwise your job search could be damaged.

Finally, set yourself a realistic time frame for finding a new role. Be prepared that it could take several months to find the right job – more if you are seeking a specialist or senior position, or if you don’t have the requisite skills or experience. Be persistent and positive during your job search.


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