People talk about redundancy being like a bereavement, and yes, there are many similarities. However, there are added elements to it. Some people feel shame; they perceive redundancy to be a stigma, as if the reason they were singled out was personal and not because of a global pandemic. Others may find that it severely shakes their self-esteem, meaning that they are already starting their job-hunt from a place of weakness.
The way you will bounce back from your redundancy will very much depend on your own resilience, whether this is your first experience with it, the people around you, luck, and the support you receive. It may not all be down to you, but there are many things you can be doing to put yourself in the best place to move forwards. After helping hundreds of people through redundancy and career transition, here are my top five actions, in the correct order.
1. Let Yourself Feel
Even if you hated your job and were relieved to be made redundant, it’s natural to feel panic. Things in your world are changing and your flight and fight responses are being activated. If redundancy is a shock, or it’s going to be hard financially, you may be dealing with anxious thoughts for what this means for the future. You may be sitting with thoughts like “why me” or “not again.” Many people will tell you to try and move on and distract yourself at this point, but I believe it’s important to give our feelings space. Give yourself a day or two to feel what you feel. Don’t try to do anything during this time. This isn’t the right moment to send off a flurry of job applications.
The important thing here is setting yourself a time limit for sitting with your feelings. It could be a day or two. Three or four at the most. Then, draw a line under it. It’s time to move on.
2. Think Security
We all have to think about paying those bills. Here is the point when you have to hunker down and do the maths. What do you really need to live on each month? Can you reduce that? Cutting out Netflix, Prime and the gym can often bring household expenses down over £100 a month in one fell swoop. Think of all those little subscriptions going out that you don’t even think about. Check your Paypal account: if you’re anything like me this is where they may be lurking.
Look into what you are entitled to in the way of benefits and don’t be ashamed at claiming from the state. You have paid your taxes just for this reason: to come to your aid when you need it. If you’re thinking of taking courses, double check to see if they have reductions for unemployed.
Consider if you can bring in income any other way, such as letting out a room or doing some online tutoring while you job search? If you are paired up, now’s the time to have those honest and frank conversations about your finances. Don’t be too secretive with the children too. They will pick up on stress levels and wondering what is going on will be worse than the truth. Kids can usually deal with honesty; it’s secrets and lies that cause the issues.
3. Let Yourself Breathe
It’s still not time to work on those applications, however. What I would like you to do now is to ask yourself what does this redundancy really mean for you? Even if your first thoughts are worries about paying the mortgage, try to let go of that for the moment. Look at the bigger picture. Maybe you have been feeling unhappy in your job for a while and this is the kick you need to change career. It could be the time you decide to go part time or look for a job share. It could be the stimulus to start your own business or go freelance. Perhaps you want to look for something closer to home, or a smaller organisation where you are more likely to get promoted quicker?
What have you been hankering for but haven’t gone after because of your job? What will being made redundant mean for those dreams and desires?
Even if you were happy in your last role and want something similar, taking this time to check in on that will help you remain motivated in your job search.
4. Try Out Your Possible Selves
The theory of Possible Selves suggests that we have many different selves out there who could be living very different lives, doing very different jobs. Switching careers isn’t a case of waking up one morning and deciding you now want to become a teacher. Instead, it is a gradual decision that you reach by trying things out. If you’ve been pondering changing career, now could be the time to start experimenting. You could do this by asking for some work experience, interning, shadowing someone or taking a short course. You may never have this time again, so use it while you do.
5. Prepare for Action
While it’s tempting to throw out CVs here and there, it works better if you have a plan. Make a short-list of the types of jobs you are after. Cut and paste the various job descriptions into one big master document so you are really familiar with all the things they could be asking for. Create a master CV that you can tweak if necessary. Get someone — a career coach like me — or a trusted friend or someone in your chosen industry, to look over them and make suggestions. Move into creating a job-hunting routine and stick to it, not forgetting to build in time for rest, exercise and whatever will keep you fresh and fit. Finding the right job takes resilience and looking after yourself will help you keep some perspective which will help with this.
Paula Gardner, Career Psychologist and Founder of The Redundancy Recovery Hub
The Redundancy Recovery Hub is a resource to help businesses support staff they are having to make redundant. Here you’ll find expert interviews, articles, and first-person stories all around getting back into work, changing direction and looking after yourself during this difficult time.