While hard to take, a forced redundancy can be invaluable in terms of giving people space to reflect and focus on what they ultimately want to achieve in their career.
Harry S Truman once said: “It’s a recession when your neighbour loses his job, it’s a depression when you lose yours.” Before you get depressed, remember that finding yourself redundant, while frightening, can also be a wonderful opportunity that provides a chance to take time out to reassess your life and your career and decide what you really want from your future.
Initially, however, when your boss calls you aside and tells you you’re being let go, it can be quite upsetting. Try to keep your dignity and not do anything you might regret at a later stage.
“Remember, it’s the job that’s being made redundant, not you,” says Brian McIvor, management-skills training specialist and author of Career Detection: Finding and Managing Your Career. “The job doesn’t have a future and your boss can’t justify the cost any more. It’s not personal. A shock reaction is normal, but you have recovery mechanisms.”
Thankfully, the financial effects of redundancy will not be immediate. “Remember, there is statutory redundancy and that money is there to help you manage the transition. Things won’t just suddenly grind to a halt.”
McIvor believes redundancy offers an opportunity to get your career back on track.
“Take time out to retrain and upskill, which allows you more time to assess job opportunities. The temptation is to take the first job, but if you go straight back into a constricted jobs market and you take a job that’s down at the minimum, you are taking the cut financially. You may also find yourself in a dead end that you can’t get out of. Whereas if you go out there and you say: ‘I’m going to invest part of my lump sum in upskilling and retraining, and I’m going to do it properly’, you’re in a different position. It builds up your confidence,” he explains.
Analyse your transferrable skills
If you’re thinking of changing career, one of the first things you should analyse are your transferable skills, ie skills that can be applied to your next job. These don’t have to come from your previous career — they might be from voluntary work or from a hobby. McIvor says people should look at their typical job and take note of their achievements. “To identify transferable skills, look at what got you hired in the current job. What got you noticed or promoted? Look at performance reviews. What did your managers praise you for?”
You should also try to remember an aspect of your career or life that you would do again if you had the chance. This can lead you in the direction of the right job, and will give you an advantage in your next interview. “An ace card in an interview is enthusiasm,” he adds.
If you find yourself between jobs for a long period, don’t try to ignore it on your CV. “You have to portray the gap on your CV in a realistic and credible light.” McIvor advises being straightforward and explaining what happened to your previous job, ie that there was a decline in your industry and a collapse in the market, which resulted in job losses. If you had a positive review, or a promotion, previous to becoming unemployed, that should be highlighted.
The way you engage with redundancy is important, and, as McIvor points out, you should look at the positive side. “You’ll be losing the stress of the current job, the things you hated about it and possibly the commuting. Redundancy also gives you time to think and reconsider, and review the activity in your life. You may not get this gap again.”