Dealing with Redundancy? 5 Don’ts…

Photo of someone changing the word unemployed to employed - having successfully navigated through redundancy at workOver the past couple of years, I’ve worked with many, many clients dealing with – and reeling from – redundancy.

Government restructures, economic downturn… redundancy’s become a part of the working landscape, and post-budget, there’s nightly commentary on looming job cuts.

Economic reality or not, it’s a situation few people ever want to find themselves in – but in the current climate, it’s also one to prepare for…

Because how you approach retrenchment, from the first day onwards, can make a big difference to how you fare.

With that in mind, some tips on handling a tough time, as well as possible:

1.   Don’t isolate yourself

As ex-HR, I know that redundancy can happen to anyone, at any time; it’s not personal, just a factor of changing business needs, and financial pressures. I can tell you that being retrenched is no reflection on your skills, abilities or worth as a person… but I know that that does not remove the sting – and it can really sting.

Redundancy can hit hard, leaving people with a level of hurt, anger and vulnerability they didn’t anticipate – and often, that’s when people drop off the radar, feeling anything from impotent rage to acute anxiety – even shame. All normal reactions.

Losing a job is a loss, and loss involves grief – so let yourself mourn. Take time out, to process your feelings… Just don’t cut yourself off from the world. Stay connected.

It’s when we’re at our lowest ebbs that we most need support – and the support’s out there. Talk to friends, family… or someone professional. Don’t let pride get in your way; contrary to what you may think, it takes real strength to reach out. Be strong.

Ask. For. Help. And help yourself – ask for it early. 

2.   Don’t lose your identity

It’s not surprising that we identify so strongly with our jobs – we spend about a third of our lives at work. Often, our first question when we meet someone, is “So, what do you do?” Losing your easy answer – I’m a Teacher / Plumber / Whatever – can feel like losing a sense of yourself.

Expect this, and remind yourself that you’re more than your job title. You have an identity outside of work – and value to many people, beyond your career.

Use this time to focus on your other identities: parent, child, sibling, friend, partner, mentor, volunteer… they’re all of value. While you have the luxury of time, use it to strengthen important bonds that may have taken a back seat to work. Reconnect, build relationships and add value to your world.

Above all, use this time as an opportunity to reinvent yourself. You have time now to take a step back, ask yourself who you want to be, and then start creating a new identity.

Often, redundancy can become the catalyst that changes a life – for the better.  

3.   Don’t hide online

When you’re out of work, it’s easy to get sucked into the job board vortex. Bad move.

Why? In the last 5 years, the number of online vacancies in Australia has halved. The vast majority of jobs now go by word of mouth, recommendation and referral – so get off the computer!

Yes, it’s easy and comfortable to sit and send resume after resume, and it can make you feel like you’re doing something tangible. But getting stuck on there is just wasting time – and setting yourself up for failure. Most applications will disappear into a big black hole… along with your sense of self-worth, motivation and hope.

The alternative? Be proactive, and reach out. Use this time to touch base with your networks, reconnect with old colleagues, and get active in your communities. Join groups, get out and help people wherever you can. What you do now will position you for your next chapter.

Remember: all jobs go through people, so get out there and engage!

4.   Don’t lose your value

Chances are you’ve been so busy with your day-to-day job that you’ve let your professional development slip. That can be a double-whammy when you’re suddenly out of work… and then twig that you’ve fallen behind.

The past’s past, so let it go – and do something now! Take a close look at your skill-set, another at what the market needs – and then close that gap wherever you can. That might be a small step, or a total reinvention, so get help if you need it.

Need to update your IT literacy? Sign up for courses. Need to polish your presentation skills? Join a club. Keen to build leadership skills, learn to mentor or show your adaptability? Look for volunteering opportunities, take temporary work or consult to your contacts. And remember to update your resume and online profiles to reflect this.

Whatever you do, use this time to make yourself more marketable, not less.

Sooner or later you’ll be back in the interview hot seat, and you’ll be asked to account for this time and how you spent it – so take stock, plan and make sure you have something positive to show for it!

5.   Don’t give up!

Often, it’s unrealistic expectations that undo people… so, don’t set yourself up, expecting to have a new job within the fortnight. Whilst I hope you’re back in the saddle quickly, you need to be both positive and pragmatic. Prepare for the process of finding work to take some time.

How much? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the median duration of unemployment in 2013, was 17 weeks – just over 4 months. That will vary by person, job and industry, but it gives you some kind of guide to work to. Be realistic, be practical and do what you need, to keep things ticking over.

Keep your energy levels up, to keep you moving. Whatever buoys your spirits and helps you (not alcohol or drugs), do it. Get back to the hobbies you’ve neglected, get onto the reno at home, start learning that second language. 

Look after yourself – eat well and stay active. Surround yourself with positive people, help out and give back. Create a routine – plan your week, set yourself manageable goals, and celebrate small wins.

Expect a marathon, more than a sprint, be the best friend you can be to yourself, and keep on keeping on… 

All things pass, and you’ll come out of the other side of this…

Make good choices now, and you can emerge stronger, wiser – and better. 

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