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Life, Mind, Wellbeing, Work

Coping with redundancy | What to do when you’ve been made redundant and you’re struggling to cope

A black keyboard and on it there is a return key that has 'find job' written on it. An article about coping with redundancy.

Unemployment is rising and sadly, as the full economic impact of COVID-19 sets in, the figures will go up even further. Coping with redundancy can be tough and there’s no right way of dealing with it, but I’m going to share some advice that may help. 

I’ve suddenly found myself out of work on two different occasions. In 2011, when a fixed-term-contract came to an unexpected end and in 2020 when the pandemic hit and I discovered that I wouldn’t be returning from furlough. 

I’ll be honest, my initial response, on both occasions, isn’t something that I’d champion others to emulate. I was so upset, I took my job losses personally and I felt angry that it had happened to me. However, both times, I found myself back in work within two weeks. I bounced back quickly, so I wanted to share some advice that could help others that find themselves in a similar situation. One size doesn’t fit all, but if this article helps one person dealing with redundancy then it’s worth writing.

1) Make sure you’re represented in the workplace

I was made redundant from a job that I had for over eight years and despite working in a non-unionised workplace, I was a member of a trade union. This is something which really came into its own during my redundancy consultation. I felt that having a representative meant that I was protected and it enabled me to exercise my legal rights. The other advantage to having representation is that, if you’re unfairly dismissed, then your union will support you. If you decide to take your former employer to a tribunal, they will at least help to absorb the cost. 

For me personally, having representation was key to my strategy for coping with redundancy. I wasn’t left wondering if anything was incorrect, or if my employment rights had been breached, as I had somebody that I could ask for legal advice. I also had somebody impartial, who knew the law, to talk through my options with.

Understandably, trade unions often can’t help if you need advice after an issue has occurred. So join one today, if you run into trouble in the future, then your future self will be thankful for your foresight.

Join a trade union so your rights are protected in the work place

If you don’t want to join a trade union, or if you forget to and you then find yourself facing a redundancy consultation, then remember that anybody can contact Acas if they need to query something

2) Put your mental wellbeing first

This is a key one. If you’ve lost your job, then you might think that fighting the decision will help you to deal with it. But listen to advice before jumping in; is that the best thing for you? Sometimes you have to walk away, with your head held high, for your own sanity. You could challenge the decision but the likelihood is that their mind won’t change.

It’s also important to acknowledge and accept your feelings. Feeling worried about the future is natural when you’ve just lost your job and you’ll allowed to spend some time brooding. Let the feelings out, ride the wave and don’t punish yourself for how you respond.

We are all different, but I wanted to focus my energies on having a positive future, not on fighting a former employer and I think that helped me to bounce back quickly.

3) Seek professional help if you need it

Your redundancy may impact your mental health. This is totally understandable, because losing your livelihood is a horrible thing to have to deal with. Make sure you contact your GP if you’re struggling to cope emotionally.

Losing your job can bring on mental health problems, so even if you’re feeling okay now, be vigilant and speak to somebody if things start to escalate.

If you suffer with anxiety then you may also find that creating an emergency calm box helps.

4) Remember that everything happens for a reason…

When you’ve been made redundant, being told that “everything happens for a reason” is the last thing you want to bloody hear. But you can choose to believe it and you can choose to take the knockback as a sign that something better is around the corner, even if it’s not immediately obvious.

I’m a big believer in the power of visualisation and I’ve previously explained how to make a vision board that really works. Believing that your job loss will lead you to better things and visualising a brighter future may help.

5) …But don’t believe every cliché

Another line that people like to throw around is: “it’s easier to find a new job when you’re in one”. Well I don’t think that’s true for everybody.

I’ll let you into a little secret. I’ve gone through stages where I’ve hated my job and I’ve thrown everything at finding a new position. I have reached ‘final stage interviews’ on three occasions. If I’d been offered a new job on one of those occasions, I’d have taken it. Some people may find it easier to find a new job if they already have one, but for me, that cliché isn’t true. I find it easier to find a job when I throw every fibre I have towards the hunt.

In my opinion, the key to coping with redundancy isn’t believing every cliché that’s thrown at you. Some of them may be true, but pick and choose what you take to heart. 

Quote_ Don't believe every cliché that's thrown at you. Some of them may be true, but pick and choose what you take to heart._

6) Consider your career options

Understandably, you might not be in a position to sit without a job for months on end. But personal career management takes time and you might not have all the answers within a couple of weeks. You could buy yourself time to think by applying for all jobs that you could do. Choose things you’re qualified for and things you have experience in, anything that will fit around your schedule. Just ask yourself if the hours could work and if they do, apply. You could do a job like this temporarily whilst you’re figuring out what career path you want to take next. 

7) Make a list of things to do 

If you’ve been made redundant then it’s important to make a list of things to do in the immediate aftermath. Download your payslips, work out your redundancy pay, tot up what you to need to cover your bills and update your CV.

You should also anonymously check what benefits your eligible for on the government website. Click on the ‘Benefits’ tab, then select ‘Benefits Entitlement’, to take you to the link for ‘Benefits Adviser’. Families with children can also check if they qualify for tax credit, and manage child benefits online. Please check this, even if you think you won’t be eligible for anything. A lot of people I chat to think they can’t claim Job Seekers Allowance, but in reality, most people can. Apply for any benefits you’re entitled to as soon as you’re released from your work contract. Some money is better than no money and you don’t know how long you’ll be out of work for. The job centre will also help you if your job hunt takes longer than you initially thought it would.

It is easy to forget the practical things when you’re ploughing your energies into coping with redundancy, but making a list will help. It will make you feel that you’re taking control of the situation and if you’re eligible for benefits, claim them. Once you’ve worked out what income will be, put your figures into my free, interactive budget planner. You should also have a think about ways to save money on a tight budget, as every penny will count if you’re out of work for a while.

Things to do when you lose your job - coping with redundancy

8) Speak to your loved ones about your redundancy

When I found myself redundant I felt embarrassed and upset, but my friends and family threw their arms around me. Phone calls, coffees, beers, text messages, support. 

My personal network helped in practical ways too. One friend, who is the commercial director for a major e-commerce company, offered to look at my CV and his impartial feedback was priceless. Another pal sent me details of an amazing job opportunity that I would have missed otherwise, I actually got that job and it’s a dream position for me.

Your network is there for the good times and the bad. If you let them, people are more than willing to help you where they can. You just need to be open to support and advice. 

A quote about coping with redundancy and using your network to help your job search

9) Speak to a professional careers if you need to

We don’t all have friends and acquaintances that are able to assist us with our our career development. But there are lots careers advisors and career coaches available to help you when you’re coping with redundancy. They can provide information about all kinds of things, from job search tips, to career change advice. If you’re interested in finding somebody to chat to, then the National Careers Service is a good place to start. You may even be able to get some redundancy career coaching to help you to determine what your next step should be.

10) Set yourself manageable targets

Coping with redundancy successfully means being kind and setting yourself achievable targets. Applying for jobs might be the last thing you feel like doing, but for the majority of folk, it’s necessary. So if you need to look, then set yourself manageable targets. I promised myself I would apply for at least three opportunities each day, as that felt achievable. This also meant that when I managed to apply for more jobs, I felt good for surpassing my target.

If you find setting targets a struggle, then my post about generating achievable goals should help you.   

11) Work full time on the job hunt

If you’re determined to bounce back quickly, then treat your job search like a full-time job.

Get your CV is shape. You should also aim to tweak your CV so it’s targeted to the individual job that you’re going for. Aim to start at 9am and finish at 5pm, with an hour for lunch. Of course you can take the occasional morning or afternoon off if you want to, but if you’re after quick results, this is the way to go. As the saying goes, “if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick” (now that’s one cliché I do love!).

Quote about coping with redundancy - if you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick

12) Focus on something positive

It’s easy to feel bogged down and negative when you’re job hunting in the wake of a redundancy. So try to mitigate that feeling by focusing on something that makes you happy. Spend some time on a course that you’ve always fancied doing, revisit a hobby that you’ve recently neglected, or take some time out each night to read your book. Coping with redundancy is easier if you do something daily that boosts your mood. 

It is also important to remember that you know you’ve lost your job, so you can now deal with it. Facing redundancy is hard and in a way it’s a relief when you find out that it is happening. Once you have the answer, you can start taking positive steps towards your future. You’re released from redundancy limbo,

13) Remember: being made redundant does not define us 

Most of us need a job so that we can pay our bills, but this does not define any one of us. You are so much more than a job title or a job loss. And the state of the current jobs market is not a reflection of your value, or worth.

Final thoughts

I’m no expert when it comes to coping with redundancy and we all respond to situations differently. My immediate response was upset, followed by anger, followed by a burning desire to turn the situation around. You might not feel the same emotions and that’s fine. But I hope that the tips listed above give you some food for thought, if nothing else. 

Good luck in finding your next opportunity. You can do it! 

If you enjoyed this article, check out my productivity section, which contains tips that are aimed to help you to improve your everyday life.

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Hacks: coping with redundancy -- hints and tips.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2020 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.