Unemployment is at its highest level in three years and sadly, as the furlough scheme wraps up and the full economic impact of COVID-19 sets in, the figures will rise even further. But coping with redundancy can be tough and there’s no right way of dealing with it.
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 and whilst I think a lot of that was down to luck, I have some tips that could help others that find themselves in a similar situation.
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.
For me personally, having representation was key to my strategy for coping with redundancy. I wasn’t left wondering if anything was incorrect, as I had somebody that I could ask for advice. I also had somebody impartial, who knew the law, to talk through my options with.
If you don’t want to join a trade union, or 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 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.
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. If you’re feeling low, then speak to your GP, or seek professional help elsewhere.
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. I have no doubt that if I’d been offered a new job on one of those occasions, then I’d have taken it. Some people may find it easier to find a new job if they already have one, but for me personally, 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 we are all different, so pick and choose what you take to heart.
6) Consider your options
Understandably, you might not be in a position to sit without a job for months on end. But you can give yourself time to think by applying for as many jobs as possible that fit within your schedule. You could do one of these jobs temporarily whilst you’re figuring out what path you want to take next.
7) Speak to your loved ones
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 friend sent me details of an amazing job opportunity that I would have missed otherwise and I actually got that job and it’s a dream position for me.
Your network is there for the good times and the bad and if you let them, people are more than willing to help you where they can.
8) 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, update your CV and apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). A lot of people I chat to think they’re not eligible for JSA, but in reality, most people are. Apply for this as soon as you’re released from your work contract, because some money is better than no money. 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, but making a list is a true cornerstone for successfully coping with redundancy. It will make you feel that you’re taking control of the situation and if you’re in the UK, you’re eligible for JSA, so claim it.
9) Set yourself manageable 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 and 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.
10) Treat the job hunt like a full-time job
If you’re determined to bounce back quickly, then treat your job hunt like a full-time job. 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 a wall, some of it will stick” (now that’s one cliché I do love!).
11) 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.
12) Remember: this does not define you
Most of us need a job so that we can pay our bills, but this does not define you. You are so much more than a job title or a job loss.
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!