Seven ways to deal with and move on from redundancy
These are uncertain times and many of you will fear redundancy and some of you will face it, in many cases for the first time. Having experienced this myself and coached many people through it, here is my advice for dealing with the practical and psychological challenges which you may face.
‘Sometimes, when fortune scowls most scornfully, she is preparing her most dazzling gifts.’
Some people, particularly those who were unhappy in their work, welcome redundancy and use it as an opportunity to pursue personal projects, to travel or simply to rest. These people often bounce back quite quickly. Others suffer a psychological blow borne out of the view that they were somehow to blame for what happened. If they had only worked that bit harder or more effectively, they may have avoided the cut.
These people often suffer a collapse of their expectations and sometimes more seriously a collapse of their identity or self-esteem, particularly where their careers are central to their sense of self. For these people a dose of positive psychology may not be the solution, but it will help them to get through the situation so that they can begin to look forward again.
For many people the post redundancy cycle runs as follows: Firstly, after the shock (even if it was not a surprise), an initial period of denial or resistance which focuses on the injustice of the decision, the politics or the random nature of redundancy. Next, a period of sadness or mourning (yes, it can be like a bereavement), or a period of furious activity, trying to find their next role as soon as possible. Next, they enter a period of despair with a view that they are unemployable and will never find anything suitable again. This is sometimes called ‘the dungeon of despair’ and with good reason, as any of you who have been in this situation will know.
There is only one sane response to this cycle and it is to move on from it, as soon as possible. This is not always easy but it is more advisable than the alternative, which can lead to inertia and in some cases depression. The good news is that there are many things you can do to make the process less painful and to move forward with clarity and purpose. You may even get to slay some personal dragons along the way. These are the things I advise if you are faced with the possibility, or reality of redundancy.
1/ Stay calm and focused
Try not to panic or rush back into the employment market unless you have been relatively unaffected by the decision, as is sometimes the case. Accept that there will be an emotional reaction to what has happened and that this is normal and acceptable. Give yourself permission to live through it. If you try to rush it or get out into the employment market too soon, the likelihood is that you will not perform at your best or worse, you might accept a position to which you are ill-suited and regret it further down the line. Rather like the rebound decisions made after a broken relationship, the quick fixes are rarely the lasting ones.
2/ Draw on the people and resources around you
If coaching or outplacement services are on offer then take them. If they are not, then try to negotiate them into your exit package. Whatever your preconceptions it can be helpful to have support, practical advice and coaching and none of these need to be remedial in any way. I spent a year delivering outplacement support many years ago, and sometimes draw on that experience in my coaching activities today. As the employment market becomes more uncertain and changing, so we will all need to be more adaptive and resourceful and this includes drawing on the right external resources when needed.
3/ Move forwards by letting go
If you are faced with a prolonged period of unemployment you will need to manage yourself very carefully. Getting to a place of acceptance is the first and most important hurdle. Any other reaction leads to corresponding suffering and may prevent you from moving forward again. There are many ways you can do this: through coaching, talking with friends and family, going away to reflect, or all of these. The important point is that it is your responsibility to move forward again. As an absolute minimum, I recommend a short break to rest, take stock and consider your options.
4/ Get yourself a blank sheet of paper
Unless you have complete clarity on what you want to do next, keep an open mind. Try to be creative, draw up lists of alternatives and consider doing something completely different such as starting your own business, a portfolio career or interim work. After redundancy you will need to find your sense of purpose again and list making can be a simple, yet powerful may of achieving this. Most people end up going back into the same field, for all sorts of reasons, particularly financial. However, why would you not take these rare opportunities to consider alternatives when they present themselves? If nothing else, it will help you to affirm your choices and make peace with them.
5/ Ask yourself some challenging questions and get others to challenge you too
Do I necessarily want to go back into the same field? What are the risks and benefits of doing so? What are my transferable skills and how might I use them? What are my more innate abilities and how might I use these? Should I go back into paid employment, self-employment or perhaps start a business of my own? If I do that, would I necessarily want to employ others or would I prefer to go it alone? The answers to all of these questions are based to an extent on self-knowledge and a good coach should be able to help you to identify them and consider the alternatives.
6/ Find what works for you
Some people say that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself and put a great deal of pressure on themselves. Personally I believe you need to find the balance which is right for you and this should include some time for exercise, family and relaxation. Creating some structure around your day is a good idea- whether that’s job hunting in the morning and playing in the afternoon or something different. Find out what works best for you and stick to it- just because you are out of work does not mean that you should not be disciplined.
7/ Be relentlessly honest with others, and yourself
Get your CV, LinkedIn and any other profiles updated in a consistent way so that you project a coherent brand and story. You may want to practice some interview questions before you go out into the market and if it has been a while since you last interviewed for a position, this is advisable. When it comes to meeting with recruiters, head-hunters and potential employers, be honest with them about what has happened and rehearse your answers beforehand until you are comfortable. There is no stigma in redundancy today and if you have learned anything from the experience why not share it in a positive way. Such openness engenders trust and demonstrates your ability to move on and to learn from adversity. If there are things that you might have done differently or better in your last employment, learn from them such that you bring a better version of yourself into your next role.
Going back into the employment market can be daunting and unsettling after redundancy and how you approach it will be the single biggest differentiator. If you do it with a positive mind-set and give yourself time to recover and then plan, you have every chance of success. If you are able to, give yourself permission to enjoy your time out, and make it into a positive experience. How long it will take to find your next position is an open question and should be viewed that way. Try to form a plan B if plan A fails or is not achievable at that particular time. Remember, a positive, forward looking mentality is likely to be self-fulfilling.