To Indignity and Beyond
To Indignity and Beyond – a practical guide to leaving your ego at the door and navigating redundancy
Reality checks are never pleasant. The suit that goes from slim fit to bursting at the seams; the haircut that goes from trendy side parting to obvious combover; the marriage that goes from date night to ‘don’t wait up’. And what about the job that goes from leading the team to being in a redundancy consultation? One minute you’re feeling on top of the world, and the next minute you’re wondering where it all went wrong.
Well, the bad news is we don’t sell elastic trousers, wigs or offer marriage guidance. The good news is we can give you some real advice on how to pick yourself up and get back in the career game.
The first thing to do is accept what has happened and decide to take control of the situation. The word ‘redundant’ is a horrible one but you’d be surprised how many people out there have had to suffer its ignominious label from time to time. There are those who will maintain a constant state of stubborn denial until they are standing on the street corner with a box in their hands, and those who will wallow and complain and get angry and look for blame.
Whilst all those reactions are perfectly acceptable and to be expected, none of them will get you any closer to securing your next opportunity. In fact, that negativity will be like a huge beacon on your head in every interview that you go to, and companies will spot it a mile away.
So snap out of it.
If you want a hug, talk to your friends, if you want a plan of action to take this as an opportunity to refocus your career, then keep reading…
Redundancy is a temporary state of affairs, but it is not to be taken lightly. Financially, socially and emotionally it can be a huge drain on your resources. Putting a tangible and manageable plan of action together – and following it – can mean the difference between getting back to work in a role that suits you, or panicking and taking a role that doesn’t work for you and sees you back on the market in a matter of months. Or worse still, in a role that you hate but can’t afford to leave.
Step 1: Finances
You’re about to lose a revenue stream, and you don’t know when you’ll be able to turn the money tap on again. So get on top of your finances. Forget about the redundancy pay out that you’ve just banked. That money is to help you get the right role next, not for spending. Don’t be driven by the pay out, use the pay out to help you – that’s what it’s for.
Step 2: Priorities
The kneejerk reaction is to try to get back into exactly the same kind of job you have been in. But this is your opportunity to re-evaluate what is important to you in your next role. What I mean here are the non-financials like time, satisfaction and mental health. Make a list of what made you happy about your last job, and what made you unhappy. What did you have to sacrifice in order to get the job done? What will you miss out on by not working there? Equally, what will you gain by not working there?
If you want more time with family, then you need to look for a more flexible role or one with a shorter commute. If you liked the industry/market that you worked in, then you need to focus your search on roles in that space again. If you want to try something new then you need to understand what your key skills are and be realistic about how they will transfer – or not – into your new chosen market.
Put these thoughts, however random, down on paper and score them. Lists are your best friend and it’s much easier to whittle something down to a solution than it is to pluck a solution out of thin air.
Step 3: Ask the experts for advice
This may be the first time you have been out of work, but guess what, there are a bunch of recruiters out there who deal with this on a daily basis. And whilst they may not have the instant fix of a job spec to show you on day one, they will certainly know how to get your CV and interview style into shape. For what it’s worth, some of the worst candidates at interviews are the ones who have never needed to interview for years and then just expect to breeze into a new role.
Don’t be one of those guys. Eat humble pie, accept you are not an expert on job hunting or writing a CV or answering a competency question, and ask for help from those who are. You’re on the other side of the interview now, and it can be a very lonely place to be if you are not prepared. Job hunting is a dog-eat-dog environment and it can spit you out if you’re not ready for it.
Get to know a few recruiters that specialise in the areas you are looking at working in (remember you’ve made a list of those in Step 2, right?). Don’t just send them a first draft CV and hope they call you. Take the initiative, be proactive, leave your pride at the door and pick up the phone. Be ruthless about who you entrust your job search to, and don’t be afraid to ask the recruiters to tell you their track record in helping people at your level, in your industry, with your skillsets. If your gut says they’re not able to help, then politely move on. Time is money in a redundancy scenario, and you don’t want to be barking up the wrong recruiter’s tree. A specialist recruiter who has form in your area will really add value by being able to articulate your expertise to their clients and will be able to coach you through the interviews and be your wingman from submission to offer management and beyond.
Keep a spreadsheet of everyone you talk to, every role you apply for, every spec you are sent, all the feedback (or lack of it) that you receive. Being organised will help you through what can be an ocean of job boards and recruiters. Stick to the plan.
Step 4: Keep mentally and physically fit
Don’t’ let redundancy overwhelm you. Treat it like you used to treat school revision timetables: break your day and week down into sections where you will perform certain tasks to do with your job search (calling recruiters, writing your CV, writing application letters, registering with job boards, researching companies directly and looking at their vacancies). But also make time for other equally valid activities that will keep you sharp and positive (exercise, diet, sleep, hobbies, quality family time, travel, career-related study/qualifications/courses).
Vary your week so that you balance both these areas. It is unlikely that you will find a job you want to take within the first month or two, so prepare yourself for the long haul, and keep positive, healthy and focused.
In conclusion, make sure you use this redundancy period productively and work through it one step at a time. Set daily and weekly goals that are manageable. Don’t say ‘I’m going to find a job in 3 months’. You can’t control that. Instead say ‘I’m going to have spoken to and met 2 specialist recruiters, written a final draft of my CV, kept active and healthy, and researched the market in 3 months.’ That’s something you can control.
Depersonalise the redundancy and let someone else guide you through what to do next. It’s not easy, especially if you’ve been top of the tree for many years, but redundancy is a great equaliser and destroyer of egos. Embrace it and adapt. Accept the change, keep focused, hold your nerve, and ask for help.
Good luck and happy hunting.