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There’s no shame in redundancy – hold your head high and try again

Redundancy is a bump in a career, not a cul-de-sac.

Peter O'Connell

IN MEETING WITH candidates in the 40s and older, who are now trying to get their career back on track following a redundancy, I’ve noticed a reluctance and difficulty in talking about the redundancy – it’s almost as if it’s shameful to talk about!

For those of us that that went through education in the 1970s, I think that the word “redundancy” holds a certain amount of “shame” and “fear”. Even the language we use to describe it – “I was made redundant…” “the company made me redundant” or “I am redundant” seems to re-inforce this idea of fault and shame.

It is really important, however, to realise that redundancy is an unfortunate but, nevertheless, real part of both working and building a career today. We need to understand and accept, yes accept (I’m not saying it’s fair or in some cases, right!), that “redundancy” happens.

The biggest challenge that those of us who have gone through it face is “how do you cope with it?” There are a number of things that are worth considering –

1. It’s not personal

Yes, it feels pretty damn personal, and it’s your job and livelihood that are being affected. However, and I know this from personal experience, the more you carry this view, the longer it is going to take you to move on.

So simple things like how you describe what has happened to you – moving from “I was made redundant” to “the company re-organised, and the role that I was doing is no longer there” can make a difference.

That’s only playing with words, some will say, but the reality is that when you talk about redundancy in personal terms, it can undermine you, your confidence and your self-esteem. When that happens, it comes across in interviews.

2. There’s no shame

Redundancy is a fact of life. In fact, if there are any positives that one can take from our recent recession, one is that you can talk openly about redundancy, and it is not seen as a reflection of you or the job that you were doing. Not to say that redundancy is normal, but it is accepted as something that happens in one’s work life!

3. Keep a routine

The reality of redundancy, even when one knows that it’s coming, hits home on the morning when you’re normally going to work, and everyone else does, but you don’t. All those fears about ‘what next?’ can come flooding in.

Keeping a routine as if you were working – getting up and going to bed at a regular time, planning your day, eating regularly, exercising daily – helps, as when you are occupied, your mind has less opportunity to “wander” to those negative spaces.

4. Put together a reasonable plan

Sounds self-evident, I know, but sit down and draw up a plan for what you are going to do to get your next role. Include in it specific actions that you are going to take to identify new opportunities; put simply, set goals.

“I’m going to get a new job in two months” is not a goal, it’s an aspiration, or a wish. Real goals have daily activities that will get you there, so you can know how you are progressing. And ensure that what you are doing is effective. For example, sitting in front of a screen looking at job websites all the time doesn’t work on its own. You’ve got to have a range of activities that’ll begin to deliver opportunities for you.

5. Be social

Don’t withdraw from people. Some of us, when we find ourselves in difficult situations following redundancy, start to withdraw, as our belief in ourselves has taken a hit. Try two things here:

(a) prior to the redundancy, you were performing well and delivering for the business; so your abilities and expertise are not in question; and

(b) get out and talk about what has happened, not in a negative and accusatory way against your previous employer, but in a way that tells people very simply what’s happened, and what you are looking for now – this is the start of you pro-actively networking, and that’s what will get you the next role, wherever that may be!

Does all this sound simple and naïve? Maybe. But it works, and this type of hard focus and attitude change will put you mentally and emotionally in a stronger space, so that you will be able to positively see and identify new opportunities when they appear.

How do I know that it works?

Very simply, because I’ve both done it myself and also seen how effective it has been for candidates who have gone through redundancy in 2014 and 2015, and who are now in new roles, in new sectors and learning new skills with new-found energy and enthusiasm.

Redundancy is a bump in a career, not a cul-de-sac. Know your skills. Sell those skills. Be persistent.

Peter O’Connell, Career Development Associates. Email: peter@careerdevelopmentassociates.ie or visit www.careerdevelopmentassociates.ie (currently under construction!)

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Peter O'Connell

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