How to survive getting retrenched
Coco May, Careers EditorBack on Track
‘Corporate downsizing’ and ‘redundancy’ are very frightening words, and due to the global financial crisis we are currently in, they are becoming some of the most common terms in business today. Redundancy is something we would all rather not have to face, but if it happens to you how do you pull both your career and your self-esteem together?
As recently as 10 years ago redundancy was uncommon, compared to today when there are few of us who haven’t been affected directly or indirectly by the corporate reorganisation going on around us. In a time of corporate mergers and increasing automation, more and more people are facing redundancy. However, the increase in numbers makes it no less daunting.
For most of us, much of our self-esteem is tied up with our occupation. As soon as you meet someone new, one of the first questions that you are always asked is: “So, what do you do for a living?” If you’re not working because your role was made redundant, you are forced into admitting to a virtual stranger that you don’t actually have a job. For some of us, this admission equates to saying we are completely useless and not good enough to hold down a job! In an ideal world we shouldn’t be judged by what we do – or don’t do – for a living, but in the nanosecond of an initial introduction it allows people to (hopefully only temporarily) pigeonhole you. There is no denying that there is a perception that redundancy equates with poor performance. STOP RIGHT NOW! Redundancy has very little to do with poor performance; it’s usually much more to do with company’s cutting costs.
Never say: “I have been retrenched.” From now on, the phrase you need to learn is: “My position has been made redundant.” With a few simple changes, you can take all the emphasis off yourself and put it onto your position, which gives the correct impression in that it had nothing to do with you. This becomes easier every time you say it.
Take any ‘outplacement services’ offered by your former employer. You have nothing to lose except maybe a bit of pride. By attending an outplacement organisation’s workshops you will quickly discover you are not alone in your plight and that they can offer you invaluable leads and information to help you find your next role.
Look at this as a golden opportunity to change career direction. Perhaps the opportunity to work for a company that you have always secretly admired. The chance to gain a new qualification. One positive aspect of a redundancy payment is that it can provide a cash buffer so that you can take your time to consider the options open to you and the best move forward for your career progression.
Allow yourself time to grieve for your former role. I know it sounds corny, but it is necessary. When there is a short sharp severance with an employer, you need time to disconnect from your last job. What this means is if you don’t feel like talking to anyone for a couple of days – don’t talk to them. If you feel like getting away for a few days – go. Just be gentle on yourself during this time and ask those around you to be supportive. You may find out just how good your friends can be.
Seriously re-evaluate your resume. Does it really reflect the stage you’re at now at in your career? Potential employers rarely pay much attention to work that you performed five years ago. Make sure you minimise any junior roles, and place maximum emphasis on your recent responsibilities and achievements.
Get out there in the market. Statistically, only about 10% of all jobs are advertised. So, how does the other 90% get filled? It is all done via networking and word of mouth referrals. If people do not know you are looking for work, how will they know to recommend you? If the CEOs of major corporations can be found through the referral network, then so can you. Never underestimate the power of a grapevine!
Call companies to find out whether there are any vacancies. Try to find out from the manager who runs the area in which you would like to work. Make a list of the top 20 places that you would like to work, and then start calling them in reverse order. By the time you get to the company that is on the top of your list, you will be less nervous, and have a much higher chance of success.
Lean how to be a good interviewee. Have someone role-play an interview situation with you, particularly if it has been some time since you were last interviewed. Research the company, prepare some questions to ask and responses to questions you are likely to be asked.
Spend some of your redundancy package on yourself. If you can afford to, have your hair cut, have a facial, anything to make yourself feel special.
Say to yourself: “In one year’s time, I will look back at this and think how opportune it was that my role was made redundant!”