What they don't tell you about being made redundant

Watching others slog it out seems an unlikely cause for jealousy, but that's exactly how Paul Di Michiel felt upon being made redundant.

"I was very envious of everyone else going to work and wondering what I'd done wrong to deserve redundancy. This was the mid '90s – redundancy wasn't common."

Redundancy is now becoming part and parcel of modern workplaces. Newer factors like digital disruption mix with older ones like off-shoring and 'restructuring' to create a perfect storm for job losses. For Di Michiel, 54, it'd happen another two times in his career. But he found a curious gap in post-redundancy support.

The emotional toll

While there was plenty of information online about the practicalities of redundancy, there was relatively little about navigating the emotional impact. It led Di Michael to a confronting epiphany: "I hit a career crossroads, questioning whether I had the energy to continue in the cutthroat, egotistical and high-pressured corporate world."

Lindsay Silcox was first made redundant from Hudson Recruitment and then from Kimberley Clarke, both internal communications roles. The second hit hardest: "It was a much bigger confidence hit, coming so soon after the first. I felt I wasn't good enough at what I did."

Doubt soon turned to "anger" and then Silcox moved from questioning his performance to his career choices: "I questioned whether working for corporates who view you as a dollar figure on a spreadsheet was the career I wanted."

The reactions of others

In addition to your own emotions and expectations, you have to deal with those of others. Some can feel embarrassed to admit to redundancy; others fear being perceived as naive if they admit to shock. David Reddin, who runs outplacement services, says this ranks as people's top concern after money: "Males can often see talking about their redundancy, and the stresses it imposes, as a weakness."

As Di Michiel discovered, the 'job-for-life' generation view redundancy differently: "My mother, 78, was from another generation, when everyone had a job and obtaining and keeping a job was the norm. During my eight-month job search, she'd always ask, 'Do you have a job yet?'. Well-intentioned, but ignorant about the competitive world of job search (and if I'm honest, really annoyed me!)."

But something surprising happened…

There's an under-reported element to the dreaded 'r' word: for some, it can be a positive experience, and their emotions are relief – even gratitude. For Silcox, who now runs his own business, , positive feelings came later: "I look back and am glad it happened. I resolved to take control of my work life, which could've taken me many years longer otherwise. That said, having that decision forced on me by companies I gave so much effort to, was a bitter pill to swallow for a long time."

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 Di Michiel allowed the experience to remind him of life priorities: "Many of us are in a rut or jobs we don't like, so redundancy is truly a gift that allows us to progress towards something that provides real satisfaction. Periods of redundancy also reinforce what's most important in life: our families.They provide a great chance to reconnect with the loved ones we often neglect when we're scampering on the corporate hamster wheel. "

Keep it legal

The rights of the employee are well-documented through redundancy, but what are your responsibilities after you've found out? Andrew Jewell, Principal Lawyer at McDonald Murholme says sharing on Facebook is fine, but careful how you position it: "Generally speaking, retrenchments aren't confidential and accordingly could be shared on social media, although employees need to be aware of any company policies or specific confidentiality agreements. Practically, employees shouldn't discuss retrenchments or criticise employers on social media because this conduct may put significant payments at risk."

You're also legally required to work your notice: "If an employee is required to work out a notice period they must attend unless they take a period of leave such as annual or sick leave."

Five tips if you've been made redundant

1. Play your cards right

In your initial conversation, say as little as possible. HR expert Natasha Hawker says: "The feeling is still pure shock even if you knew it was a strong possibility. This is often also tinged with excitement about new possibilities, but there's much to process. Take time to debrief with someone appropriate."

2. Be confident

Your job is what you do, not who you are: "Some fear losing the identity that comes from the role they had and a need to replace it", says Reddin.

3. Take a deep breath

No matter how tempting it is to apply for eight jobs immediately, pause. Lindsay Silcox said: "Take as much time as you have available financially to consider your next step. Both times I felt rushed in my decision making."

4. Think creatively

Don't rely on job ads. Reddin states "Understand that 60-70 per cent of available jobs are in the hidden job market, requiring courage to network and to approach companies direct."

5. Check your head

Indulge a hobby to clear your head. Di Michiel said: "For me it was photography … I'd pick up my camera and only be focused on 'the shot', which blocked the travails of being unemployed. Get your head right so when you present yourself potential employers, you don't come across as jaded or worse still, depressed."

Have you ever been made redundant? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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