As thousands of job losses threaten at npower’s call centre in Middlesbrough, the harshness of corporate restructuring in the festive season comes into frosty focus. In “The Muppet Christmas Carol” Michael Caine’s ‘Scrooge’ responds to Bob Cratchit’s (Kermit’s) plea not to send out eviction notices on Christmas Eve, suggesting he gift-wraps them; reminding us that bad news like a redundancy at this time of year is very hard, especially when we see others “making merry”.
Dark nights, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the extra financial pressures at Christmas can really take the sparkle off December, even without a job shock changing our circumstances.
A better approach
The most common reaction to redundancy is stress and anxiety, both of which exacerbate a crisis of confidence and self-belief, which can knock us for six. It is especially difficult if it affects the main earner in the family with the added pressure of mounting bill payments.
As a qualified hypnotherapist and business leadership and management coach for Carol Barwick Learning and Development, I help people take positive action about redundancy and to view the sudden curve balls of life differently.
Take a deep breath – it’s temporary
While some people relish the idea of redundancy, depending on how long they’ve worked, if you haven’t a stash of cash to fall back on or live in an area where jobs are difficult to come by, it is easy to panic about what to do. The safety net of a job has gone which forces us out of our comfort zone and we feel very insecure, resisting the change knocking on our door.
What not to do
First, do not freak out. Job loss is a temporary and manageable hurdle and most of us go through it, some many times over. I have experienced redundancy twice. The worst thing to do is self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to numb the stress, and this includes prescription drugs. We live in a culture where we expect an instant fix to all of our problems and our GPs and doctors are rarely the best people to help with a crisis of confidence or anxiety. Getting addicted to Valium and Xanax with their dangerous side effects can put you in a much worse situation.
What to do
Embrace the big life change that redundancy or job loss has given you. If you’ve just been made redundant, take some time out to calmly assess your situation. Firstly, I recommend regular sleeping patterns, going to bed early and rising early. Getting a good night’s sleep along with reduced alcohol intake, healthy eating and regular exercise help lower stress. You will have more time initially to plan your family meals with healthier options rather than snacking on the go or grabbing takeaways. Importantly, you should start budgeting to optimise your finances in the short term until that next career break reveals itself. By budgeting at the outset of a job loss, you will feel more in control and able to cope with the situation.
Stress and anxiety can also be lowered through meditation, tapping, breathing exercises and learning how to think about problems differently.
Flip the redundancy into a new project opportunity
Positive mental attitude sounds like a cliché, but your thoughts can become your reality, and being very positive, rather than downbeat and negative, pays off, especially in that job interview when optimism and a cheerful demeanour often shines much brighter than your CV to a prospective employer.
Whether you are changing careers in your 30s, 40s or 60s, you want to do things right. The best jobs for a midlife or late life career change may not be what you want to do, but don’t let that stop you. Finding the job you love involves research, education and confidence. Age is irrelevant. Being happy in your new career matters.
If you look at redundancy as a project—with you at the heart of that project—making a new start with new opportunities to grasp, things will quickly move forward again in an upbeat direction.
I have worked with many people whose redundancy was a kick-start for them to try something new including applying for new jobs or running their own business. It really can give a new lease of life; the key is how you look at it.
Six tips to celebrate redundancy
- Remember all the bad things about your last job. No job is perfect, and pay cheque aside there’s probably a raft of bad emotional connections to the old job that no longer need concern you: Your narcissistic boss, the long hours, exhaustion, the horrible commute, the dirty toilet, ‘that person’ in marketing, the depressing view of the industrial estate from your window etc.
- The need for change. You may have been doing your last job for 20 years and you have become good at it, but perhaps you are jaded in your role. Embrace this transition. You are at the point in your life where you have the knowledge and experience to transition more confidently. Redundancy allows you to assess what talents, gifts and skills you have not been using in your last role. As you realise just how much you have to offer the world, a new confidence rises from the ashes of your last payslip.
- Developing new skills and competence. Life alterations necessitate changes in skills and doing things in a new way. Although it is initially challenging, you will find fulfilment in new training, new routine and new territory. It is an opportunity to refresh what you actually do for the largest part of your life. Upskilling and re-education can boost your credentials and make you job-ready. Before looking in the job ads, use all your contacts on LinkedIn in and Facebook to see whom you know and who may have that perfect opening for you.
- New friendships and experiences. People can initially feel worse off at the beginning of a big life change, but new situations bring new developments, new places and new friendships – benefits you hadn’t even considered. When the rewards of the change start to manifest (and they will), you will look back and wonder why you were so worried in the first place.
- Self-belief in self-employment. When you see you can survive and flourish without the previous job, you will find affirmation and a new confidence in your versatility as you branch out in the direction life takes you. Perhaps now is the ideal time to look at your career based on your interests and strengths. Self-employment is an opportunity for you to be more fulfilled doing what you love and are good at. After my second redundancy I decided to become self-employed and worked really hard to create success and a much better life.
- Sabbatical success. Life is short. Depending on your circumstances this may be your one last chance to go on that adventure you always promised yourself; such as hiking in South America; cycling in Italy; or storm-chasing in the USA. Take some time out (if you can afford to and enjoy a few weeks or months without the burden of a 9 til 5).
Self-help with a toolkit of solutions
With so many choices and pressures, it is often difficult knowing where to start and to handle redundancy choices alone.
Accordingly, Carol Barwick Learning and Development helps people manage Career Transition and Redundancy Support effectively, reinforced by a range of toolkits to help teams and individuals build resilience and deal with stress, anxiety and depression often brought about by job uncertainty, unemployment and retirement.
I have previously worked with public sector staff facing redundancy; coaching them through a Business Gym™ experience; helping them build resilience by taking challenging situations and transforming them into positive outcomes, directing individuals to harness all their experience, skills and successes and focus them into dynamic new ventures; igniting their passions for what they do best and motivating them to seek new opportunities, starting new businesses; learning new skills and turning hobbies and interests into commercial endeavours.