As the furlough scheme begins to wind up and the true economic impact of the pandemic is revealed, the sad fact is that there will be many more redundancies in the coming months.
Of course, behind the shocking numbers are people who will be affected both financially and mentally.
Here’s some advice, for those unlucky enough to need it.
Know your rights
First things first, you’ve got to check your rights. You might be entitled to more redundancy pay than you realise, time off to find a new job within your notice period, counselling, or the option to move within the organisation. Swat up with the Government’s useful guide.
It’s also important to make sure you haven’t been discriminated against. You can’t be selected because of age or gender, or if you’re disabled or pregnant — that would be unfair dismissal. If you’ve been furloughed, for example, it might be an easy choice for an employer to make you redundant. Ask for the criteria — this could range from salary to experience — by which you were made redundant. If you are a member of a trade union, they will have advice on this. Acas has resources at acas.org.uk/redundancy.
Don’t take it personally
It’s perfectly normal to have feelings of rejection but remember that no employer could ever have foreseen a crisis this big. Many are conducting mass lay-offs simply to reduce costs and ensure survival. Most bosses at large companies have had to look at their employees as a salary on a spreadsheet.
“Unfortunately redundancy is commonplace — especially at the moment,” says career coach and consultant Hannah Salton. “There are so many factors that influence redundancies that are totally out of your control. While it is not a reflection on you as a professional, it is natural and understandable to grieve and have an emotional response to redundancy.”
Sort your finances out
Easier said than done, but act quickly to ensure that, if your unemployment is prolonged, then you don’t get into financial trouble. Do a debt audit, analysing what rates you’re paying and if they could be cheaper (sites like moneysavingexpert.com are a good start). Meanwhile, try to pay off any outstanding debts like credit cards with savings. Analyse your monthly outgoings and be realistic about what is actually a luxury. Do you really need that takeaway every Friday night? Money management apps like Cleo, Emma, Moneyhub and Snoop can all help.
Take care of your mental health
The shock and stress of being made redundant can have a serious effect on your mental health. From worrying about how to pay the bills to the knock it can have on self-esteem. “It’s understandable that your confidence and well-being take a knock when you’re made redundant,” says Salton. “Seek out opportunities to upskill and build your confidence back up — whether this is through personal self-reflection and updating your CV or LinkedIn profile, completing online courses, or networking in person or online.” If you feel it’s impacting your mental health, don’t wait until it gets really bad to seek help. Speak to your GP, reach out to your support network, or look for support on Mind’s website.
Analyse your skills
“Do an honest audit of yourself and think about the skills you’ve picked up during your career,” says Sheila Attwood of human resources specialist XpertHR. “They may be transferable but are not what you currently do. Just because you’ve been a receptionist, does not mean you need to be receptionist again.” For those who haven’t done a CV for a while, there are lots of online guides such as this one. “With so many lay-offs at the moment, you’re going to have to sell yourself,” Attwood adds. “Make sure your CV and application are tailored to each job and take the time to research an employer and their industry so you can show your interest at the interview.”
Be prepared to travel (or not)
The lockdown has shown that location is a less important factor in getting a job than it once was. Employers are realising that the world doesn’t stop spinning when employees work from home and many are now open to hiring people who live in other areas of the country. Expand your options by having a think about whether you could travel to another city a few days a week and work from home for the remainder?
Chances are that there will be more competition for jobs than usual. Organisation is your friend here. Make a spreadsheet to keep track of closing dates for applications, and follow up by phone or email if you haven’t heard back. “Structure and focus is key,” says Salton. “It’s very common, especially after redundancy, to take a scattergun approach to job hunting — applying everywhere and anywhere with the hope of something working. This can lead to mass rejection, which has a big impact on your motivation and confidence.”
Be prepared to drop down a rung
For middle managers, redundancy can bring about confusion as to which roles to apply for. The reality is that in a recession, reducing expectations of what salary and position can be achieved may be wise. “People in middle management roles can realistically expect to drop down a rung,” adds Jeremy Ellerd-Styles, operations director at AdMore Recruitment.
But try not to compromise too early. “Decide in advance what you are and aren’t willing to compromise on — for example commute length, interesting work, culture, salary etc — and try to stick to it,” says Salton. “Do everything within your power to make your plan A work first, before refocusing and potentially shifting your goals.”
Use your contacts
Coronavirus has impacted everyone in the country, so all your contacts will be empathetic and know that you’ve been made redundant through no fault of your own. One conversation can change everything. And don’t forget, social media. The power of a well-timed DM should not be underestimated. “Networking is the single most important ingredient in job searching — you need to expand and nurture your network,” says Salton. “Reconnect with previous colleagues, ask for introductions and ask people for virtual coffees on LinkedIn. Focus on creating connections and conversations, rather than giving the impression of being desperate for a job.”
If you’ve been furloughed or WFH, it might have been a while since you’ve worn something that isn’t jogging bottoms, but make sure you’re well-dressed for a video interview. That goes for your background too. There is nothing more off-putting than a messy backdrop. Don’t forget to get the lighting right, sitting in front of a window could be distracting for the interviewer. And if your broadband is dodgy, ask someone you know if you can use theirs. “Video interviews are more intense than phone calls and physical meetings, because you usually can only see their face and you can’t pick up on body language,” says Ellerd-Styles. Read our guide to acing a digital job interview.
Start a business
OK, this is not for the faint-hearted, but many entrepreneurs’ ideas were spawned in the teeth of the last financial crisis. The barriers to entry in starting a business have come down significantly with the growth of the internet, and now all you need is a laptop and the willingness to give over your life to your idea. The latter is usually the sticking point, so think carefully before jumping in, but there are useful government guidelines on the nitty gritty at gov.uk/set-up-business.
Time for a reset
This won’t be an option for everyone, but if you are financially able, now could be a good time for a career break. A grown-up gap year, if you will. Have you always wanted to retrain? Perhaps you’ve got a book in you? Or have always hoped to volunteer with a charity. “Use it as an opportunity to reflect on what you really want in the long-term,” says Salton. “Reflect on what you did and didn’t enjoy about your previous role, and what else you might be looking for.”