How to prepare for redundancy

Redundancy can happen at any stage of your career – you can even be made redundant from your first job.  Simon North advises how seeing the signs and taking action can help you bounce back.

The first and most important point of note is that redundancy is not about you. Commercial decisions dominate the organisation’s agenda and result in decisions being taken about overhead costs, numbers of people employed and such things. It is rarely about individuals or about personalities. However, sometimes it is and there are plenty of people who will have stories of what they believe are personal vendettas but in this country, our employment law is fair and reasonable and we should trust it.

If ever you feel that it is becoming personal, just watch how processes are being used by the organisation that you work for and its managers. History shows that it is process more than anything else that is the management’s weakness.

Your psychological health when being laid off will be stronger if you understand redundancy as a process. By understanding it, you will stand a better chance of knowing what to do about it.

It is important to recognise that you need to build a picture of what is going on and you need to talk about it an appropriate way. These days, the chances of being affected by redundancy are high. 30 years ago, redundancy was less common and sometimes it was down to the individual worker. Those days are gone. What you now need to understand is what it is about this organisation that means it needs to make you redundant. Think about that and realise that it is not personal, but organisational, because it is about process issues like restructuring.

When telling the story of your redundancy and its effect on you, don’t criticise your ex-employer. Keep comments neutral, with no bitterness. Here is why. A job interviewer who’s listening to you tell the story in a resentful way would think that if you can talk about your last organisation like that, you would talk about theirs in the same way. Would you employ you if you heard yourself speaking in this way? I doubt it.

The best way to prepare for redundancy is to pinpoint what your priority should be — to be strong through what is an incredibly challenging time for you. Stay alert as much as possible. Redundancies rarely come unexpectedly and people often know just enough to see when the business is struggling and may soon need to cut back on staff.  If you can see what is coming, you will be in a better position to put yourself more in control of the situation.

As soon as you see a lay off coming, switch to survival mode. Become much more egocentric. This could involve making changes to your routines, such as working just your contracted hours rather than doing overtime. This will allow you to focus your attention on what to do with your career, and indeed your life, next. Get close to knowing your own value. Plan what you are going to do in terms of your financial budget and those sorts of things. Start thinking about what you are going to do for work in the future.

Resilient people quite often get fitter in order to deal with a challenging period of their life. They change their eating habits, and they change their exercise habits. They recognise that they need to be healthier to cope with a difficult transition. Another important element of resilience is getting better qualified as you may need additional skills to get a new job in the current market.

So there are several things you can do when redundancy is looming. You may even feel like you do not want to stay with the organisation anyway, and ask for voluntary redundancy before you are forced to go. However you go, the actions mentioned in this article will put you in a strong position to take control.


Simon North is the Founder of
Position Ignition, one of the UK’s leading career consultancy companies which created the Career Ignition Club, a leading-edge online careers support and learning platform. Follow him @PosIgnition.

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