I have been through the stress of losing my job a few times over the years, always in circumstances beyond my control. If I hadn’t been I may never have had the courage, or cash, to go backpacking to the other side of this awesome planet. I may not have moved house. I wouldn’t have studied for a degree or learnt numerous new skills. I could go on and on.
On my journey I’ve picked up a few tips on how to cope. I’d love to share how you can turn a redundancy or job loss into a positive experience and opportunity. I will give you some ideas and reassure you, you are not on your own. You really can come out smiling, in fact smiling throughout really confuses your managers!
First things first, get yourself a notebook and pen.
It will become invaluable. Treat yourself to one that makes you smile, not one you always use in your current job. This book will become important so buy one you like the feel of and that’s easy to carry around. I find a good way to organise your notebook is to use it upside down and back to front to write all your thoughts, and the right way round to record the FACTS.
Now my 5 Step Action Plan – How To Turn A Job Loss Into An Opportunity
1 – Get the facts
Book an appointment with a legal advisor and your bank or financial advisor. If you are in a union or with a caring company they may provide this free of charge. Most lawyers, in UK at least, will do a free consultation. Get online, look for local resources, drop in centres.
If you have been shut out of your job without notice, don’t panic, still book appointments. You need to know your rights. Write down the questions you have and ask the real experts. When you get facts, write them down, with dates and names of who told you what. You won’t remember. Trust me! Everyone will have an opinion and it will all pile up in your brain. To manage it all and make sense of the chaos your notebook will be invaluable. When you wake at 2am, write down your concerns or ideas to follow up later. This will help you sleep as you’ll feel more in control.
Sadly some cases do go to legal action, if you need to go down that route your notebook will be helpful to you. It’s handy to speak with people you know, especially those who have been through it, however don’t take their advice as fact. Unless your friend is an employment lawyer they may not be giving you accurate information.
Refresh your CV, there are plenty of up to date templates on the internet, update yours. This helps you to realise you have some amazing skills. It’s good to do this exercise with someone who knows you well. We all have skills that we don’t recognise. You could ask a colleague who is going through the same changes to sit down and go through the exercise together. If you are being offered a redundancy package it is probably highly detailed and could take months if not years to be put in writing. Don’t wait, start your research early.
So, the stressful stuff is in hand. The lawyer and bank appointments are in the diary, the CV is up to speed. Now have some fun!
2. What do I want to be when I grow up?
Stage One, Dreams – Scribble, draw, write down all your ideas of things you have always wanted to do with your life. Money no object, dream big! How about…
Job: Pilot / space[wo]man / firefighter / train driver / princess etc.
Home: Live in the mountains / in a tent / tour the world in a bus
Family: Be a lone hermit / marry and have lots of kids / be a foster parent
Hobbies: Scuba diver / knitter / build a boat (OK you got me I love NCIS!)
Health: Lose weight / run a marathon / stop eating meat
Be imaginative, outrageous and have fun. This gets you ready for the next step.
Stage Two, I really really want – Do the same again. This time identify those things you actually can and wish to follow up. You need to be brutally honest, identify what you REALLY want to do. You are now going to pull together your dreams and aspirations, alongside some facts. Train driver? Hold that thought…OK, I know Prince Harry is still available but princess is a longshot. Vegetarian, is this your dream or one of your ex-partners? You get the idea, honesty is the key here so you may be better doing this in private. You may question your relationships, it can be a real eye opener. You may not be willing to share these thoughts with anyone, just yet. If you don’t know where you are or where you want to be, it’s hard anywhere let alone forward.
3. Where are you going and how much will it cost?
Now you’ve had chance to really think about the future, write down where you want to be in 1 year, then 3 years, 5 years and maybe even 10 years time. Draw columns down two pages and head them up with each year, or use a page per year. Then add in the details and ideas. Are you studying? How long is the course? When will you qualify? Do you have debts? When will they be paid off? Clarify your financial (mortgage / student loans?) and social commitments (next year’s booked holiday) alongside your dreams for the future you. Calculate how much you need to live the lifestyle you want. If you don’t know yet, allow more than you think for now. Princess still in your plan…you could live out your ‘palace’ dream by volunteering at a local stately home.
Be honest with yourself. Aspirations change over time. This is the ideal time to review your life’s plan. Identify what is ‘tablets of stone’ and what can be moved or cancelled. Did you really want to go on that holiday with that old friend you don’t have much in common with anymore? You could take hours, days or weeks on this stage. This will form the foundations of your plan. If you know where you are and where you want to be, you can move forward.
4. Fail to plan, plan to fail
Stage One, Draft a Plan – Using a page for each subject or opportunity (don’t call them barriers!) start identifying your goals, short term as well as long term. To reach your goals what do you need to do? Will you need to study? If so, how will you pay for it, are grants available?
If you need to move house, how will you work towards it, could you rent your house out or would you sell it? You may not be able to move house just yet but you can start running tomorrow as part of your plan to run a marathon!
If you can’t afford the full stag weekend in Thailand, could you take your mate on a day course scuba diving at the local pool with a meal afterwards? Do you even like the bloke?
Train driver? (You did hold that thought, right?) What hours do they work, how stressful is the job, how much does it pay, is it a long term option, would you need a short term job in the meanwhile? Look at job vacancies, what skills do train driver employers ask for?
Write down all the questions you have, no such thing as a daft question. If you don’t know the answers, think of who will know, who can you ask?
Stage Two, Validate your Plan – Find out the answers, go speak to people. Investigate grants, look into retraining options, get your house valued. This is the time to take action. Do something positive so you feel in control of your life both now and in the future.
If you are happy in your field, it is still a good idea to keep up with latest trends. Is there any training available before you leave which will enhance your CV? A great exercise at this stage is to apply for a job you would love to do, maybe a promotion, even if the job isn’t available or suitable for you right now. Download an application form and person specification and fill it in. This can really focus your mind on what skills you have and which gaps you need to fill. You don’t have to send in the application, just going through the process can focus your mind. Don’t refuse any opportunity, keep your options open. YOU CAN DO THIS!
5. Action Stations
Now read your notebook. It should be a visual feast of fears and thoughts, dreams and aspirations, Q & A’s and more importantly your plan for your future. Your life is literally in your own hands. You know what you can do, you know when, you know how much it will cost. So in the words or letters of one of the worst managers I ever had JFDI (Just Do It, I’ll leave the F to your imagination)
Oh by the way, sometimes this is where the frustration kicks in. You may be at this stage and have to wait until your employer pays out your redundancy money, or until your course starts at college, or your house sells. Don’t let this undermine your plans. You may need to make interim plans, just keep noting things down, see everything as an opportunity. You may decide not to wait and to move on anyway. Often this is a positive way of taking control again, jumping instead of being pushed.
Throughout this whole awful, anxiety ridden, amazing experience you wlll probably go through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I’m not being overdramatic, be prepared. It’s normal. You may not go through all five, however any one of them can hit you without warning.
Carry tissues for the tears. Teabags for when you hide in the canteen so you don’t shout back at a client on the phone. Be there to support your colleagues as they do the same. On a serious note, if you do feel ill or can’t see a way forward please see your GP or a talk to a friend or counsellor. There is support out there, often from someone you least expect.
Finally…CELEBRATE. You made it, treat yourself to a pat on the back. Put away that little book, hopefully you won’t need it again but it could become a great reference book that you revisit regularly to keep you on your toes. On a bad day you could dig it out and remind your self how far you’ve come.
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I’m thinking of expanding this post into an ebook of tips tricks and templates, so would love your feedback if you think it’s been helpful.