“I have to inform you that your job is at risk of redundancy.”
These are the words that we all dread to hear, but hearing them has become a sad, if not completely unexpected, reality for thousands of people across the UK and around the world, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the UK alone over 120 000 roles are expected to be cut as a direct or indirect result of the pandemic, with jobs in aviation, energy, transport and hospitality among those most affected.
At an already uncertain and unprecedented time, fear of redundancy or its impact can take a huge toll on our mental health, well-being and financial security. So, the question is - how can we turn this into an opportunity, if not to say a positive experience?
Pause and Take Stock. Then Breathe and Start Making Changes
A whole range of emotions come into play once hearing the news that we are being made redundant - fear, anger, sadness, helplessness and questions such as ‘why me?’. At this point, it is important to take a step back, take in the information, and process it.
First of all, we are in a global pandemic. The decision to make you redundant is not personal, and in the current climate unlikely to even be a reflection of your performance. Decisions about redundancy are never taken lightly and arise from the health or lack thereof of a company´s balance sheet. In the current pandemic, more than ever, redundancies are being made to save companies, not to “get rid” of staff.
It is easy to get carried away with focusing on the negatives, most of which you cannot control. Focus instead on what you can control, such as:
Your mindset. Recently, we explored the concept of ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ and steps you can proactively take to develop a positive mental attitude. Turning a negative situation into a positive one is not always easy but remember - this is an opportunity and is not the end of the world. Draw on your resilience – and remember that resilience is something that can be learned. Understand that suffering is part of life for all humans, and everyone goes through it. Tune into the good into your life, however small. Ask yourself if what you are thinking and doing is good for you, or harming you.
Resources: look out for online seminars, courses, lectures and guides that can help you handle your situation, both from an inner/ emotional perspective, and from a practical side. There are plenty of resources out there, but be aware of “sharks”! One good option is a free online workshop by transformational coach Quentin Drain (see https://www.meetup.com/London-Bounce-Forward-from-Redundancy-Group/ )
Your finances. This will be the core concern for most people, and it is important to get a handle on this as soon as you possibly can. Consider:
Assess your outgoings and ensure that basics are covered while identifying costs that can be reduced or removed completely - such as non-essential subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, various smartphone apps spring to mind), gym memberships and “luxury” shopping
Consider applying for Universal Credit in case you are unable to secure employment immediately (https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit )
Ask for forbearance with your mortgage company or others that invoice you - some are obliged by law to extend payment terms
Consider selling superfluous items around the house that are not used – e.g. clothing, furniture, jewelry, or toys.
Make A Plan
Don’t give in to the temptation to immediately commence your job search and apply to every single vacancy you can find. While securing paid employment is a core priority, this is also an ideal time to assess where you want your career to go next – particularly if you are considering a career change. You will be much more successful with your applications if you choose a considered approach.
When looking at your next steps, think of the following:
Use this time to consider your options by researching roles and industries that you would like to explore. Consider widening your options to open up more opportunities in other industries or roles
Consider entrepreneurship – some of the world’s most successful businesses have been set up during periods of economic uncertainty or recessions – such as Hewlett-Packard in the 1930s, Microsoft in the oil recession in the mid-1970s, Mailchimp in 2001 and start-ups including Uber, AirBnB and GroupOn in the Great Recession of 2007 – 2009. If you have been toying with a business idea, now could be the perfect time to set your plans into motion.
This could also be the perfect opportunity to return to studies - whether you get a BA, an MA, a PGCE or complete a Diploma in an area of interest and talent.
Why not also consider looking into ‘front-line’ roles and areas of high demand while the pandemic is ongoing - particularly if you have previous experience (link to https://fleximize.com/articles/001838/frontline-employee-key-worker) .
Finding a Job in a Pandemic
Looking for a job in a highly competitive and comparatively barren job market can be an extremely daunting prospect - so it’s important to utilise all the resources you have available to you. Once your CV and LinkedIn have been updated, potentially using professional help, try following these steps to increase your chances of securing your next role:
Contact any previous recruiters that you have worked with in the past, even if they are not currently working on roles within your interests. Keeping in regular contact with them is a great way of staying on their radars and to ensure proactivity within your own job search.
Use and expand your LinkedIn network. Reach out to key individuals within your industry and contact any recruiters who may have sent you InMails when you were not looking to move on. A particularly successful LinkedIn trend in this current market is for individuals to build their own personal brand - posting photos, videos and sharing their own stories and asking for help from their LinkedIn network to like and share the post. There is no guarantee that the right person will see the post - but it’s a great way to increase your network and visibility.
Be proactive. With few jobs and a high volume of applicants, newly posted jobs can often receive several hundred applications in their first few hours of posting. When applying for jobs, consider directly contacting the agency / company and sending through your CV with a brief paragraph about yourself and the role that you are looking for.
Consider looking at temporary options. During recessions, headcount and hiring freezes mean that many recruitment needs are met with temp to perm and contract positions rather than permanent ones. If this is a viable financial option, this may increase your chances of securing employment.
Virtual temping / assistant roles are also now experiencing a boom – this is a fantastic way of working on a more flexible basis and, as a bonus, it cuts out all commuting time and costs! If you have a home set-up that allows for this, why not consider this a viable option.
VWA also offer a careers advice and guidance service from our team of employment and business experts.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
As the famous proverb states - this too shall pass. Already, we are seeing glimmers of hope on an economic and scientific basis - from the first potential vaccine breakthrough at the University of Oxford, to a decline in the unemployment rate after the first two months of lockdown.
Unlike other recessions, this period of economic uncertainty is directly related to a tangible concept – the control of a virus. This means that latest when a vaccine is developed and administered, companies should be able to bounce back to relative normality and return to hiring. This is a temporary crisis, not a systemic one.
Lockdown has also given birth to brand new ways of working which will shape and change the way we work in the long-term. E-commerce, telecoms and transportation of goods are all areas which are experiencing a boom, so more opportunities are likely to arise in them.
If we look within, we will find that we have strength, grit and stamina which we now need to rely on more than ever. Adaptability and imagination are also helpful in designing our future work lives. When we are able to adapt, as we have done throughout history, we can overcome any obstacle which may come our way.
By Rosa von Fürstenberg and Samantha Daniels
1- City AM, “UK firms cut a total of 85,000 jobs amid coronavirus pandemic” , 16th July 2020
2- Business Insider, “14 successful companies that started during US recessions”, 20th April 2020
3- BBC News, “US recession: What can the 2008 recession teach us about this one?”, 8th June 2020
4- The Lawyer Portal, “Commercial Businesses That are Thriving During the COVID-19 Pandemic”