You may not like to think about it, but redundancy is something that happens with unfortunate regularity

So if you get handed the letter, how can you turn "don't come Monday" into a positive for your life and career?

Tom O'Neil, managing director of National Outplacement Services (, says that although not everyone is in a position financially to be able to take their time and regroup following redundancy, it can actually be a great chance to re-evaluate your career, set new goals and start heading where you really want to go.

"It gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you want to do or where to go. You might have several months up your sleeve in terms of money, and also have the flexibility in terms of mind-space," O'Neil says.

The first thing to deal with when facing redundancy is the immediate psychological effect: the loss of identity that can come from losing your job. O'Neil says to think about how much of your self-image is defined by that role.


"When people ask 'who are you?', some people may say 'I'm a dad, I'm a surfer, and I work as a business analyst', and at the other end of the spectrum there's people who would say first, 'I'm a business analyst'. Redundancy hits those people really hard.

"If you're being made redundant, be honest with yourself and think about how much of your identity is your role, and how much is you."

It's also important to not take it personally: "Forty or fifty years ago, redundancy basically meant 'you're fired', but in a nice way. These days it's quite different. Pretty much everyone has faced being made redundant at some stage in their career and, for some people, it's happened multiple times."

O'Neil says many redundant employees his company works with are the victims of international decision-making, meaning local operations get the chop. "The New Zealand operation might be doing OK for the local market but not good enough for a company with head honchos in Europe, who just put a line through the words 'New' and 'Zealand'. With globalisation, these are the risks we do run - that someone will wake up one day and say 'we're not doing that well, we can rationalise that part of the business.'"

Seeking professional help, either provided by the employer as part of the outplacement transition process, or through a private consultancy, will help to make the process smoother and more useful for the person being made redundant, O'Neil says.

"Most people are not experts in this field, so I think it's vital to sit down with someone who knows what's going on and how best to deal with it," he says. "People might want to just get a new role, get stuck in and put this experience behind them. That's all well and good, but it's very reactive. The vast majority of people basically plan their career around what job just happens to be advertised on the internet, rather than stopping and think about it. Talking to a careers expert will give you the opportunity to do that."

Whereas many people would comfortably spend 20 hours planning the purchase of a second-hand car, or 40 hours planning a major holiday, O'Neil says many people "spend zero hours over their lifetime to plan their career. People are almost always reactive, rather than having a long-term plan or strategy, and just sort of bumble their way through and fall up the ladder."

In this way, O'Neil says, redundancy is almost always a positive experience in the longer term, giving people a chance to really reassess their career -- where they want to go and how to get there.


"If it's well-managed, and if people are given the right support, it gives them the chance to stop and reflect on what they want to. It gives them that space to do actually do some career planning.

"The first thing to ask yourself is, what would I like to do as a job - a proper job, not being a park ranger on a desert island or something - and where would I like to be in 10 years? Then from there, think, okay, how am I going to get there?

Forty or fifty years ago, redundancy basically meant 'you're fired', but in a nice way. These days it's quite different. Pretty much everyone has faced being made redundant at some stage in their career and, for some people, it's happened multiple times.

"Breaking it down further, if you know where you want to be in 2026, what do you need to be doing in 2021 - what kind of qualifications and experience do you need to pursue?

Being made redundant is also a good opportunity to do some work on your personal "brand", as you look to apply for new roles.

"The first thing to understand is that you are a brand, and you need to promote that brand in a professional way," O'Neil says. Your online presence is a huge part of this, he adds.

"This is where people do so poorly. LinkedIn is absolutely critical -- if you don't have a quality LinkedIn profile you are really letting yourself down."

The same applies with social media: make sure your Facebook security settings keep your private stuff private, check that none of your tweets could be seen as inappropriate, and do a Google search on yourself and see what comes up. "You have to take control of your personal social media brand -- if you don't, someone else will."

In terms of sprucing up your CV, "just try to keep it relevant," O'Neil suggests. "When a company is advertising for a role, they're basically advertising a problem they have. Therefore, when you go to market with your CV, you need to be the solution to that problem. You're not applying for a job -- you are making them understand that you can solve all the problems of that not having a person for this role has created."

Your CV should not a list of your past glories, but a brochure, selling you as that solution.

"It's massively counter-intuitive, but at the end of the day, your CV is not about you - it's all about the needs of the reader. When an HR person picks up and reads a CV, they don't care who that person is: what they care about is the solution to their problem. If you look like that solution, they are interested in you as a person and finding out more."