Most of us face redundancy at some stage, but for one group it is a recurring hazard.

Once every three years they know they could wake up without a job - as some will tomorrow.

We are, of course, talking about MPs. Just for them, Career presents this guide to making the transition to post-parliamentary employment.


* Do your preparation

Okay, so it's a bit late - you should have done this already. And according to one recruitment adviser, many of you have.

Before every election, she says, more than a handful of MPs approach her company to find new jobs.

"Because the lists are so public, people can pretty much work out in the early days what their likelihood is of getting back in," she says.

Hopefully, you've already visited recruitment advisers, sounded out your networks (more on this later) and figured out how to sell yourself to prospective employers.

"You've got to go to potential employers having confidence in yourself about what you can deliver, articulating how you can add value," says Reece Notton, executive director of outplacement firm DBM New Zealand.

* Be realistic

nimrodYour former profession is your best bet. As our anonymous adviser says: "You do learn a lot when you're an MP. Unfortunately, those skills are not really transferable."

Or, as Former United Party leader and Dunedin South MP Clive Matthewson puts it: "I don't think being an MP prepares you well for anything."

Employers want specific operational skills; skills you gain on the job. If you were a lawyer, you have those skills for law - now is not the time to think about moving into PR.

It may not be easy. If you are a one-term MP, your professional skills will still be current. If, like Matthewson, you have been an MP for 12 years, they will be out-of-date.

Matthewson did not return to civil engineering after his parliamentary career ended in 1996.

"'I didn't try to go back into it. I knew I couldn't."

Former Labour MP Richard Northey, who held Eden from 1984 to 1990 and Onehunga from 1993 to 1996, found it difficult.

"The job market is not friendly to mature job-seekers whose pattern of skills can't be readily identified," he says.

You do, of course, have the operational skills for politics, and local authorities may beckon. John Banks and Christine Fletcher are just two former MPs who made the shift.

If you are lucky enough to have a reputation as a senior MP or statesman, speaking engagements, writing a book or gaining advisory work are all options.

* Don't take it personally

So this is the tricky bit: you have been voted out of office, and, let's face it, it may have been a bit personal.

But, as Notton says: "You have to take into consideration the party effect as well."

Voters' dissatisfaction with your party's policy or internal politics may be more to blame for your employment status.

Tutekawa Wyllie, former New Zealand First MP for Te Tai Tonga, says his defeat in 1999 was "pretty devastating".

Being an MP was a job he loved, thought he was good at and had a lot to contribute to. Discovering that his constituents did not share his feelings hurt.

"It's a bit like getting divorced or something - it's the letting go that's pretty tough."

Personal coach Debra Knox says some people will attack you personally, so be prepared. "Get the mind-set that this isn't reality, it's just opinions and perceptions from individuals on how they see the world."

* Grieve and move on

It's a closure thing.

You may have loved your job and want it back. That may even be possible - just ask some members of this Government - but really, do you want to hang around for three years on the off-chance?

If you do, Notton suggests you get good advice from people who will be realistic about your chances, not from people you can count on to say: "Maybe next time."

He also suggests you get together with other redundant MPs, have a "huge piss-up", tell each other of your successes and get it out of your system. Then let it go.

Matthewson says you have to give yourself the positive reinforcement that you will not be getting from others at the moment.

"Tell yourself that what you did was worthwhile ... you did your best and it was worth doing."

And Wyllie says you must force yourself to put it in perspective. "It's just a job," he says. No matter how much you loved it, "losing it is not the end of the world".

* Seek out sources of help

Your allowances will disappear from election day, but you will receive your base salary for another three months. And Parliamentary Services general manager John O'Sullivan says his staff will look at any requests for help on a case-by-case basis.

He also says several caucuses have realised the transition is an issue for former MPs and are "working through programmes to have this in place".

* Use your networks

Our anonymous adviser tells all job-seekers to work their contacts. "Obviously, people who have been in politics have more extensive networks than others."

But be prepared in case the politics of the next few months damage those networks.

Wyllie, a former researcher, analyst and adviser for Maori and Government organisations, found that much of his network disappeared. "It took me, I suppose, a good two years to get back in favour again."

But he says that there is no point being bitter. "For quite a while, most [former] politicians are persona non grata. You've got to accept that because it's part of the territory. Just take it on the chin."

* Grab opportunities

It goes without saying, really, and you would think it was second nature to MPs.

But Matthewson - who was highly regarded and had led a political party, albeit a fledgling one - admits he missed a few opportunities.

Soon after his defeat he was asked to apply for several jobs, but did not follow them up. "I wasn't ready for it - I knew I wasn't ready."

Of course, a year later when he felt ready, the offers had stopped.

Still, he did grab enough opportunities. He began consulting, was elected chairman of the Community Trust of Otago and was appointed to the Building Industry Authority and the University of Otago Council.

Wyllie grabbed different opportunities. Immediately after the election he worked for his sister, picking squash for two weeks, which he found therapeutic and "cleansing".

"I got my hands dirty, got involved in manual labour. It helped me to switch off."

He also landed a three-month Waitangi Fisheries Commission contract.

* It may not happen overnight ...

A week may be a long time in politics, but it's a nanosecond for post-parliamentary career hunters.

Northey applied for about 40 jobs after his first term before landing a two-year contract as local authority liaison officer with the Northern Regional Arts Council. After his second term he became a consultant.

Matthewson's appointments and part-time consulting saw him through about five years. Now he is the University of Otago's director of development.

Wyllie works for his Gisborne iwi on treaty claims and economic development. His work as spokesman on the Young Nicks Head protest is partly business, partly voluntary.

If all else fails, you could do worse than follow his example and lead a protest movement, for which he says an MP's skills are entirely relevant.

"I know exactly how the political game's played, and on an issue like this, you've got to play them at their own game.

"And," he says with a laugh, "I know how to manipulate the media ... "

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