A job loss could be a career opportunity, says David Maida
You should always be prepared for the possibility that you'll be made redundant. After all, it's not your employer's responsibility to guarantee you long-term employment.
But in an economic downturn, when the possibility of redundancy is greater, there are some key things you should be doing, says Dianne Bromhead, managing director of Management Consulting Group. She assists workers who have been made redundant and says she has seen a sudden increase in redundancies just in May and June.
"I've had people who've been long-time employees getting made redundant. Some of them have been over 20 years with the same employer," says Bromhead.
But Bromhead says it's no time to sulk. It's time to be confident, organised and proactive.
"Most of my clients get another job. Often it's a better job. A lot of them see redundancy as a good opportunity for change."
When time comes for a change, it's important to know which direction you want to go or you could just be spinning your wheels.
"It can take as much effort to get the wrong job as to get the right job," says Bromhead.
As soon as you have the first inkling that your job is insecure, you should start thinking about things such as the size of the organisation, the city and the type of work you would prefer doing. You can start putting out feelers, reflecting on your next career move and letting others know that you might soon be in the job market. Work your networks. Often one of the best networks someone can have is the clients in their current job.
"Go see clients of the company they've been working for. A lot of them know a lot about those other companies."
Bromhead says that generally your present employer will not object to this practice.
"Employers who are letting staff go are trying to help them rather than hinder them. Mostly employers are happy to help," says Bromhead.
Whether it's benevolence or just an effort to stay out of the employment court, most employers want to see their staff make a smooth transition in their next career move. If networking isn't immediately helpful, Bromhead recommends cold calling on prospective employers.
"Make a call. Go see them because you never know. They may have just received a resignation the day that you go and they're looking for someone."
Cold calling is always worth a go because so many New Zealand organisations do no formal recruiting at all. Highly skilled people will often circulate within this hidden job market. This type of networking can easily be done while you're still employed in your present job and you need not indicate that you're in the job market. Expressing an interest in someone's organisation is always a good way to meet like-minded people.
"It's just getting that company to know you're around."
Other job exploration techniques can fall into what Bromhead calls the "what not to do" list. This includes mass CV mail-outs.
"Some people seem to think it's okay to just photocopy off hundreds of their CVs and just mail them out to anybody. That's never going to work."
Being faced with the possibility of redundancy can be a real downer but it's extremely important to keep a stiff upper lip, says Melita Sharp, managing director of Career Coach Consulting.
"It's really important for people, as difficult as it may seem, to maintain a positive approach and a positive perspective. Out of all change, new possibilities always arise," Sharp says.
The worst part might be facing uncertainty. But Sharp refers to the old adage that the only certain thing in life is change. It might be painful at the time but just might work out for the best.
"Often with the benefit of hindsight, people can realise that it's the best thing that's happened to them. There was a time when being made redundant was the worst possible thing that could happen to someone. That's actually no longer the case."
"The only security you have in your job and in life is the security you create for yourself."
When you start to see the writing on the wall, the most important thing you can do is to remain positive.
"Even if you can see your role is being made redundant, don't take it personally and maintain your professionalism in your work."
There's no need to be bitter and risk upsetting future potential referees.
"How you behave in the last month of your employment is what people will remember about you. It's amazing how many people unwittingly undo years of work by how they behave in the last month."
You might even be called back in to work as a contractor. Sharp says some contractors earn more than they did when they were employed. But whether you're looking to rejoin the organisation or looking for work elsewhere, your CV should be a primary focus.
"New Zealanders tend to be quite reticent in blowing their own trumpet. I actually spend a lot of my time with my clients encouraging them to blow their own trumpet," Sharp says.
Sharp says it's not about being arrogant or a tall poppy but simply knowing what you do well and being confident in that. If you're unsure, then this is the time to reflect.
"When people have a sudden change, it's often a time to question and rethink your priorities. It's easy to rush off and get the same type of job again.
"Going to another organisation and doing the same thing could be just like going from the frying pan into the fire."
Employees who are being made redundant can also ask their employers if, as part of their redundancy package, they will receive outplacement services or some type of career coaching to help them move on.
Sharp says this is often money well spent to keep departing employees content and avoid personal grievances or constructive dismissal accusations. But regardless of how it's done, workers will have to identify their next career target. Sharp says some people use their redundancy payout to buy a franchise and go into business for themselves, some might return to school or training or even go overseas.
Your financial status when you're facing possible redundancy will be a major factor in the decisions you make and how much stress you experience.
Jeff Matthews, senior adviser at the financial planning company Spicers, says to check if your redundancy and any payout you'll receive are fair.
"Was it a fair dismissal and did you get the money you're entitled to?"
Nonetheless, this is a time to reduce debt. "Sell any surplus items _ cars, boats, skis, bikes. Anything that you don't use _ sell. Build up a cash buffer that will give you two to three months' living expenses."
You can always buy things back again but for now you'll need liquidity.
"You're a bit like a receiver moving into a company and looking at what you can unload realistically to pay down debt or improve cash flow."
Matthews says you basically have two choices when things get tough. You can either earn more money or spend less. This is a time to write down a budget and stick to it.
Unless you can comfortably write a cheque out to pay off any outstanding balances on your credit card, Matthews says to put the card away. Unfortunately the economy has been due for a correction for some time and Matthews says we should be prepared.
"Batten down the hatches for stormy weather. Who knows what's going to happen."
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