How to deal with losing your job

Few of us are immune to the possibility of losing our jobs, but when a redundancy notice arrives, it can still be a shocking experience. It leaves you feeling rejected and knocks your self-esteem for six as you face the prospect of losing your regular income.

However, you can make emotional and practical adjustments to prepare for such adversity and even turn the situation to your career advantage.

Where do I start?

It is not healthy to spend your life thinking that redundancy lies around the corner, but that does not mean you should not be prepared for the unexpected.

Think carefully about how your knowledge and experience could be put to use in another role or sector – your current organisation’s competitors are an ideal place to begin. Take ownership of your career development and ensure your skills are up to date. Constantly seek out personal development and learning opportunities.

“The other essential is to develop and maintain your network,” says Alison Crossley, head of outplacement at Penna, a human capital management consultancy. “This can give a greater sense of resilience during turbulent times, with individuals to turn to for support and advice.”

Keep your composure

There is no set way to behave when you first hear your job is being made redundant, but it is essential to act professionally during the process.

Bear in mind you may cross paths with the manager handling the redundancy at some point in the future. Next time you meet they could be interviewing you for your perfect job. There is also a chance they could be sharing the same fate as you.

You are likely to experience a daily rollercoaster of emotions – anger, tears and fear – but the real issue is what you do with any negative emotions. “Don’t ignore them,” advises Crossley. “Try to talk about them in a safe environment.”

If given the opportunity to go home, it is a good idea to take it. The sudden news is likely to have clouded your thinking and you may not recall a great deal of what was said in the meeting. This will give you time to read and digest any literature you have been given and reflect on why your position is being made redundant. Make a note of any questions you have for when you return.

Talk it over with a partner or close friends to get a different perspective. Sharing feelings with colleagues in the same boat can help, but avoid getting involved in rumour or politics surrounding the announcement, which can be both distracting and destructive.

Settlement terms

Take advantage of legal services offered to you and do not agree to any departure terms or compromise agreements without the advice of a lawyer. Make sure there is an understanding of how your exit will be communicated – both internally and externally – and for any future references. Details of any outplacement services offered to you should also feature in the legal agreement.

Use outplacement

Internal support for HR can be limited so it is essential to take advantage of any outplacement programme offered. Even if you don’t feel that you need outplacement support, Crossley recommends always taking up the offer of an initial consultation to discuss your situation and needs.

“Ideally, you should be involved in the selection of the person who will work with you for any one-to-one service,” she says. “You know yourself best and the service provider should know how you could most effectively achieve your goals.”

Remain philosophical

Redundancy can be a difficult experience, but it could also be the best thing that ever happens to you – providing an opportunity to re-evaluate yourself and open up new career horizons.

If you only do 5 things

1Develop and maintain your network
2 Don’t lose your cool
3 Seek legal advice before agreeing departure terms
4 Take advantage of outplacement services
5 Retain a positive outlook

For more information

How to risk-proof your career
How to become career-resilient


Expert’s view on dealing with losing your job

How can you benefit from the experience in the long run?

With hindsight, most people view a job loss as a positive experience – a chance to take stock and try something new. You have been given the opportunity to make decisions you were not courageous enough to take while in the security of a job. Be a sponge to ideas, suggestions and advice and, if at all possible, take the time to make the best decisions, not necessarily the first ones that come to mind. Ideally, make a medium- to long-term plan, rather than a knee-jerk reaction, and this will pay dividends.

What should be avoided?

Losing a job can be a turbulent time, but demonstrations of extreme emo-tions will only serve to damage your reputation and lead to feelings of regret after the event. Find a safe environment to express your feelings, as bottling them up will hinder you becoming more positive. Never contact an agency or reply to an advertisement unless you are already prepared and can talk positively about your job loss experience and future career direction.

Have you ever lost a job and how did you deal with it?

My only job loss came as a complete shock and I didn’t really have a strategy – I naively thought I didn’t need one. If ever in the same position again, I would definitely take up more of the offers of help that were made, both practical and personal, and take more time to think and plan before I take any action.

What is the latest thinking on the subject?

With such a volatile business environment, job loss will remain a routine part of many people’s working lives. It is more widely accepted by both employers and employees than ever before, but has yet to translate into any concrete changes in most working relationships. If individuals are increasingly planning their own career development while in a role, organisations need to respond with frameworks and initiatives to ensure they are perceived as an employer of choice to retain employee loyalty.

By Alison Crossley, head of outplacement, Penna


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