We are in the middle of a global pandemic and we all know life will never quite be the same again. Sadly for many of us, our jobs & careers will never be the same either. In the UK the Government has rolled out a furlough scheme that pays employees 80% of salaries up to £2,500 per month. However, this won’t last forever and there will no doubt be redundancies. The scaling back of schemes such as this will mean businesses will be presented with stark choices on staffing and a negative balance sheet.
Imagine the scene then, you are sitting in a room or having a video call with your line manager, a representative from H.R., and perhaps a member of your trade union. You know what is about to happen and then it does……..“I am sorry we are letting you go.” You knew that redundancy was in the air but it couldn’t apply to me……..could it? You may be feeling numb, crushed, anxious, and sick to your stomach. You may try to rationalise the events as necessary to finally get away from a toxic self-obsessed line manager. These and many more emotions are what you feel after being “let go.”
Most of us will experience this issue at some point during our working life. However, with the Covid-19 hanging over us as well and businesses struggling to make ends meet, then redundancy is a sad consequence of these eventualities. In reality, most of us will experience redundancy, the dreaded sack, or be a victim of “downsizing” up to three times in a working lifetime. So what do we do? How do we manage the psychological fallout from not being at work? How do we push back and get back out there into a new and job or even a different career path?
The fall out from Redundancy
During the redundancy period, our frame of reference is generally that not at work = being on holiday = happy days! Initially, there can be a sense of elation of “I am free”. For some, the release and euphoria can seriously delay the need to update the career focus & employability. However, this time it’s different, as we have been locked down with COVID-19 for some time. We have had time to become anxious and stressed about what might be about to unfold with our jobs. With so much time on lockdown, the feeling of elation and being on holiday have probably passed. It’s understandable that any thoughts of a holiday have long gone and we are just worried about our future working life. Therefore, now is the time to start to plan for all the possible eventualities – and what might happen to our jobs in the near future. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.
Redundancy for older workers (an older worker is now 40+ by the way) may have a lot of ground to make up in terms of a CV, interview skills, etc. Just to bring them up to the minimum expectations of employers & recruiters. So being a mature worker may bring additional stresses and focus to be in a position to move on positively.
Pushing back from Redundancy
So a couple of months pass stuck at home the CV has been updated and jobs applied for – but no replies or invitations to interviews. Needless to say, some firms are not recruiting at the moment and jobs in your industry are thin on the ground. Generally, an individual may get one interview per ten applications. So this process can erode an already flagging sense of motivation, self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. Sadly it is common for people who have been unemployed for 12 months or longer to show signs of moderate depression, anxiety, and many other mental health issues.
Redundancy & the lockdown can influence our eating habits that may change. We tend to focus on comfort carb-rich foods to help manage the negative emotions of being jobless. Stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, resulting in fatigue and lethargy. Dame Carol Black (2008) highlights that being unemployed doubles a person’s chance of a major depressive episode and that unemployment. It is also sadly highly associated with domestic violence (currently on the rise during COVID-19) and alcohol abuse. Notwithstanding the increased risk of male suicide, often because of the link to depression. Therefore being out of work can be one of the most difficult, most devastating, debilitating, and distressing experiences that people go through. Especially during a global pandemic.
Get back on the horse quickly
The good old plan and implement model for job searching, CVs, covering letters, etc is a great place to start. This plan or anything that I am about to suggest is not new. There is a good reason for that, as it works. Especially if you need to get your job searching on track quickly. If you have more time then great, but for most people with bills to pay this plan will help. Many, if not all, employability and outplacement services will use the same model. Therefore use the services if you have access to them, if not then hopefully you can make use of the post redundancy plan on offer here.
To set you off in the right frame of mind, getting back to your core skills, abilities, knowledge, and experience are key. Find out the jobs that are available and start adapting the CV to apply online to get yourself moving forward. However, be clear on what you are aiming at for work, little is gained by sending your CV out willy-nilly. You need to be targeted and have a clear sense of purpose.
It’s Good to Talk
All this is all well and good but you may still be feeling, well, pretty angry, depressed and thoroughly hacked off with life. Firstly, find someone to talk to about how you feel. You might not be in the mood to talk to everyone about your situation of course. However, speaking with close friends or partner can help. Once you have had the opportunity to vent your spleen, it’s time to start writing. Write about what just happened to you, how you’re feeling, how does this impact your plans, and what you might do going forward. Is this time to start a business, go self-employed, or change career?
The goal isn’t to come up with a definitive plan or even to write anything coherently. Rather, the goal is to capture the thoughts and emotions you are experiencing right now. Principally so you won’t replay them and ruminate over and over in your mind.
The chance to rebalance your thinking about what has happened may take a few days, so just give yourself a bit of slack. Be kind to yourself, you have experienced a lot. Remember it’s not you that was made redundant it was your job – you are more than just a job. So take heart you will be back in the game and back to work in no time at all. Allow yourself the time to gather your thoughts and look forward to the next challenge.
Time to put the plan in place
Okay, time to get a plan in place. I am sure we all agree that none of us wants to experience the unwelcome effects of unemployment. So here is my ten-point plan to get you back to work in a positive and proactive way.
The COVID-19 Career Jump Starter Plan
- Find support, enlist friends, and family to help you with your plans. Doing all this alone can be disheartening and demotivating. Find fellow job seekers in online support groups. Or people who may have been “let go” by the same organisation to keep each other in good spirits. Plus the fact there will always be a friendly voice and someone to share the ups and down’s of your job search.
- Update the CV/Resume – Getting back to your core skills, abilities, knowledge, and experience is key to building confidence, self-esteem & self-efficacy. Highlighting what you have achieved, your legacy, and how your actions changed things for the better. Use the STAR model (loads of other models are available) to demonstrate situations, tasks, actions, and results for your CV/Resume.
- Update your covering letter skills – not all job applications will need them but even if you use it for your own benefit, it will give you a chance to showcase where you add value. You can play around with your achievements and things about your career or work you are most proud of. Where you made a difference to the business etc.
- Find out the jobs that are available and start to adapt your CV/ Resume. Be clear on what you are aiming at for work. You need to be targeted and have a clear sense of purpose for your job search.
- So your resume in tip-top shape, let’s turn your attention to Linked In and social media platforms. There is a great deal of support online for LinkedIn, Facebook profiles, and job searching. In fact too much to summarise in a short plan. Find out what works for you, your industry, and the line of work. Start to find out what the movers and shakers are talking about in your area.
- Compile a list of companies you would like to work for. Start with five to ten, but no more than twenty for now. Once you have this list, think about people you may know at each company. LinkedIn can be a great help with this aspect of your plan. The company page will show the first and second-degree connections you have at each one. Again check out what is talking about and potential opportunities coming up in the pipeline.
- Get networking – Depending on your industry you may find local networking opportunities are available to go and meet people. The people you speak to will remember you and what you are looking for if you can make the right impression. Practice those all-important interpersonal skills and perhaps have a go at designing your personal career brand. It’s all about utilising those all-important rare and valuable skills that constitute your career capital. Don’t forget to network on social media also to showcase your skills and expertise in your industry or business area.
- Sign up to job searching sites and don’t forget to set up alerts on each site as this will automate a lot of your search. Thus saving you both time and energy.
- Make a list of people you haven’t connected for a while and invite them to for a virtual cup of tea or coffee. This may take you out of your comfort zone and you may well feel uncomfortable with this approach. However, I am sure you don’t want to be the world’s best-kept secret – so be bold, be brave, and talk to the people who can help you.
- Keep healthy and active. With all this intensive work you will need a healthy body and mind. Be kind to yourself stay fit, eat well and most of all spend time with loved ones to help you through.
Review and Revise your Plans Regularly
After a while start to assess how things are going. Have you got interviews in the pipeline, if not have you received feedback on your CV/Resume from recruiters and HR perhaps. You will need as much feedback as possible to improve your offering. If feedback is not received after an application, then ask for it. Continue networking activities to build a presence. Whether you are experiencing some success or not, don’t stop until you have that all-important job offer in hand.
Keep up with your daily practice and keep networking. Don’t stop applying for relevant job openings. Focus on the things you can control and ignore those you can’t. Finally, treat your job search like a full-time job. Pitch up every day, do the work, then wrap things up and start over the next day. Even dress the part. As sometimes when we are dressed for work our minds will help us re-frame our sense of what we need to do. We are at work, after all, just a different type of work.
Of course, losing your job is tough at any time, but in a global pandemic is tricky. All of us manage the fallout of redundancy in many different ways. However, following a plan and having people to support you will help you get back on the horse sooner than later.
Now then being out of work is tough for all the reasons listed above, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Being unemployed staring at the walls, worry about staying healthy, and supporting your family whilst hoping the phone will ring is soul-destroying. However, with the right support, there are lots of opportunities to help change your situation for the better. The psychological dimensions of being out of work can be difficult to overcome. Especially if you have been out of work with more than a year. Networks begin to disappear, your motivation and self-effectiveness for work can begin to ebb away. However, picking yourself up and constructing a purposeful plan will help you saddle up and move on to a brighter future.
The ten-point plan listed above will give you a plan to get moving. Though please feel free to add aspects that will help you and what is most appropriate for your area of work, business, or industry. However, in most cases, there is still a need for a CV/Resume to get toward that all-important interview so you can showcase your talents and valuable skills to the organisation.
You may need to be very clear on how you add value to an organisation i.e. what do you do to make things better. Is it processes, sales, or quality for example. If you don’t know what you are great how can you tell anyone about it? So practice, plan, and get out there. Be brave, be bold, and change your working life for the better and be ready for the post-COVID-19 world.
Black, C (2008) “Working for a healthier tomorrow: work and health in Britain” Dept of Work & Pensions, London
David Dean is an independent career and coaching psychologist based in Cambridge, helping to make your career and professional life a nicer place to be.