However its framed, redundancy is a body blow. It hurts. The “it’s not you”, the “nothing you did” or “the bad economy meant that we had to make cuts” — still leave you with an unanswered question, “Yes, but why me?”
In my situation, a cold analysis of the facts meant that in a cash poor charity, my expensive management post which had been more than adequately filled during my maternity leave by someone on a lower scale, meant that the post (not me) was an obvious target to be culled. In truth I’d seen the cuts coming long before my absence and had voiced my fears to that effect. None of my foresight ameliorated the sense of failure, the crumbling of my self confidence, and the impact that my job loss had on me on a personal level. I went into a spectacular decline and hit rock bottom with a resounding thump.
When you get to that place you have two options. You can become a ‘bottom feeder’ grazing on self pity, shuffling along just getting by. Or you can painfully pull yourself up to standing, metaphorically dust yourself down and then start climbing, one foot in front of the other. In retrospect I can see that there was some method in how I did recover from my experience of redundancy although it didn’t feel like it at the time.
After maternity leave I’d been out of work so long I felt like my compass had turned. None of my points of reference seemed quite relevant in the new terrain of motherhood. I put a lot of time into thinking about my strengths and weaknesses, the skills I have, and the challenges I have over come. I asked for feedback from colleagues, family, friends and rebuilt a positive image of myself in layers. I got back to basics thinking about my values and ethos, the motivation and energies that drive me.
When I felt I’d done enough navel gazing I was able to look up and see the horizon once again and conceive of a new future. I thought about those things I did not want in my brave new world. I got fixated on detail and the type of person I wanted to work with, the environment I wanted to work in and the colleagues and customers I would serve. Inside me, chip by chip — like a statue being carved, a new vision for my life was taking form.
When I was ready for action I went painfully slowly, scared to take a wrong road, anxious not to put the fragile seedling of my dreams in the wrong soil. I consciously decided not to be guided by my old goals of salary and scale. Instead I would only do work, paid or unpaid, in environments and with people that felt aligned with me. I made every opportunity to speak with people who I saw on the path ahead of me, living purposeful, fulfilling, balanced lives. I chose to educate myself and invest in support for my journey through coaching, through online learning programmes, and networking online and in person with special people treading a similar path.
While I wouldn’t say my struggles are over, I am certainly in a different place than I was 18 months ago. I can now look back on the experience of redundancy with almost a sense of gratitude. I feel that if it hadn’t come along I would not have taken the time to slow down, to put my health, family and quality of life first, and prioritise much needed reflection and re-evaluation. I have grown in that my motivations and my ethos underpin my actions in life and work in a deeper way than they did previously.
If I could distill a few messages for anyone facing redundancy right now I would say;
1. You are so much more than your job. Take the time to really explore your skills and talents, needs and desires and motivations. Then use those as the foundation to build a new vision of your life.
2. You may feel that you are in the midst of a crisis and cant see your way through. As in all things this is a phase which will pass. In the meantime gather the tools, resources and support that you need, together. When the time comes for action and change you will be prepared.
3. You are not alone. Thousands of skilled, talented brave wonderful people are finding themselves displaced in a changing economy. There are people who have weathered the storm who are able to teach the rest of us how to survive in this new world. Do your research and find out about the support available, network, interview and be zealous in hunting down the people and networks that will support you as you find your path towards a new livelihood.