Updated: May 24
Losing your job is a kick in the guts. It's devastating. But there is a silver lining (even though that is probably the last thing you want to hear right now).
Redundancy isn't something that we talk about openly. It has that in common with a lot of our more unpleasant milestones, which is ironic as it's usually when we need the most understanding and support.
When people do try to bring it up, it's awkward beyond belief. It usually involves them stumbling over phrases like, "You'll land on your feet," or "When one door shuts, another opens." Platitudes that kind of make you want to staple something to their face.
Or you're not involved in the conversation at all. Instead, it becomes a source of gossip in shadowy corners of the office, heads jerking up guiltily when you pass by on your way to the bathroom, as you think you might cry again and don't want people to see.
The first time I was made redundant was especially brutal. It was from a family company. My family, just to make that clear. I was given a day's notice and my final pay check. I laugh (albeit hollowly!) when I look back now - it was years ago, but I still remember what a sucker punch it was.
The second farewell was from a large, well-respected public relations agency in the Auckland CBD. The review meeting that I had spent days preparing for turned into a so-sorry-we're-letting-you-go, which I thought was quite underhanded. But at least I got redundancy pay. On both occasions, I felt the cold fingers of terror on my throat. That sounds dramatic but it's not dramatic enough. I had a mortgage, bills and no clue what to do next.
Funnily enough, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me - though I would have rolled my eyes if you'd told me that at the time. And then avoided you for the foreseeable future.
I did learn a few things and I've jotted some of them down below. When I lost my job, I banged all kinds of redundancy related words into Google, wanting to read about people that had gone through what I had. If you're in the same boat, I hope that my words are helpful (if not, feel free to leave me an angry comment below this story. Redundancy has given me a rhino thick skin so I can take it!)
TRY TO BE KIND TO YOURSELF
No one can foretell how they're going to react to redundancy. It's not like it's something we're prepared for at school. During those first few days, cry if you want to, shout if you want to, type a furious letter to your boss (and then delete it) - whatever you feel you need to do to ease that pressure valve of emotions. I distinctly remember lobbing a jar of peanut butter across the kitchen during one red-misted moment. Was it sensible? No. Did it make me feel better? Hell, yes. For a minute, at least.
TALK - IF YOU WANT TO
It can help to go over things with someone you love and trust - even if it feels like all you're doing is moaning and rehashing things. Just having a pair of ears to absorb everything can be enough to help you process what you're going through. I probably bored my husband to death going over all of the what-ifs and what-do-I-dos but it was better than keeping everything locked up in my own head. If you don't want to talk, don't. Or give it a few days if you don't feel up to it straight away. There is no one size fits all.
DON'T SPEND ALL DAY IN YOUR PJS (OK - MAYBE ONE OR TWO)
Your last day at work has been and gone - with all of the associated awfulness (the second place dragged us all into the boardroom for wine and cheese like it was some kind of party - excruciating). You will probably feel like putting on your comfiest pyjamas and crawling into bed. Forever. That's fine for the first day - or three. I watched a lot of TV and drank far too much Sauvignon Blanc during the first week.
But try to avoid getting stuck in a rut. The longer you stay in that bleak, sorry-for-yourself space, the more difficult it becomes to drag yourself out. Give yourself a time limit for wallowing and pack it full of everything you would do after any other break-up. Drink the wine. Eat the chocolate. Then, get up, get dressed and spend some time thinking about what you want to do now and how you're going to do it.
USE THE OPPORTUNITY
Ugh. No one wants to hear this in the immediate messy aftermath of job loss but it is true. I won't use any analogies featuring doors, windows or well-lit tunnels but I will tell you this. Everyone I've ever spoken to about redundancy has said that it was the thing they needed to get to where they really wanted to be (even that sentence will make you want to strangle me through your computer screen but that's ok).
The first time I was made redundant, it did give me the kick up the bum I needed to get out from under the comfort blanket of working for my family. The second loss gave me the drive and determination (AKA being massively pissed off) to start my own business. Since then, I have had more flexibility, more excitement and more money than I did at any of the jobs I've held down.
Not everyone will feel the same, but I certainly felt like I was ready to do my own thing. If you're no more secure when you're working for a so-called large and reputable company than you would be working for yourself, why not become your own boss? That was my reasoning anyway.
If you have always wanted to do something - if a niggling interest or passion has lurked at the back of your mind - now is the time to give it a go. If you want to try launching your own brand, do it. If business ownership doesn't appeal to you, there might be a company you've admired since forever. Pick up the phone and introduce yourself. You've got nothing to lose.
Knowing that the only way is up can be incredibly freeing and can give you the confidence you need to turn a long harboured dream into reality. As corny as that sounds. You'll look back in years to come, when the sting of redundancy has faded, and realise that things turned out exactly how they were meant to.