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Take control of your life when redundancy strikes

by times online - 04/05/2010
I’m one of the many high-earners to lose their job as a consequence of the current collapse in the banking sector. Not only am I struggling to come to terms with the fact that I am unemployed – and feel unemployable – but there seems to be little sympathy for me because I was on a good salary with high bonuses. I’ve been with the same company since graduating. How do I turn things around?

You obviously have lost your self-confidence and feel vulnerable, which is understandable in these difficult times. There is no comfort, of course, in saying that there are many other people in a similar circumstance. Obviously, being made redundant is stressful, but we all have the ability to control aspects of our personal and working lives. We may not be able to control the job loss itself, but we can control how we deal with it, what strategies we adopt to get what we want. So what can you do?

Think about your future
Most people who are made redundant react without thinking, trying frenetically to get roughly the same job in the same sector. Given the present crisis, this might not be such a good idea. Jumping into another job in the finance sector will be difficult to achieve, given the scale of job losses in the industry and the shrinking workforce likely in the future. So think outside the box. What else are you interested in doing and how might you get there?

Audit skills and competencies
To do this, you need to do an inventory of your skills and competencies. With a friend or trusted colleague, list all your attributes – those aspects of your personality and skill-base that are your “added value” as an employee – and the types of activities that you are not good at or not interested in doing. You may have very good social and interpersonal skills and get on well with people, but find it difficult to do detailed work alone.
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Explore the options
Once you have explored your strengths and weaknesses, you then can look at all possible options. In your case, here are some you might consider: find a similar job in the same sector; use your skills to do a similar job in another sector and think through which sector that might be; think about doing something entirely different but that would suit your personality and interests (but also consider what additional training you might need to make this switch); and, finally, consider starting your own business.

Personal cost-benefit analysis
Explore your list of options and strike out those that do not interest you or you think are not viable, and get down to a shortlist of possible job futures. Then do a simple cost-benefit analysis of each, preferably with a knowledgeable and honest friend, partner or former colleague. Once you have done this, make a decision and decide what you have to do to achieve this (eg, more training, raising some capital).

The most important part of this process is to gain control of a situation that you felt was beyond your control. Yes, it might mean change and taking a risk, but it will be better than sitting back and hoping that things will improve. As Sir James Goldsmith said: “The ultimate risk is not taking a risk.”

Cary Cooper is Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University Management School
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