How To Deal When You’re Suddenly Made Redundant

They say third time’s the charm – but when it comes to redundancies, I don’t know if that saying packs the same punch. After eleven years as a writer, editor, and copywriter, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few professional “it’s not you, it’s me” conversations. Gone are the days when redundancies were just for old guys in suits. Nowadays, it’s happening to workers of all ages, across all industries.

A redundancy is when the company you work for no longer has any need for the role you hold. That could be because the team is shrinking, the company has less need for the skills of roles like yours, or any number of reasons. There are regulations in place that govern redundancies and, if you’ve at a company long enough, you’ll probably get some pay out.

Losing your job doesn’t just knock your confidence, it makes you second-guess everything. Even if it’s purely a numbers-based decision, it’s still difficult to accept. So, here’s what I’ve learned about suddenly not having a job, and what you can do to ensure you don’t lose your mind in the process.

Stop clock-watching

Whether you’re dealing with the news that you’re no longer needed at a company you’ve no doubt invested in, both personally and professionally, or you’re thinking about your next gig – it’s important to remember that all things take time.

Registered Psychologist Seija Herat has extensive experience in mental health and employee assistance programs, and believes sudden job loss upsets us because it’s so unexpected.

“The impact of the reaction is usually heightened due to being unprepared and feeling a loss of control,” she says. “Common reactions are shock and disbelief accompanied by a normal grief type reaction including disbelief, anger, and feeling withdrawn.”

In the past, my impatience with the recruitment process has fuelled many anxiety-ridden nights, wondering why I hadn’t heard back from a recruiter, or why I’d had no response about an interview I was sure I nailed. The reality was this: I was so nervous about not finding work and burning through my redundancy money that every hour of not hearing anything felt like a month.

Catherine Vaara, CEO of Lifeline Mid Coast NSW believes redundancies can particularly hurt because of the uncertainty they create.

“They force people into an unstable future,” she says. “We need to be able to ensure we can pay for housing, food – and with redundancy comes the realisation we may not be able to provide even the basics.”

Find a routine that makes you happy

Most redundancies happen really quickly, which means not only are you dealing with not having a job – you’re dealing with a sudden change to your daily routine. That can suck, especially when all your other friends still have their 9 to 5 jobs and you’re sitting home alone cry-watching Ellen with Nutella smeared over your face. Try to get out of the house once a day, put on real clothes (not pyjamas), even just to go for a walk.

“Having a self-care routine is useful as it can provide a framework, be empowering, and help to cognitively reframe the situation and prevent you from ruminating endlessly,” says Herat.

Sure, it might seem simple, but when you’re trawling job sites at 1am, and you wakeup dead-eyed and despondent the next morning, you’ll understand why it’s important.

Give it the Ned Flanders approach

It’s easy for me to say this, but it’s also important for me to say this: Don’t wallow or get lost in negative self-talk. Assuming the worst is legitimately the worst serves no purpose.

“It’s easy to personalise or catastrophise a job loss and it may take some time to process the different feelings,” says Herat. Vaara adds that it’s normal for anxious feelings to emerge during uncertain times. “Some people even believe they are letting their family down and put the blame on themselves, which is yet another stressor.”

Be sad for a day or two and then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and approach each day as a fresh start. Reach out to your contacts – you never know who might have a job on the horizon, or who might recommend you for a role within their organisation.

Mo money, mo problems

“Expect the best, plan for the worst” – that’s my motto. While some people get lucky and find new roles straight away, others need their redundancy payouts to survive. This often depends on what time of year you experience your redundancy.

“Expect the best, plan for the worst” – that’s my motto.

“Everyone reacts differently when it happens, and reactions are often dependent on financial implications and perceived loss of identity,” explains Herat.

Try to pocket a bit of cash each month, so that if you’re ever in the business of looking for business, you can get by on the savings you already have, and make the most of your redundancy payout. The payout is tax-free by the way, so there’s your silver lining.

If you’re keen on paying off debt with your redundancy cash, make sure it’s a debt you can re-draw on if you’re really in a spot of bother. There’s no point paying off big sums if you don’t have the money a month later to pay your rent.

Make the most of your downtime

It might seem obvious, especially now that sleep-ins and beach days are on the agenda again, but if you’re anything like me, you probably won’t feel comfortable taking time off until you’ve secured a new role. While it’s important to dedicate time to updating your LinkedIn or tidying your CV, don’t let the search for a new job be all you do, all day every day.

During my first two redundancies, I was so panicked and shocked by what had happened that I went into survival mode. This meant all I did was frantically look for new job listings, write cover letters, amend my CV and obsess about my fear of never having a job again. Don’t do what I did. It’s exhausting and when you finally do get a new role, you’ll feel like you need a holiday before you even start. Looking for a job is a full-time job, so go easy on yourself.

But let’s not forget, it’s not all negative. “Crisis can also bring change for the good and open up more opportunities,” Vaara explains. “The trick is approaching redundancy with this in mind and remembering to acknowledge the things you are grateful for.”

Alana Wulff is a writer, editor, and author, who is obsessed with all things Christina Ricci. She’s interviewed everyone from Marilyn Manson to Meryl Streep and recently wrote the book Girlish – a guide to feminism for teen girls.