Close-up image of female hands open or close laptop on white table, work-life balance, working from home

By Georgina Atwell

It wasn’t a huge surprise when I was made redundant in 2008 but even so, it knocked me for six.

I’d seen it coming, there was a reorg on the horizon and I was on maternity leave, which I knew made me more vulnerable. I’d been with the same employer since graduation, I’d prioritised work over everything (even delaying my honeymoon to complete a project) and so much of my happiness and identity was tied to my career. So when it happened, I was unsurprised but devastated.

10 years on, I look back and see it for what it is – a common workplace experience, which didn’t determine either my value or my future. Today I run my own successful company with a higher income and more flexibility than I would ever have had if I had stayed, all whilst doing a job that I love. Here’s how I bounced back:

  1. Find out what you’re entitled to. Thankfully my company had an enhanced redundancy scheme and I made sure I made the most of both the financial payout but also the additional services they provided. Work out how long you can survive on your savings, what bills need to be paid, and which costs you can cut.
  2. Allow yourself time to process what’s happened. Cry, shout, scream, wallow. You have every right to be angry and upset. Don’t judge your value by how they treat you during this process. It will be handled badly. They’re feeling really uncomfortable and unfortunately, they’ll prioritise that over how you’re feeling. Be proud of yourself and what you achieved.
  3. Give yourself time to wallow but then you need to pick yourself up. Don’t rush into the next thing but at some point, you need to start opening up the curtains, seeing friends, getting some exercise and looking after yourself. Trust me, the company won’t be giving you a second thought, so don’t waste your life thinking about them.
  4. Before you start looking for a new job, take some time out to enjoy this rare opportunity. I know that sounds crazy but if you’ve got even a small redundancy package, this may be one of the few times in your life you have a bit of money and a bit of time, when normally you would have one or the other. If you can afford to do so, set aside a small part of the package and treat yourself, you deserve it.
  5. Don’t just update your CV, tear it up and start again. It’s too easy to automatically start applying for identical jobs. Instead, use this time to review whether it’s still the right job for you. Where do you want to be in 1 year’s time? 5 years? 10 years? Think about which parts of your previous job you really enjoyed and which you didn’t. Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try? Would you like to retrain in something completely new? Think about your skills and interests and find a job to match that, rather than just looking for similar jobs to the one you had before.
  6. Talk to as many people as possible. Find out what they think you’re good at, find out what’s going on in their industry, meet new people and be open-minded. What I learned during this time is that most jobs come from connections rather than adverts. Be clear about what you’re looking for, so that others can keep an ear out for you but don’t discount anything, you never know where it will lead you.
  7. Get organised and make a plan. Looking for a job is a full-time job. Get up at a regular time, get dressed, have a timetable and be the best version of yourself, you’re going to smash it.
  8. Invest in the ‘you’ outside of your career. If you strip away your job, what are you left with? Do you like this person? What are your interests? This is essentially great practise for when you retire when you could have decades to fill, why not start a new hobby now?
  9. Share your success stories. This is still the one I struggle with personally but it’s something I think we all need to do more. I think as women we often assume that our hard work will be recognised and rewarded but it usually isn’t. You don’t need to make a song and dance about everything but occasionally sharing even a small achievement can really make you feel good. People like hearing about what you’re up to and in addition to lovely feedback, it can often bring about an unexpected connection.
  10. Finally, what can you learn from the experience? I knew I never wanted to treat people the way I was treated. When things don’t work out, I always try to be polite, thank people for their contribution and wish them well for the future. I also realised what was helpful from others and what wasn’t. There were two responses from friends and colleagues when I was made redundant. One was people telling me “You’ll be ok”, the other was asking me, “Are you ok?”. I realised I had a tendency to do the former and it’s not what people need. I learned that it was better to ask people who have experienced something traumatic how they were doing and listen, really listen to the answer. Use this experience to make yourself a better person, it’s just a wasted life remaining bitter about it.

Georgina AtwellAbout the author

Georgina Atwell is the founder of Toppsta, the UK’s leading children’s book review site, where kids, parents and teachers go to read book reviews and recommendations for the latest children’s books.

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