Please note that this article was originally published in 2017, and that names have been changed throughout.
Being made redundant is something that can happen to any of us. And, understandably, it can prove incredibly challenging, too.
Amid the inevitable knock to confidence and monthly income that losing one’s job brings – not to mention the onset of “how am I going to make rent?” panic - it’s hard to look forward and spot the opportunity for growth. And yet, redundancy can be catalyst for something truly wonderful. Losing a job forces you to hold a magnifying glass up to your own life and ask yourself if you are truly living the way you want to. It pushes you out of your comfort zones, encourages you to chase your dreams, and take on new frontiers – something you’d never do if you were stuck in the routine of your old job.
Try telling that to someone who’s just been handed their P45, though.
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Here, four women who transformed their lives for the better via redundancy pen letters to themselves on that cold, lonely day they lost their jobs…
“Fate was willing you to do better”
When Becca* lost her job, she decided to pack her bags and move to New Zealand – and now she has an amazing life and career Down Under. Here she writes a letter to her 27-year-old self:
Today is a pretty shitty day. Redundancy was definitely NOT in the game plan. And after years of studying, interning, and getting crap pay – things finally started to take shape for you. You were writing for a living, despite everyone who said that wasn’t possible.
But then came those dreaded words - ‘business restructure,’ ‘cost-saving analysis,’ ‘staff streamlining.’
Gone are your dreams of soaring to editor, suddenly you’re just another unemployed journalist on the scrapheap. But take it from me – things will get better.
Up until this point, work has been your life. You’ve slaved away for peanuts, put in overtime for free, lived in cramped apartments with questionable housemates, and you did it all to get that ‘dream job.’
In the coming weeks you’ll feel like that’s all been for nothing. But please don’t wallow – it’s time to make a plan.
You know how you’ve always dreamt of living by the beach? Clocking off at 5 and spending your evenings swimming in the ocean with the hot sun beating on your skin? It’s time to make it a reality.
How does New Zealand sound?
In a year’s time I can promise you the following:
- You’ll live in a sunny apartment by the beach
- This will cost half what your Zone 3 hovel did
- You’ll get a better position with higher pay
- You’ll have more disposable income (hello, new wardrobe)
- And at the weekend - you’ll get to enjoy some of the most breath-taking scenery imaginable
You should actually count yourself lucky. Comfort breeds complacency. And we’re all guilty of getting comfortable.
Sure moving back in with your parents for a bit isn’t ideal, but it will galvanize you to do better, I promise.
Moving countries won’t be easy. It will be terrifying. Even without a language barrier, cultural differences prevail. And turning up 11,000 miles from home without a job or any connections will probably remain one of the more rash things you do.
But the sense of achievement you’ll have when you persuade that employer to take you on, a few weeks after arriving in the country, the excitement you’ll feel stomping the streets of a new city that’s totally yours, and the unbridled joy you’ll have at signing the lease on a little beach house for two – will make all the anxiety pale in comparison.
Although you might not believe it now, in a year’s time you will actually be grateful for that shitty Monday morning when you were told you no longer had a job.
It’ll feel like fate was willing you to do better.
“It’s OK to feel fearful, betrayed and confused”
Jessica* was 26 and working for one of the country’s biggest banking institutions when she was made redundant – but, rather than throw herself headfirst into job hunting, she decided to take a step back and focus on her emotional wellbeing instead.
Dear shell-shocked me,
Breathe. Cuddle your partner. Cry for a bit longer.
It is most definitely OK to feel the way you do right now; fearful, betrayed and confused. Do not be ashamed that you have been made redundant. It is not your fault and not a reflection of your capabilities. Your family and friends will not think less of you.
Take some time to let things settle before your busy mind starts whirring with plans. This is one of those life events that blindsides everyone and you need not (and cannot) bounce back in a day. You need to grieve the loss of the certainty that job provided, the friendships you had built, and the map you had made for your future with that company in mind.
This is not moping, it is an essential part of the recovery process. After all, this has been your life for the last three years and you have poured your heart and soul into your work.
Once you are done crying, you will be amazed at how resilient and adaptable you are. Have faith that you will carry yourself through this with dignity and grace. You will even recover sufficiently to bring champagne into the office on your last day (I know, ballsy move, but you’re that kind of lady).
Although it is a cliché, you will see that this really is an opportunity rather than an ending.
With your redundancy money you will have the chance to take a break for a while and decide what is really important. This is the shove you need to break you out of your rut and out of a job that, whilst stable, did not make you happy at all. Believe it or not, there are fulfilling jobs out there that don’t require a Blackberry to be surgically attached to your person at all times.
Keep your mind focused on the good and relish your time off. You have the rest of your life to work and progress your career. For now, go travelling, do yoga, read, borrow a dog and go for a walk. You know the wedding planning you have been meaning to do? Now you have the time!
Go slow when looking for a new job, no matter how scary the economy may look. You are lucky enough to have a safety net, so use it. Choose somewhere that has everything your old job lacked. Somewhere that will care about you and nurture you, somewhere that will allow you to have a life outside of work and somewhere you smile every day.
Most importantly – do not worry. I promise that it will all work out in the end.
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“This experience will hand you a gift that keeps on giving; grit and determination”
Fiona* had always believed that her work as a journalist was the most important thing in life – she did overtime, she constantly logged into emails from home, and she rarely took a lunchbreak. So, when she was made redundant at 25, it took a while for her to adjust…
So, you’ve been made redundant – and you probably think that your luck is finished forever. It sucks so much, as you devoted your entire life to this job. You worked seven days a week and late nights, missed Christmases and birthdays and sacrificed your social life in order to prove yourself. So, when they called you into that meeting room and told you that your job was no more… well, ‘devastated’ is definitely an understatement.
Your whole world feels like it has fallen apart and, suddenly, all those hours you spent investing in this career feel like a waste. This was your dream job. More importantly than that, this job is filled with friends and happy memories; with your real family over 500 miles away in Scotland, your team are your adopted family. Were your adopted family, anyway.
And the timing couldn’t be worse; just a few weeks ago, you suffered a traumatic health issue. By the end of the day, you’re going to be brutally dumped by your boyfriend (sorry for the spoilers).
In just a few weeks, you’ll be given an amazing opportunity to work as a social media producer for a hugely popular daytime magazine show – but it’ll take a long time to build yourself up again. For now, just remember that you will soon feel 100 times stronger than you do now. You can survive anything and are more resilient than you think you are.
Before the redundancy you were terrified of the future; now it’s time to embrace all the things that you don’t know. Because it can be wonderful not to know what’s going to be around the corner, or what hand life is going to deal you.
In time, you’ll find a faith in your own talents, and that will bolster you through whatever happens. More importantly, you’ll realise that there’s more to life than work. Before you were handed your P45, you thought the job was everything, and you sacrificed other areas of your life in order to succeed – and it was all at the expense of your happiness.
You don’t need to do that. Ever. And, in time, you will learn the value of a good work-life balance; you’re at your happiest, healthiest and most productive when your world isn’t filled with late nights in the office.
This experience will hand you a gift that keeps on giving; grit and determination.
It’s easy to be angry, but I recommend looking forward into a bright future rather than holding onto a negative work experience soaked in bitterness. In every experience there is an opportunity to learn something and even the worst setbacks can empower you.
“Wipe the tears away and be confident that all the best is yet to come”
Tania* was just 22 and starting out her professional journey when she was made redundant from her job as a presenter, so it hit her hard. But, when she sat down and reflected on what had happened to her, she realised that it was a blessing in disguise.
Chin up, past me.
Today you might feel not good enough, humiliated, devalued, underappreciated and a little lost - because this is the first time this has happened to you.
Being a born perfectionist, accepting that you have failed at something however difficult to acknowledge. So I want you to know it is OK to not succeed at everything. Don’t let this get to you, or feel that ‘it’s not working out’ is a personal attack on your character.
It’s ok to call your mum and cry your eyes out, wail in shame, fear, and disbelief over the fact that someone had the audacity to say you had failed to meet a very basic criteria, that your presenting was just ‘okay, nothing special’ to feel in that moment tiny, insignificant and scrutinised.
You are at an age that you are just starting your professional journey. If you look at the bigger picture and are totally honest with yourself, do you really want to spend the rest of your life working in Maidstone presenting construction news? Do you have a burning passion for building projects? Who needs to be subcontracted to construct a water main, erect a tower block of new homes or demolish a school?
Yes, these projects do affect people, but the job wouldn’t consider your creative ideas to investigate the human side of the work, which is more tangible to you. They lied in your interview when they said they would, but you weren’t to know that.
Your co-presenter will call you later and be furious on your behalf. They’ll offer you kind words praising your value and help you understand what happened. She will also become a lifelong friend, collaborator and shoulder to cry on whenever you’re having a wobble, and you’ll come to realise her friendship was the best thing to come out of your time in that wretched place.
You know that you are better than this job, which is why they had to ‘set up’ a reason to dismiss you constructively.
Don’t let this get you down, better things are round the corner.
Don’t give up on your dream of working for an international news publication as a journalist. Don’t give up on your dream of reporting on stories that matter, and that matter to you.
Wipe the tears away, rip up the travel card and be confident that all the best is yet to come.
If you’re faced with redundancy, your employer must treat you fairly and act in accordance with your contract and legal redundancy rights. According to Money Advice Service, that includes making sure you’re consulted, following the right selection process and giving you a proper notice period. If not, then you could have a claim for unfair dismissal, or claim compensation for lack of consultation.
According to redundancy law, you’re entitled to a minimum notice period of:
- 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more.
- At least one week’s notice if you have been employed between one month and two years.
- One week’s notice for each year if employed between two and 12 years.
If your employer doesn’t want you to work your notice period they can offer you a lump sum instead – called pay in lieu of notice.
Pay in lieu of notice is taxed in the same way as your ordinary pay.
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* Please note that some names have been changed.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.