Coping with the upheaval of redundancy

Hilton Williams can't be accused of sitting idle after losing his job at a global investment bank.

Have you been made redundant? How did you cope? Leave your comment below

Ten minutes after being escorted outside the Deutsche Bank in Singapore for the last time in January, he phoned a contact in recruiting to gauge the market for new openings. Although his confidence had taken a hit, he was determined to stay positive.

"It's not about you, it's about the bottom line," says Williams, who was the bank's global head of problem management.

“So you've got to get out there and be proactive, get out there and get another job and continue. You can't wallow and sit there and say 'What am I going to do?'

"I know everyone looks back and says 'what if' but 'what if' doesn't work. Move on; sometimes it works out better."

Upheaval

Being made redundant caused upheaval for Williams and his family. Realising there were few opportunities in a sector that had just shed 2000 positions and that Singapore wasn't the cheapest city to live in, they decided to return home to Melbourne.

But that meant Williams' wife, Rachael, had to request a transfer with her employer Microsoft after just one month there, while their son, Jack, 6, had to be pulled out of school. It was starting from scratch all over again.

An emotional time

Handling the emotions, says Damien Jordan, the director of Jordan Financial Solutions, is often the most confronting part of a redundancy.

“There's those feelings of 'I'm not valuable any more', 'How could this happen to me?' and 'What's my worth in the community?'” he says.

Jordan notes that no one is exempt from redundancies – 389,600 people lost their jobs in Australia between February 2011 and February this year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics – but often it's a case of the higher the position, the harder the fall.

“Everyone believes they're great at what they do and they're a valuable commodity to the organisation,” he says.

“So it's normally the senior managers who are higher up the hierarchy who find it hardest, they're the ones who normally struggle the most.”

Take practical action

Laura Menschik, a director at WLM Financial, says aside from the emotion, people have to also think practically.

It's vital people quickly check potential pay-outs, unused leave, savings, shares and other assets, readjust home budgets and explore what sort of benefits they might be eligible for, although she says income protection insurance is not an option in a redundancy.

Just because someone loses a job doesn't make the bills or home repayments go away - and as Menschik notes, redundancies have a knack of accompanying a big development, such as the pending arrival of a baby, home renovations or a wedding.

“Regardless of what's happening people should always have some sort of contingency funding, where would they get their hands on some money to meet their expenses?” she says.

“If people have provided for themselves reasonably along the way they may be able to find areas where they can reduce their spending or outgoings appropriately while they're looking around for a (new) job.”

Menschik says financial planners can help people tackle their redundancy effectively. The Financial Planning Association of Australia is a good starting point, while advice and personal income calculators are readily available online.

“Hopefully they're not spending more than they're earning and they've got something tucked aside,” she says.

Swing into gear before the funk

The experts urge people who have been made redundant – or who sense they could soon lose their job – to act fast.

Jordan says resumes must be updated and “upskilling” should be considered while job-hunters hit their contacts – both in person and on social media – to press for opportunities.

It's easier said than done, but it's best to do all this outside the post-redundancy funk.

“The best time to do it is while you're still in a positive frame of mind or while you're actively employed because that resume reads right through,” Jordan says.

It took Williams, 42, three months to land a new job, but he has found a better life-work balance in an IT position at RMIT University.

His wife gained a transfer with Microsoft and their children – the couple also has a daughter, Charli, 2 – are settled in Melbourne. Williams considers himself fortunate, as he saw how damaging redundancy could be.

"You've got to be resilient, that's the biggest thing," he says.

"A guy in Singapore I know started drinking heavily. He was a lot higher up than I was and he basically let himself go. Grew a beard, looked a bit like a bum. He had a young family too. He ended up getting a job and his confidence back, but it made me think 'I can't sit there and feel sorry for myself, I've got to move forward and find the next opportunity."

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop