Facing the prospect of redundancy in the first few years of your working life can be an incredibly unsettling experience, but the fact is, that this will be the reality for many of us. In my case, I set out on my working career bright eyed, bushy tailed, and full of hope for a long and successful tenure with my first employer. It was a job I'd fought for, a business I grew to love, and over the course of my years there it came to feel like a second family; my personal and professional lives had begun to entwine like those of any young professional.
And then, abruptly, it all came to an end. The business went into administration, the rumour mill went into overdrive, promises of salvation fell through, and we all slipped into the abyss of liquidation. Suddenly, my friends and colleagues were scattered to the four winds, and, at a time when my career should have been on a steep upward curve, I was unemployed.
If this situation sounds familiar, you may be feeling like this would be a good time to crumble into a quivering heap. Before you do, read on.... With the benefit of experience and the perspective gained a few years down the line, I share the silver linings I found in a stormy situation.
It's never as scary as you think.
Indeed, things seldom are. The anxiousness, the waiting and the speculation that precede a redundancy cause a feeling of helplessness that can actually decrease once the situation is confirmed and you're able to think more resolutely about your next steps. At this early stage, knowing your rights is essential - redundancy process and entitlements vary globally, but in the UK, advice can be found here.
Being early in your career can help make you more desirable to a new employer.
You're no longer completely new to the market, much of the difficult transition from education to working life is complete, you have started to develop a skill set - but your salary has not yet risen to the levels expected by employees with decades of experience behind them. This is to your advantage; ensure your CV tells your story, describing your successes and skills in an appealing way that illustrates how far you've already come on your career journey.
Moving builds your skills and CV.
What was most frightening for me when forced to move, was the prospect of starting again, learning a new business and making new friends. I quickly realised, however, that simply by virtue of moving, I had a different set of skills and ideas from my new colleagues, which I could use to progress myself and my new business. As scary as it may be, moving businesses is one of the best possible ways to develop professionally - embrace it!
Take the chance to reassess what's important in work.
You may have already fallen into a rut, or made decisions about how your career will pan out, based on a very narrow view of your options. One thing the experience of redundancy made me appreciate was the impermanence of things - not that this means you should not plan, but rather that it should encourage a healthy degree of flexibility within those plans. Use the opportunity to think about what you love at work, what experiences might benefit you; and consider routes you may have ruled yourself out of previously. Not only will this flexibility help you find new employment more quickly - you might find yourself pleasantly surprised at the doors this opens up.
Years after my own experience, I have learned to find the advantages in our collective misfortune. Having colleagues scattered by our employers' bankruptcy means I have a wide network; I learned new skills once pushed out of my comfort zone; and my career took a different, but thoroughly enjoyable new route. It may not feel like this right now, but hold on in there, and one day you will feel the same.