In September 2022 I discovered my role at Flipdish was "at risk" as part of a redundancy. I felt a rollercoaster of emotions: guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, excitement, relief, self-pity - I was bouncing from one to the next every few minutes. That last one though, self-pity, scared me. I knew that if I allowed myself to wallow in it, it could be a downward spiral. So, I quickly shifted my perspective, looked at this as an opportunity, and got to work on a process for redundancy that I've nicknamed the "AWW" framework.
Stage 1 - Assess
Calmly, professionally, and carefully assess the situation. You'll have a hundred thoughts flying around your head, and being methodical with it will help calm those thoughts. Here's how you can assess what's happening so you can move forward.
- Read your contract. Make sure it's the most recent one if there were any amendments made to yours over the years (request it from HR if it isn't). You need to understand what your contract says regarding your obligations, and understand what your company's legal obligations are to you. You'll usually find you can't talk disparagingly about your company, for example. There may also be a clause which means previous employees cannot hire you if they have an open role (this would have been in their contract, of course). If that's the case, discuss this with the company to see if that clause could perhaps be waived for those ex-employees should there be a role in their company.
- If you're part of a collective redundancy in Ireland, be aware that you'll need to elect a representative for your group. I did not fully understand what this meant at the time, but you need to make sure this is someone organised, competent and as non-emotional as possible. They'll be dealing with a lot of angry, upset people.
- Calculate what you'll receive, after tax, in the severance. This will tell you what kind of timeframe you have as a buffer until you need a new job ASAP. In Ireland, citizensinformation.ie is a great resource. For me, it meant all of my severance was tax-free, which is nice.
- Understand what you can say to recruiters. Ask the company what is and is not ok to say. Clarify this via your representative.
Stage 2 - Work
As I mentioned, I myself could not let myself wallow in self-pity for fear of kicking off a downward spiral. I needed to work. For me, this meant that instead of my days consisting of leading product teams in building software, they instead started with working on my CV, networking, and rekindling old connections that might be able to help me in my time of need.
- Keep a routine. This one's a bit personal, but for me I needed to maintain a routine. That meant getting up in the morning as normal, making coffee, and getting to "work" looking for my next role, leaving Linkedin recommendations for colleagues, updating my CV based on continuous peer feedback, and creating content.
- Network. You should always be maintaining some sort of network, but if not, now is the time to get back out there. For me this means attending meetups, asking for referrals for roles, and reaching out to people you've never met for help/chats/feedback.
- Cancel/pause large purchases. We had just bought a house, so it was too late to back out of that one, but the kitchen table and sofa set we were looking at were immediately put on hold till we saw how this was all going to play out.
- Organise the transfer of your health insurance and pension if you have them with the company. You don't want to lose something important like health cover.
- Ask your colleagues (both at-risk and not) for things like Linkedin referrals or letters of recommendation. Don't let your anger get the better of you and steal this opportunity from you. At this moment, anyone remaining in the company will likely feel a strong urge to help you out. Let them.
- Apply for roles you don't even really want. This is a tactic I used to simply get back into the practice of interviewing. Interviewing is a skill, and you need to be good at it. I didn't want to be interviewing for a role I really wanted, only to be thwarted by my lack of practice. Having some "throwaway" roles you know you can get an interview for are great at getting back into the swing of the world of corporate interviews.
Stage 3 - Wander
Your freedom for this stage will depend on your assessment earlier of your situation. Depending on your country's employee rights and the amount of time you've been with the company, it might not be long at all. For me, it meant that I basically had 8 weeks of paid vacation, with a tax-free lump sum payment at the end of that to boot. I couldn't live off it for months on end of course, but it took the pressure off the job search and let me explore, or "wander" a little, which I took full advantage of, of course.
- Find courses to take. No I don't mean how to make a pivot table in Excel or something, I mean learning to cook a certain cuisine, how to fly a plane, how to make great cocktails, or how to save someone's life. There's tons to learn and explore.
- Find volunteering opportunities. There are a lot of worthy causes that could do with your time. Seek them out and you might also learn something too. I've been meaning to learn first aid for years, so I've applied to join St John's Ambulance as a volunteer where that is part of the onboarding curriculum. If you're in Ireland, I found volunteer.ie very easy to use and full of opportunities.
- Consider alternative roles in adjacent, or totally different industries. It's entirely possible that you'll look back on this time as an inflection point in your life. Has there been something niggling at you these past few years? A business idea you know you'd be passionate to pursue, but the time was never right? The universe might just be giving you that push you need...
Forest fires are destructive, indiscriminate and merciless, a bit like redundancies. However, forest fires are also necessary for a healthy ecosystem. They clear away space and allow new, diverse ecology to sprout from the ashes.
Perhaps this time in our life is just a forest fire, clearing the way for new, brighter beginnings. If you made it this far I hope this post helped you, and if you need to talk, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'm @cderm on Twitter and here's my Linkedin.
Your success in life is directly correlated to your ability to take rejection. - Scott Galloway.