A couple of weeks back now, I was made redundant. To be honest, the actual day of redundancy went by almost without notice – I had been on a combination of annual and gardening leave (which previously I had thought was only for naughty people!) for nearly three months, so had been in the strange situation of being effectively redundant without actually being officially redundant.
The day I got my notice of redundancy letter, on the other hand (over four months ago now) felt a little different. I had known I was going to be made redundant for well over a year at this point, had been given every opportunity to apply for alternative posts – the letter itself was simply a formality. Even so, it still felt personal – the letter triggered feelings of loss and rejection that I simply had not anticipated. It was a little like being dumped by a lover that you had every intention of dumping yourself eventually anyway – it gets you off the hook guilt wise, but inevitably calls into question your own feelings of self worth.
I have written previously about the changes in public sector funding (or lack of it!) and don’t want to rehash that again here – but suffice to say that this most recent recession has challenged almost every viewpoint I ever held about the world of work. Like many people I believed that if you were smart and worked hard, if you added value, had credibility and were well respected – in short, if you earned your keep and more, then you would be rewarded for that commitment and (most importantly) that you would never, ever, be asked to leave outside of your own terms. Well the last few years in the public sector have certainly challenged that particular viewpoint for me – and not because it’s me that’s been made redundant either.
I have seen people far more talented, competent, motivated, committed and loyal than I will every be simply discarded along with their post. And this is the crucial point – it really is the case (and not just a platitude) – that it is your job that is being made redundant, not you. In any organisation, posts are viewed simply as pieces on a chess board. If you are a knight, and the organisation decides that all the knights have to go, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best knight they’ve ever had and ever will have – the writing is on the wall regardless. You might be better than all the pawns and the king and queen put together, but all of this is simply irrelevant – you are a knight, the knights are all going, and that is all there is to it. Of course, if they happen to have a vacancy for a bishop – and you think you might just be able to cut it as a bishop, with a little bit of help and support (and you are motivated enough to try!) – then you might just be OK . . .
If, like me, you do in the end find yourself in a redundancy situation – you will find that it does afford you with an invaluable opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate which direction you want to take your career in next. I can’t offer you advice here on finding a replacement job (well, I could – but there are literally thousands of other people already out there just waiting to give you that advice anyway!), but I can tell you that there has never been an easier time to be made redundant – in every way. Ten years ago, colleagues and employers would have wondered just how bad you had to be to wind up being made redundant. Nowadays, colleagues and employers are just grateful that they’re not in the same boat with you – and most will be more than happy to give you a hand back up again as well, if they can.
For me, redundancy has given me the most amazing sense of freedom. I could never have justified sacking my job on my own terms (to myself, let alone my family) – redundancy has been a get out of jail free card for me. The sobering side of that card though is that it’s up to me now – I have to make the most of this new found freedom, and do my level best not to waste it. Otherwise, if I wind up back in the clink again, I will only have myself to blame.