Some practical advice on planning and plotting a new direction following redundancy
We say that we have been made redundant. This is nonsense. Nobody is redundant, nor can we be made redundant by somebody else. Every one of us has a unique combination of talents, energies and experiences. Somewhere in the world these are needed and will be highly-valued. So-called Redundancy is often the perfect time to recognise where our very special abilities can be put to best use. We are not redundant – we are indispensable.
When we discover exactly where we are indispensable, we will be at our most productive, most energised and our most fulfilled. So yes, now is the time to cast away those old stones – our old job, our old routine, our old tedious lifestyle, and gather up something new and different. Life is short – and we have been given a rare opportunity to rethink our future. In hindsight, we may even be sardonically grateful to those who “did this” to us.
Looking forwards starts the moment we know we are leaving. I think this is an essential part of our emotional health. We need to process our anger, our hurt and our immediate change in circumstances. But we also need to start to look forwards and to take control. It will do us nothing but good.
This does not mean spending the next weekend signing up to countless job boards and whisking off endless applications. For one thing, this strategy rarely works. For another thing, it misses the whole opportunity to have a fundamental re-think.
Writing Your Manifesto
So step one. Take a clean piece of paper and draw three columns. In the first write an honest list of your talents and experiences. These will include things we demonstrate outside “work” – often these are where our less recognised talents lie. Write in the third column a list of your bottom-line constraints – financial, time-based, location, moral, ethical etc. These must be the non-negotiable with ourselves. I simply will not work for an arms company 6-days a week and certainly not for the Conservative Party.
In the middle column write the ideal characteristics of your employment-lifestyle – the type of role, the type of organisation, the type of business, your work-life balance etc. Talk it through with people – until you are happy enough with it to put it on your wall as your Manifesto.
Of course, you may be clear and content to look for a similar job to the one you have left. But do the exercise and see whether that is what it comes up with. It may surprise you.
I was particularly unclear about what I wanted to do next. It would have been easy to pitch back into a similar role in another large organisation. I enjoyed my job, it gave me a feeling of importance and a good salary and I got on well with people. But it also gave me a bad lifestyle, and regular feelings of frustration and disappointment with other people. Without being so naive as to think I could have all the good without the bad – maybe there was a better balance available? Maybe there was a place I could use my abilities more directly, without forever having to convince and persuade other people – people who were often more interested in maintaining the status quo or protecting their own territory, than the good of the organisation as a whole. I added this requirement to the middle column of my manifesto.
I concluded that redundancy in one sphere was a gift-wrapped opportunity to find fulfillment in a quite different sphere.
If this is the point where you expect to read that I had a spiritual and emotional enlightening and am now a full-time charity worker helping to alleviate poverty on the streets of Mumbai – I am afraid I am not. Much as part of me would like to be. Life is rarely that simple, and alongside the star-gazing we do have to recognise the constraints and practicalities in our third-column.
Having completed your manifesto, the next thing is to spend time on your CV. I review a lot of CVs for people. I have read thousands – and I know what busy managers’ look for or ignore. Four tips – your CV should focus on the one thing you want to do from your Manifesto. Are you pitching as a project manager or a plumber? Do not try to be “all things to all men” – otherwise your CV will go straight to the “confusing pile”. Secondly – two pages maximum. Your CV is there to get you to interview, not to tell your life story. Otherwise it will end up on the “can’t be bothered to read” pile. Thirdly – state your personal achievements and how they benefited your employer or customer at the time. Don’t list endless things you were responsible for, or involved in. Say what you actually delivered and the real value it added. Finally – get someone to proof read it, sense check it and spell check it. Does it make sense to someone who has never worked in your organisation?
Then spend even more time on your LinkedIn profile. Recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to scour for suitable candidates. Apply the same 4 tips as for your CV. And don’t be afraid to ask people to endorse you and the specific skills you are selling.