Lost your job? Don’t lose your head.

Career development
Phil Purver
By Phil Purver | 6th August 2020

Chief Executive of The Working Manager, Managing Director of iRIS Health Solutions Ltd.

So, you've been made redundant. Or fear your job is on the line. What's next?

Everyone is different, and there’s no right or wrong reaction, but whether you're feeling devastated, nervous or even relieved to have clarity after a period of uncertainty, know that losing your job shouldn't equate to a loss of pride. Remember, especially in the current circumstances; it's the role that has been made redundant, not you.

No matter how you're feeling, a significant part of your thinking is likely to be focused on what to do next. The received wisdom for job seekers is that you should dust off your CV and fine-tune it immediately, ready to blast your LinkedIn network ASAP. Reports in the media about work drying up, a slowing economy and a stampede of overqualified applicants for every job going can add an extra dimension of panic. It's no wonder many job seekers feel they have no choice but to jump on any vacancy going.

But what if there's another way forward? During a recent CareerBurst webinar entitled, 'Job Search Essentials: Navigating Career Transitions Now,' advice to the contrary from co-host Melanie Small – Solutions Director at TWM – felt like a voice of reason.

'Firstly, the most important thing is to recognise the emotional impact of any potential or actual job loss,' Mel advised. 'It's important to talk to close contacts, any coaches you work with or family members, to recognise those feelings, take care of that emotional response and understand that it’s a natural human reaction.'

Webinar panellist, Victoria Buckenham - Consultancy Director, Talent & Potential - also recommended taking a breath before acting. This suggestion has the added benefit of putting the brakes on any knee jerk reactions. Once emotions are in check, it will be easier to proceed with integrity.

If you're on a notice period, it's essential to remain focused on your role: your resilience, commitment, loyalty and ability to work under ambiguity will stand you in good stead should an alternative position become available within the organisation. Don't forget, research shows that the most significant development opportunities are usually internal.

With this in mind, forget licking your wounds or misguided notions of pride. Instead, start talking to people. Put the word out that you'd love to stay at the organisation and initiate some tactical conversations with colleagues in departments you admire. If you need help in building your reputation and honing your approach, check out the previous webinar on becoming a career activist here.

Should internal networking draw a blank, it's time to lean on any employee advisory programmes or career transition resources that are available in your organisation. This support should help you make the first practical steps towards reaching out to recruiters and your extended network.

If this service isn't available, Webinar co-host, Sarah Hobbs – Director at Talent & Potential – kindly offered to share some useful resources with job hunters. The CareerBurst ‘Strengths and Motivations,’ and Exploring me’ digital tools can help you establish what you're good at, what you love doing and what you want to achieve.

When the time comes to contact recruiters, treat them as you’d like to be treated. 'Cut-and-paste' spam communication won't cut it. Stand out with a personal email, including top-line details which emphasises your collaborative, proactive approach to the job search.

When it comes to your CV, Victoria’s advice to be authentic in the webinar struck a chord. She recommended you survive the initial robotic sift by echoing keywords from the job description in your CV, while finding ways to remain human. Remember, organisations may rely on AI at the first stage, but it's humans who do the hiring. Avoid jargon, be authentic and fine-tune your CV for every application, using practical examples to demonstrate how you fit the requirements of the role.

Use social media to widen your network. Webinar Panellist, John Corfield - Director at Lorien - had some useful tips on how to create pathways to second-tier contacts. 'As somebody who's had to “sweat the network” so to speak, there's nothing wrong with reaching out to someone you do know and trust to say "hey look, I'm keen to meet your head of HR. Would you mind introducing me or at least connecting me?" You can only ask politely and guess what, some people might feel uncomfortable, but you'll be surprised how many people will say, "Yeah, no problem."'

A preemptive message to a recruiter on LinkedIn before an interview is another excellent way to utilise social media to stand out. Referencing recent Tweets is another way to show you’re up-to-date and interested. But if you're going to make use of such platforms, make sure your profiles are up-to-date and consistent with your CV. And rather than broadcasting, use them to build relationships: follow people you admire, share their posts when relevant and comment intelligently to show you're listening.

If all this sounds daunting, it’s worth adopting Mel's optimism. ‘If you're facing a redundancy situation, it's always an opportunity to improve your career, even if it wasn't planned…’ she summarised. Because as the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, notes, 'It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.'

The recording of the CareerBurst webinar 'Job Search Essentials: Navigating Career Transitions Now’ is available here.

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