Redundancy special: How to change career
With unemployment rising to 2.4 million in Britain, the priority of most people who have been made redundant may well be to take any job they can.
However, redundancy can also give you the chance to start over career-wise and find the job you always really wanted in the first place.
Taking a radical change of career direction might not seem like the easiest, or most practical, of moves to make in a recession, but if you’ve at least got a redundancy package out of your former employer, this could give you the funds and the freedom to finally explore options and ambitions that you might have previously pushed to the sidelines.
According to a survey into Britain’s working habits commissioned by car manufacturer Saab, more than 80% of workers say they would use redundancy as an opportunity to take a step back, reassess their goals and change career direction. But where, and how, should you start?
Get a second opinion
If redundancy has shaken your confidence, then it is worth speaking to a recruitment specialist who can help reassess your goals.
Many companies offer laid-off employees “outplacement assistance” as part of a redundancy package, which includes a series of sessions with career consultants to help determine your next move.
Greg Lettington, director at career consultancy Hays, says: “Recruitment experts can help after redundancy thanks to a comprehensive understanding of the market and employers in the sector. They understand what skills are in demand, what options there are and which employers you might be suited to. You will have direct access to jobs, and will be aware of what employers are looking for.”
A good outplacement service will put you in contact with a career specialist who will help you rework your CV, assess your skills and help identify your “work profile” through psychometric assessments.
But if you are unsure of where redundancy might lead you, sometimes an informal chat can prove most valuable in helping you decide your next career move.
Robin Wood, managing director and founder of Career Management Consultants (CMC), an organisation that helps place redundant people in new jobs, says: “To identify what you want to do, sometimes you simply need someone else’s perspective. We sit down with our clients and try to understand their goals.
“We ask them what it was they liked about their job, what they didn’t like; which part of their career they were most and least proud of; what drives them, what bores them. It’s through answering these sort of questions that you can start to pinpoint the next step for you.
“You might think it makes sense to go into another job like the one you had, but it could be your profile might be better suited to something else entirely. But you may not know until someone else points it out to you.”
Be ready to take a risk
Most of us are guilty of giving up on our “dream” job for the sake of a conventional one that will pay the bills.
But redundancy – or the threat of it – can be the kick that some people need to put themselves, and their ambitions, first.
Damien Jennings decided to jump ship from his job as a business development manager while his employer was making redundancies this summer. “I thought it better to get out first,” he says. By next month, he will be in Australia, training to be a yachtsmaster on the east coast.
“I’ve been on lots of sailing holidays and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I never understood how to make a living from it. Being in a nine-to-five work mode meant I’d never got round to doing anything about it before. But with all the redundancies my company is making, now seems like the best time to do it.”
Jennings, 38, has rented out his house to cover the mortgage, and hopes to find paid work when he gets to Australia. “I’m less worried about not earning a high salary – it’s more about reassessing priorities. I want this to be a lifestyle change. After all, there is a life other than being at a desk and working under pressure to meet targets,” he says.
“It’s a little daunting, but exciting. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least I’ll know I’ve tried.”
Wood agrees. He says: “A well chosen career change can liberate your life. If you go into something that you have always really wanted to do, as opposed to a job you have been doing for the sake of it, then it logically follows you will enjoy that job more, and you will be better and more successful at it. If you are going to spend so much time at work, you have to enjoy it.”
He speaks from experience. Wood had his contract at a major publishing group terminated 19 years ago, but had always dreamed of running his own business before redundancy came knocking on his door.
“I had got more and more fed up at work, so when I lost my job, my wife said ‘If you don’t start this business now, I don’t want you to turn around at 65 saying how much you wished you had’. The company has been running since then,” he says.
Do your homework
A career change shouldn’t be based on a romantic whim, so think about doing some “grown-up” work experience to find out if it really is for you.
“If you’ve always harboured a dream job, find out whether that dream is based on reality – talk to people in that job, try and get some first-hand experience of it and understand the downsides as much as the upsides,” advises Wood. He cites the example of one client who was made redundant from a private sector job, but had always wanted to be a teacher.
“He went into schools, sat in on lessons, talked to teachers, really got to understand what it could be like day-to-day. Doing this helped him make an informed decision that teaching really was for him.”
Jason Greaves, operations director at recruitment agency Manpower UK, says unpaid work experience as an adult is completely different to most people’s memory of it as teenagers. “You may literally only be with a company for a few days or a week, but if you’ve already got professional experience, you will be able to get involved and that might well open the door you need. Getting that work experience is really down to the inidual …