Turn redundancy to your advantage

Does anyone feel safe in their job anymore? After five glorious years of rising wages and house prices, the financial crisis has fully kicked in and thousands of people are now facing an uncertain future.

The number of people unemployed exceeded the two million mark for the first time since 1997 in January. And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, with unemployment expected to rise to about three million by the end of 2010.

An opportunity

Although being made redundant can be a devastating blow to a person’s confidence and financial wellbeing, with a bit of careful planning and some determination it can lead to a happier, wealthier life.

Andrew Taylor, the author of Burning the Suit: Fighting Back Against the Aftershock of Redundancy, insists it’s vital that people who find themselves in this position don’t lose faith in themselves.

“The anger, fear and anxiety are all perfectly normal, but there are other worlds out there,” he says. “After all, anyone who thinks of his bosses as friends is making the same mistake as a lion tamer who imagines he gets on pretty well with lions.”

According to Janet Davies, author of Rebuilding Your Life After Redundancy – The New Life Handbook and editor of the website Newlifenetwork.co.uk, there’s little that can be done to prepare someone for the shock of losing their job.

“The distress of being made redundant doesn’t get easier, even if the writing has been on the wall for a while,” she says. “The key thing is to stay calm, focus, and not make any rash decisions you might regret because you’re so worried about your future.”

She has identified six distinct stages of grief associated with being made redundant – shock, denial, anger/resistance, acceptance, exploration and challenge. While the first three are all to do with coming to terms with what has happened, exploration is the willingness to look at other options.

“This is often the point at which you might consider re-training, finding a new job or setting up your own business,” Davies explains.

If you enjoy your current job and ideally want a similar role in another company, then it’s important to act fast to stay ahead of potential rivals, according to Jenny Ungless, life coach at jobs website Monster.co.uk.

“If redundancy is on the cards, it’s worth being proactive and looking for alternative forms of employment before any official decision is made,” she says. “As well as the usual avenues, such as recruitment agencies, you should also be prepared to be flexible and consider a different role.”

Go it alone

Of course, you could always redeploy your skills in running your own business. That was the route that Matthew Clark chose to follow when he was told that he would be made redundant from his job as an agricultural worker.

“I had known things weren’t good for the business, but it still came as a shock to be told the news,” he recalls. “A major concern was that we lived in a cottage on the farm where I worked, so we faced losing our home as well as my job.”

However, Matthew, who lives with his wife, Briony, and their daughter, Robyn, in Selmeston, East Sussex, then heard that the owner of South East Groundcare Machinery, which supplied and maintained professional lawn-mowers, was selling up. This provided him with the opportunity to take over the business.

“I had to make phone calls to solicitors and get things organised while I was on the tractor,” says Matthew. “But I also took a week’s holiday and spent the time getting a feel for how the business worked and what the routine involved.”

The couple also made sure they had enough savings behind them to fund the business – and pay their bills – for at least six months. As well as working alongside Matthew during the day, Briony also took an evening job at a garage to help ease their money worries.

“I found it nerve-wracking at first – I lost weight and gained a lot of grey hair,” says Matthew. “But in the end it has worked out great.”

But what if you want a fresh challenge and don’t know what to do? Graham Green, author of The Career Change Handbook, recommends taking inspiration from what you enjoy doing. “People need to find out what they’re good at – and then get someone to pay them for it,” he advises.


One possibility is to turn your hobby into a business. After all, what could be better than making your living from doing something you love?

That had always been the dream of banger-racing champion Steve Anscombe from Eastbourne, East Sussex. The married 34-year-old, who has two young children, started on this path after he broke his arm, lost his job and was diagnosed with cancer – in the space of a few months. And on top of all this, Steve’s son, Jack, was then born prematurely and had medical complications.

But life took a turn for the better after Steve returned to the world of racing just 18 months later. He was asked whether he could build cars for other drivers on oval racing circuits around the world, operated by Spedeworth International.

“People kept asking me to build cars for them to race, so I decided it had the potential to become a good business,” Steve says. “We started by renting out cars, and then began to receive calls from television producers.”

Soon he had a flourishing enterprise on his hands – Cecilsrentarookie.co.uk – and now he prepares National and Rookie class bangers, as well as vehicles for hit TV shows such as Top Gear, corporate events and even stag parties.

But before you race off to start a business or new career, it could be worth consulting a financial adviser. “You’ll need to sit down with them and work out what you already have in place and what you’re likely to need,” says Andrew Taylor.

Building up a savings buffer is the most important task. Having some emergency money set aside will ease the pressure should you end up losing your job, because it buys you valuable breathing space in which to find another one.



Geoff Penrice, a financial adviser at Bates Investment Services, advises having the equivalent of three months’ salary in reserve. “With increasing unemployment and redundancies likely, we all need to protect ourselves should the axe fall,” he says.

You could also consider making cutbacks, suggests Tracey Smith, the organiser of National Downshifting Week (Downshiftingweek.com). “The more money you spend, the more time you have to be out there earning it and the less time you get to be with the ones you love,” she points out.

So, although being made redundant is a grim experience, it can be turned into an opportunity – as Steve proves. “To be able to prepare and race bangers for a living is brilliant for me as it’s something I’d always wanted to do,” he says.

“It’s been very hard work and I’ve had to rely on people to help me out, but the business is really taking off, and that’s fantastic.” l