In this week’s advice column: how to deal with losing your job without losing your shit.
Dear Ms X
I think I might be about to be made redundant and I am basically shitting myself.
I am 29 and this would be the second lay off I have been through if it actually happens. I don’t know if I can cope with going through this again.
I keep making half baked plans to retrain in an area that has greater job safety but I actually like what I do. I am good at what I do – not the best and not the worst, but pretty good.
Should I go off and retrain if I am made redundant again?
I think the thing I am most worried about right now is telling my family and friends all over again. The idea of explaining it again just exhausts me.
I also think that I might be on the edge of being depressed or anxious? Can you be both things at once? I am getting my work done but outside of work I feel really flat.
Any suggestions would be really helpful!
I asked a colleague (around the same age as you) to chime in on this answer because she has gone through redundancy/restructuring twice and is very familiar with the pants-shitting reality of it.
I am going to let her lead off and I will come in at the end with some other ideas on how to deal with friends and family:
“Well firstly there’s literally no way to predict the outcome of a ‘restructure’. The decision could be made because you’re the lowest paid, the highest paid, the newest, the oldest or somewhere in the middle.
“I found that I really tied my self-worth to that decision, when actually I had nothing to do with it.
“We’re just numbers in columns for people to move around until they come up with the figure they want. Your achievements cease to mean anything to them, but that doesn’t mean your achievements are worthless. They will still be what gets you your next job!
“What will be will be is usually really dumb, woolly advice but in this instance I believe it’s true. Relinquish control, focus your mental energy on getting your CV into shape, go to fancy events where you network with other people in your field, and start checking out some of the agencies that represent freelancers if that is applicable.”
Okay. Now lets deal with the anxiety of being in your current situation and making sure that doesn’t sink you.
So some of this advice falls into the “if you are made redundant” category.
If this is your situation:
You don’t have to explain this to anyone until it happens. If you only have one or two friends that can be trusted not to make you feel anxious when talking about it then that’s enough. If you do have to explain anything because you are made redundant then be honest with those who you are close to and are trustworthy.
Tell family and close friends that this is stressful and that you are obviously not thrilled by the situation but one of the tangible things that they can do right now to help you is to shut the fuck up. Of course you might want to frame that more politely: “I need to stay positive and keep up some feeling of forward momentum so I don’t want to discuss how shit this is for hours on end.” If they don’t get that then just avoid them for as long as you need to.
Be wary of confiding in people who seem to delight in tales of woe and misfortune. They are not the people you need to be around in times of turmoil and change.
I don’t want to be Debbie Downer but retraining is not a step to take lightly. It usually means student debt and earning little or bugger all money for a while so don’t rush into that. Look at what my colleague advises above and get out there to agencies and schmooze your networks. Absolutely consider retraining but not from a position of panic.
And while I advise caution and research on retraining, I would encourage diversification or up-skilling. Is there a part of what you do that lends itself to other industries? Could you teach or tutor other people in some aspect of your current career? How could you broaden out what you do currently with more training?
This is something that you need to research with the help of thoughtful and connected people affiliated with your industry. Call people and ask for 15-20 minutes of their time because you are doing some research into the area in which they work. Offer to buy them coffee and make it an informal catch up. Prepare a micro pitch about how you are interested in diversifying from what you do currently. They might not have something right away but you will be effectively inserting yourself into their memory when something does come up.
You are going to be understandably nervous about what is happening. You have been through it before and that means you have clear memories of how awful it was the first time.
I reckon there is a good chance that you have some unresolved trauma left over from the last restructure. If this process has bought it back up then it would be a good time to seek some therapy.
I’ve written about how to find a therapist before but I would add that you also want someone who knows about what you are going through.
You can and should ask any therapist you are considering paying if they have experience being “restructured”, either personally or through helping clients in the same situation as you.
Meanwhile don’t start drinking or drugging heavily or existing on a diet of potato chips. Basically don’t do things that encourage depression when you are vulnerable. Do socialise, do network, do exercise, do eat your fruit and vegetables and do get some therapy if you feel you need it to keep the machine that is you in optimal working order.
Good luck Caller, and be kind to yourself.
Got a question for Ms. X? Send an email to email@example.com, ideally including key information such as your age and gender.
All messages will be kept in the strictest confidence and your name will not be published. If you wish to remain completely anonymous, consider using a free remailer service like Send Email.
Need help now?
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Youthline 0800 376 633
OUTline (LGBT helpline) 0800 688 5463
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.