Voluntary redundancy – the options
Voluntary redundancy can be viewed as a financially rewarding opportunity, but if you are considering it, take care. Voluntary redundancy may be offered when a company is looking to reduce its number of staff and instead of enforcing redundancies offer employees the chance to resign in exchange for a healthy redundancy settlement. This is a more expensive way for a business to cull its numbers, and long serving employees can often take advantage of this. However, if you apply for voluntary redundancy, it is by no means guaranteed, as it is given at the employer’s discretion, and if your offer is turned down it might seriously affect the way your employers view you.
If you are an older member of staff, you might be given the option of early retirement. Although this might initially seems an attractive option, in reality it’s a hard decision to make. Geraldine Maxwell argues that it’s often more difficult for older colleagues than their younger counterparts. ‘At first, they might be attracted to the retirement option, but when it becomes reality, they’re not so sure. Do they really want all that time? Can they afford to be retired when they still have children in school? How will missing their last working years affect later life? ‘If it’s not a considered option, a time which is supposedly reserved for relaxation can become a time of great stress, if it is too premature.’
In HR circles, transferable skills are much talked about – but what does it mean?
Essentially, a transferable skill is one which you’ve previously acquired in one type of job, but which could easily be applied in another environment altogether. So, for instance, if you’ve been working face-to-face with clients in the field, and have a flair for customer service, it may be that you could equally apply that skill in a call centre or a branch outlet.
How do I feel? What are my skills? It’s a tricky question and one that requires a degree of soul searching. However if you can persevere with it, the results can leave you feeling far more positive about yourself. The first thing to do when evaluating yourself is to abandon any modesty – it’s not helpful and it’s unlikely that any one else will ever see your list of talents. Having got over this, try to outline the skills you displayed on a day-to-day basis in your job, how you think you benefited the company, and if it helps, why you think they were wrong to let you go. These are your skills, and from here it is merely a case of showing how these skills could be used in future employment.
According to Peter Stansbie, identifying one’s transferable skills is a matter of thinking ‘out the box’ – including seeking outside help. ‘If you’re part of a mass redundancy or you’ve been made redundant from a large company, there’s usually help made available,’ he says. ‘But if that’s not the case, there are a lot of counsellors around who are trained to sit down with you and help you work out what your skill areas are, and how they can be applied in other directions. Moreover, you have to think freely,’ he says. ‘Even as far as thinking if you’d like to go and work abroad or in a different industry – you have to consider all options.’
If this self-analysis has helped, you should by now have lent direction to your quest, and now is the time to see if there is anyone you know who is in a position to help you move forward. There is often a feeling of guilt when tapping friends for career help or advice but this should be ignored, because everyone knows the fear of losing one’s job. Moreover, you are now supremely motivated and they might be in a position to help you! So no excuses, get that address book out and start dialling.
Seize the day
Above all, it’s essential to remain proactive. Maria Walker was working for a small PR consultancy, when she was made redundant. ‘I remember the day clearly. It was my first job from university, and I was more naive to work issues than I am now, so the news hit me hard.
‘I was called into the office, where the two directors informed me of their decision to cut back on resources due to a decreasing client base. Unfortunately, I would ‘have to go!’
‘My first reaction was to panic – I was struggling with my rent for a start; how would I cope in London without a job? I also felt useless, as if I’d failed at my first attempt to prove myself.
‘I met a friend for lunch, talked through the situation, let out my worries. Then I went home and sent my resume to as many agencies as possible. Two days later I was temping for a publications company; two weeks later I was in with a chance of working for an internet start-up company who were coincidentally looking for a marketing executive! A month later, I was fully employed – cash rich from my redundancy package and temping work – and chuffed at the outcome!’
Another important concern is how to deal with questions about your redundancy that might arise in these interviews. Becoming redundant is not an uncommon phenomenon in today’s fast moving business world, and therefore is unlikely to be an issue in the mind of the interviewer. Consequently, when the matter is raised, it is best to explain the matter as simply as possible, outline what the position at your previous employer was, and then move on to focus on what you can do for your potential new boss. According to Maria Walker, ‘My redundancy was never an issue with employers. Of course, the question was raised but it was never portrayed in a negative fashion -by me or the interviewer.’
Maria’s attitude and perseverance are demonstrative of the way in which dismissal from a current employer can open the door to new opportunities. She says: ‘I was amazed, astonished and proud of my accomplishments in such a small space of time. Two years later, I am still with the start-up company. I have been promoted to marketing manager and I have learnt a wealth of information about on-line marketing.
‘I no longer fear redundancy and I’m confident that if it ever happened again, I’d remain proactive and focused. I think it’s important not to take the decision personally, but to see it from an external perspective; a chance to excel and empower your career; the push that you needed!’
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