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Redundant? Time to get yourself moving

Being laid off isn't the end of the world. Be positive, focus on your skills and get your career back on track, writes Wilf Altman
You're 49, used to a good salary, an executive car and plenty of suits and suddenly you are redundant, the pain eased only by a useful, but dwindling, cheque.

In today's business climate very few jobs can be considered safe. Restructuring or streamlining are warning signals pointing to the risk of redundancy. When it hits, for whatever reason, how do you begin looking for another job?

For many people it's a familiar scenario. But whether it's a current reality or remote possibility, it makes sense to develop a career-recovery plan.

t Draw up a target list of employers you could contact to enquire about permanent or temporary employment.

t Define your network of contacts who can be helpful - firms of headhunters, recruitment consultants, previous employers, former colleagues, well-placed friends etc.

t Revise your CV so that your added value skills and powerful contributions shine through on each page.

t Practice your interview techniques and upgrade your personal appearance.

t Focus your energies positively.

If you lose your job, the short-term aim must be income-continuation as soon as possible. Go for a temporary or part-time assignment, if necessary, so that you can preserve any capital sum received on termination, especially as it can take three to six months or longer to find another job.

Don't yield to distraction or despondency if most of your applications for a new job result in rejection or even total lack of response. The three key success criteria are effort, initiative and persistence. So your search for the right new job will not be helped by indulging in a kind of mid-life crisis as well! Always aim to exploit your most commercial skills and your most valuable experience by asking yourself which employers would benefit from your work contribution. Make sure you contact these employers either directly or via a trusted intermediary.

What potential employers want to know, says Graham Campbell, a director of TMP, MSL International, "is not only that you are qualified, but that you have been involved in key projects and can show tangible business experience - and results".

The initiative is in the hands of the individual, Mr Campbell asserts: "It's known as self-marketing and it goes beyond belting out a lot of letters and contacting headhunters and recruitment consultants. In 1999 you can't be a shrinking violet."

Write to companies you would like to work for. The key to the job search is to offer added value and communicate clearly. It's one thing to say you've had experience, but employers want to know what aspects you've been involved in, what you can do to improve their operation and how much you want for it. It reflects a bare-knuckle relationship today between employers and employees.

Networking, another vital element in the search for a new job, is often not properly understood. The outplacement specialist DBM advises that, with at least half of all executive jobs found through personal contacts, you ensure that you spend time developing your network.

Each week, set objectives - how many telephone calls and meetings - and diarise your time each day.

Develop more personal contacts; get involved in trade and professional associations, clubs, anywhere you can make new contacts; re-send your CV to recruitment firms. Their requirements change from day to day.

Networking can also lead to the decision to opt for self-employment. A national survey by DBM of 700 individual executives who were made redundant showed that 60 per cent were finding positions but 40 per cent considered self-employment as an option. More people are choosing self-employment after redundancy.

Many qualified and/or highly experienced people in IT, finance, production or marketing can obviously set themselves up as independent consultants or part-time temporary executives, even if only to get a foot in the door to ensure some income.

Some outplacement specialists offer programmes on starting your own business, which will help you decide whether it's a viable option.

If you go freelance, the key is to keep in regular contact with existing clients while also developing new business. And if jobs or assignments are most likely to come through agencies, cherish them.

And get advice - professionals will be able to help you make a business plan and a financial plan and set up an efficient book-keeping system.