Redundancy may feel like a kick in the teeth, but it can be a blessing in disguise, says Nick Kochan

When a senior employee at North-amptonshire County Council was called into his manager's office one black Monday morning and told that his position was under review for redundancy, he had one thought in his head: "Why me? Why my department and none other?"

From then on, he felt nothing but anger and despondency for months on end. "The first thing you feel is very, very angry. You do all the things that you can possibly do. You complain, you moan to people, you go to lawyers, and trade unions. You feel very bitter."

The Council's offer of counselling courses to help him deal with the prospect of redundancy at first provoked yet more anger. "You say to yourself, 'I don't want these effing courses. I want to know why these bastards have done this at all.'"

He attended the course nevertheless. It compounded his feelings of confusion, but also dealt with the anger. He recalled that meeting other people in the same position was "humbling and embarrassing, although slightly hopeful at the same time. It is very confused emotionally."

Then came the anger management and release. "The counsellors allowed me to get my anger out, get my feelings out. They didn't try and avoid the issue. They gained the confidence and trust of people sitting round the room, who all had totally different stories."

Releasing anger is the first stage to recovering from the shock, says Rob Nathan, managing director of the London-based Career Counselling Services (CCS). "People go through a series of emotions in response to an unexpected change, which is all about loss. You go through shock then you go through denial."

CCS recently won a National Training Award for helping the BBC counsel 3,000 staff it was making redundant. The Corporation had decided to use its own human resources department to assist redundant staff rather than spend heavily on an external outplacement agency. First, though, it needed to acquire redundancy training skills, provided by CCS.

Nathan says that denial has two stages: euphoria and pining. "You feel a sense of relief. You say to yourself, 'I am fed up of working in that company. I can go off and spend the mortgage money.' That is not a grounded, positive reaction. The second stage involves searching and wanting the old situation back."

Companies do their staff no favours by being wishy-washy, says Nathan. "Companies can help by being clear but firm. Weak attitudes plunge people into a mixture of depression and denial. People need to know that their job is redundant and they won't be working for the firm any more."

Counsellors say the recovery process has four stages. The first involves personal reappraisal, the second an assessment of aspirations, the third entails developing a marketing strategy, and the fourth applying and getting work.

Those made redundant are encouraged to look forward, not back. Bev White, managing director for career transition at Penna, says, "You should regard this as an opportunity to take a breath and start to dream a bit. What do you really want to do?" Drawing up lists of achievements, interests and aspirations will assist assessment.

CVs should reflect these new aspirations and redundancy counsellors will advise on the presentation of the printed document. Gillian Freedman, a partner in CCS, encourages people to scout the market. "Talk to friends, and friends of friends, and former contacts. You will find leads in the most surprising places."

White says, "Don't splash your CV out there. It looks likes a panic mode. Plan your campaign, think about your skills, get your CV in good shape. Then decide who you want to send it to." White warns against using job applications as a way to recover from the shock. "Large numbers of rejections can only knock you back further", she says.

Redundancy involves heartache and anger, but it can also produce positive results. Contacts from an earlier career in academia helped the Northamptonshire County Council employee mentioned above to find work. He says that redundancy enabled him to return to the environment he enjoys most, and to which he is best suited.

Dos and don'ts of redundancy

Do

* Talk to your friends and family. They can offer you support when you may not be feeling particularly positive.

* Take any 'outplacement' (redundancy) advice, if it is offered. Find some advice, if it is not.

* Maintain a routine. If you are used to doing things in a certain order, a lack of routine can be very demotivating.

* If you want to set up your own business, make sure you are very clear about your risk management. Don't bet the family silver on it.

* Start taking walks. It can be a good way to clear the head and deal with depression.

Don't

* Get caught up in the rights and wrongs of decisions. It dissipates your energies.

* Necessarily take the first job. You may find that a couple of months later you find that that is really not what you wanted.

* March straight into a solicitor's thinking you have a cause for unfair dismissal. It's a great way to spend cash quickly.

* Leap to the conclusion that paying off the mortgage is the right thing to do.Get financial advice on how to use the cash.

* Take it personally. People are made redundant for a host of reasons that are likely more to do with other people's corporate egos.

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