In brief, the seven ways to make a glorious opportunity out of the threat of job redundancy are:
#1. Focus on gain not on the loss
#2. Love your work not your job
#3. Work out what your strengths are
#4. Map opportunities ‘out there’
#5. Do your sums
#6. Take it one step at the time
#7. Believe in yourself because you are more resourceful than you think
Imagine how one morning you get up, have breakfast, read the news and complete your ablutions. You sing in the shower because life is looking good: you know what you want, you have a plan how to get it and you enjoy the way getting there. You get in your car (hop on your bike or the bus) and arrive at the office. All kinds of opportunities are open to you and underneath all these is the unshakable belief that you’ll continue this sequence of events and you’ll be coming to the office, contributing to the organisation and it is your choice how long this goes on for. It is about feeling secure and in control, you know. Then you open your e-mail and you can’t believe your eyes – what you see is a message announcing a round of job redundancies.
This is almost exactly what happened to me, and to all academics employed by my university, last Wednesday.
So, my friends, I’m sitting here writing this post and my job is at risk of redundancy. And it is not only my university: the whole higher education sector in the UK is in profound crisis. Three other universities are undergoing job redundancies and many others are considering their options.
Do you want to know what I felt when I first read the job redundancy message?
I felt wronged, angry, fearful, full of righteous indignation and silly fight, I felt defeated. In this order! Than I reminded myself to breathe and started thinking about how to make the best of a very bad situation.
Somewhere on the way between fear and acceptance I realised that this job redundancy, assuming that I manage to get it under the conditions I’ve worked out, may be the best opportunity to do something sensible with the rest of my settled life.
Here are the seven ways I used to transform the threat of job redundancy into a most exciting opportunity for happiness and fulfilling existence.
#1. Focus on what you’ll gain through job redundancy not on what you’d lose
When I first heard the news about the job redundancy my mind jump-started an inventory of all that I’m going to lose. You know, these are all random thoughts about loss of status (oh, I’m not going to be Professor Nedeva any longer), identity (I’m not going to be an academic and a respected researcher any longer) and income (there won’t be a large(ish) amount of money hitting my bank account every month) shooting through your mind.
Reminding myself that ‘if I’m not enough without it, I’m not enough with it’ helped a bit; a tiny bit.
Then I decided to change my focus and think about the things I’ll gain if I engineer my job redundancy.
- I saw myself in complete control of what I do with my time.
- I imagined myself writing books that people what to read not research papers my university wants me to publish.
- I reminded myself of all the wacky and wonderful projects I’ve thought about and never tackled.
And, you know what, I felt my fear of job redundancy recede and a youthful excitement take its place. I can hardly wait to begin the rest of my life!
#2. Do you love your job or you love what you do?
We often mistakenly believe that we love our jobs when in fact we love what we do. These are two very different things. You may love selling flowers and dislike your job in a particular flower shop, right?
When it comes to being a university professor, the difference is even more pronounced.
I love what I do. There are few things that give me more pleasure than holding a class of undergrads transfixed and seeing the spark of curiosity and passion for learning in their eyes. Every cell in my middle aged body starts humming with pleasure and excitement when I do my research (all stages).
For several years I have been less certain that I like the conditions under which my university expects me to do what I love doing. I’d go as far as saying that I would have checked at least four of the five signs that you should leave your job.
Realising that I love what I do but have grown to dislike my job makes the experience of loss because of job redundancy much less strong. Also, I started thinking about different ways to continue to do what I love doing while forgoing my job.
#3. Do you know what you are really good at?
This is a hard one because people tend to either overstate or understate their competencies. (Some people can get this one completely off kilter but this is not usually the case.)
I tend to underplay my competencies. Hence, it was very helpful to do an ‘inventory of competencies’. I just wrote everything I can do (this should be done without much thinking and strain). When you do this, please don’t concern yourselves if you find that you’ve put on the list things like ‘I can wipe a baby’s bottom’ or ‘I’m very good in the sack’.
Because the next step of this exercise is to get back to your list and match each competence with a way to mobilise it for income generation. You can choose not to take some obvious possibilities forward.
This exercise made me feel good. Unexpectedly I saw that my competencies as a successful scholar are almost exact match for the competencies one needs to succeed in the network economy. A possibility to make income from writing also transpired. Not that hopeless after all!
(I did find this very hard and would appreciate some help from you guys at some point. I’d like to ask you about how you see what I’m good at (have to find a form to do that.)
#4. Brainstorm some opportunities that you can see ‘out there’
This one is deceptively simple. To do it properly, however, you’ll need to achieve a good grasp of the developments in the economy, your industry and have an overview of future trends. Apart from that, you’ll need to move continuously – and for some time – between the opportunities to make income and contribute value that are ‘out there’ and the competencies you have.
You may need change your skills set. You may need to gain different social capital (start hanging with new people, make contacts with people in other industries etc.).
Sounds complicated but it isn’t. All this takes is intelligence, determination and persistence.
#5. Do your sums
Loss of income is probably the aspect of job redundancy that scares people most.
There are few things that deal away with fear more effectively than firm grasp of the fact. Here is where maths and numbers come into the picture.
To cope with the fear of loss of income you have to move away from the emotion and make it into a problem. Sit down and go through your monthly spending. I did this using The Money Principle Monthly Budget Planner. Check your income streams, savings and investments. How much is in your emergency fund? Work out how much you’ll get as severance payment? Check what will be the effects of job redundancy on your pension?
I’ve done most of these and I’ll be talking to a pension consultant over the next week. And you know what?
Numbers don’t lie and I feel so much better for the level of certainty they bring to my otherwise shaky existence. I know exactly how much income I have to make (as a minimum). It is not too bad, really.
#6. Take it one step at a time
The threat of job redundancy can leave you completely paralysed if you get ahead of yourself. Your best chance for getting it right, and approaching it with something at least approximating a dignified rationality, is to work out a sequence of actions and focus points and follow this strictly.
For me, the first question is do I want to apply for voluntary redundancy? (This hide several questions such as do I want to stay in academe, do I believe that I’ll make it outside etc.). What is important is that this decision is still under my control.
Next, if I were to decide not to apply for voluntary severance, would be to wait for compulsory redundancy. This is stressful but…
Main thing is not to allow yourself to worry what may or may not happen when you leave your job. Remember that most people when faced with adversity behave like Israel: they hustle according to their need. In other words, it seems to me that expanding energy worrying about what you’d do ‘after’ is a wasteful strategy: you’ll be all right at the end.
#7. Remind yourself that ‘it will be all right at the end’
Life has an uncanny way of sorting itself out. Please remind yourself that:
“It will be all right at the end and if it is not all right, it is simply not the end.”
Bonus…The Eminem Approach to Job Redundancy
To apply the Eminem approach to job redundancy you have to believe that
Success is your only motherf*cking option; failure’s not!
This is all.