Strategies for success after a redundancy

It's a fact of life these days that redundancies happen, both in good times and in bad. It is largely out of anyone's control and can come as a shock, but it doesn't mean it's a disaster. It's still important that you get the right job, not just any job, and if you are well-organised, open-minded and persistent, it should help you achieve your goal.

Here are Resources Group's 'Top Tips' based on the thousands of interviews and applications we have managed. We it hope will be of some practical benefit.

1 Don't panic!

Redundancy can be a shock, particularly for those for whom it's the first time. But you don't have to make 100 job applications the day after you get the news. Remember, you are not alone and it should not reflect badly on you as many companies have cut staffing numbers in recent years. So first things first, don't panic and take a day or two to take stock, think and plan your next steps.

2 What do I want?

Ask yourself what you want to do next. This could be a good opportunity to evaluate your career and your short- and long-term aims . It is probably the only time for the foreseeable future when you will be able to devote all your time to the task, rather than trying to juggle working life with making time for interviews and applications.

A good exercise is to write down all the aspects of a role you do want (and those you don't) and prioritise them as 'must have' or 'would be nice to have', be it location, company size, market sector, salary, responsibilities. That way you can focus your attention on the important things and perhaps consider those aspects where you could be flexible. Try to be realistic and honest with yourself - the ideal job may or may not be out there, but the more open you are, the more opportunities you can consider.

3 Planning and preparation

Time to get ready and crack-on. Have a clear and quiet working environment with everything to hand. Research your field and get a feel for what is out there. Look at the online job boards and social media and don't forget to check out the trade press and journals for leads and news.

Find out: Which companies are advertising? Who are the main recruitment consultants? Is what you are looking for out there? Who are the right contacts? Are there other data sources to investigate, such as industry handbooks or online directories?

4 Sort out your social media & LinkedIn profile

Update your LinkedIn profile and adjust contact settings. Always be positive - Don’t say ‘made redundant from x’ or give any reasons, but instead say something along the lines, ‘Looking for a new opportunity’. Any reason for leaving can be covered in the interview. Also make sure your personal social media is ‘neutral’ and without any uncompromising photos and updates.

Also see: Social Media tips)

5 It's a full-time job

It has often been said that looking for a job is a full-time job in itself, and this is true. Success in a competitive job market is more about discipline and effort rather than just being in the right place at the right time. So, treat the job search as your job and be at your desk or PC by 9am sharp - no excuses! Take a lunch break, and then back on it again until 5pm. Persistence will pay and will give you the competitive edge.

Set daily and weekly goals and objectives. Which companies/sectors are you going to investigate today? What jobs are you going to apply for? Are there other related fields or sectors you may have overlooked? How many applications are you going to make today? Who can you connect with on LinkedIn? (This will vary by specialisation and level, but on average you should make at least five new approaches/applications each day.)

Variety will keep you active and motivated so divide your time in the day and rotate tasks from writing applications to internet searches, making calls to follow up applications, and also background reading. The last point is particularly important to keep you up-to-date with your sector.

6 Applying

Try not to register with too many agencies at once. One or two is usually enough for starters, and over 80% of vacancies are put with several agencies, so doubling the number of recruitment consultants won't double the number of potential vacancies.

When applying directly, keep the initial letter short and sweet and remember to personalise and address it to someone – “Round Robins” or 'To whom it may concern' are impersonal and don't give the impression of initiative on your part. Don't say too much about your experience in the covering letter. It is usually sufficient just to say why you are looking, where you have worked, what you are looking for and (importantly) why you have approached the company. Most employers and recruitment agencies are receiving dozens of applications a day and the first thing people look at is the CV, then the letter.

7 Network

Time also perhaps to call in a few favours. Who do you know out there who can put in a good word for you? Use your contacts, but don't be abrupt. Calling someone ‘out-of-the-blue’ to ask 'Do you have any vacancies?' can make people a bit defensive or even feel a little awkward, and may just prompt an automatic 'no' response. Instead, be more subtle. Start with a quick note to say ‘Hello’, so any call does not take your contact by surprise, and ask if the person knows of anyone or any company who would be interested in your experience. If they are not looking themselves, you may still get another lead to follow-up. This approach also works well on LinkedIn.

8 Stay in control

This is so important. Keep a careful and accurate record of where you have applied, whether directly or through an agency. Most employers operate a 'first come first served' policy with applications, so if you have made a recent application to a company directly or through a recruitment agency, don't duplicate your efforts by applying again, either by yourself or by allowing another recruitment agency to send another CV. Employers dislike confused situations and at worse it can even make the applicant look desperate. Instead it is always best to follow up your applications within 7-10 days. If you have not heard from a company, a gentle follow-up email to the contact is perfectly reasonable - they may be interested but have just been busy. If the application is through an agency, contact your consultant to check on progress.

9 At interview

Keep it up-beat. Yes, a redundancy is not much fun and is very inconvenient, but don't dwell on it in the interview. Don't say 'last in first out' - it's clichéd and negative. Instead be positive. Sure it's a disappointment, and there's no harm admitting it, but perhaps a more positive presentation is to emphasise that it is at least giving you the opportunity to explore the industry and see everything that is available.

Remember to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and imagine how you come across. Keep your answers relevant to the question and the company/vacancy and don't forget to ask questions about the role, the clients/products/brands, company objectives, company culture, how the role fits into the team etc.

Some classic mistakes people make in interviews include:

  • talking too much;
  • appearing evasive or unclear regarding reasons for moving;
  • ill-prepared or insufficient background knowledge of the company;
  • appearing ‘flat’ or just unenthusiastic.

Pretty obvious stuff, but so easily avoided with a bit of preparation and positive mental attitude.

(Also see: Interview Tips)

10 Learn from your experience

Only a lucky few will be successful with their first application. But if your application has been unsuccessful after an interview, ask if there is any feedback, and listen. Criticism is never easy to hear, but it might give you an insight into your performance and how you come across, so be open to adapting and changing your approach if necessary.

11 Getting close

OK, the first interview went well and now it's the second and often final stage. There is just as much need to keep it positive, particularly if you are meeting other members of staff for the first time.

Salary might be discussed, and we recommend to say what you were earning and that 'similar or more would be acceptable'. If asked if you are flexible, don't just say 'No'; instead find out what the range is, then you can take a view later. If you are applying through a recruiter they should be able to help with negotiations.

Salary usually isn’t an issue, but if there is a need for flexibility, there could be a good reason such as further training or location. But above all, don't appear too demanding or inflexible - employers are not usually unreasonable and it's all about getting the right balance that makes both parties happy.

At the end of the interview show interest and leave things on a positive note. People want to hire people who want to be hired!

12 Success!

You've got the job! Well done you, now take a break. Job hunting is hard work, so even if it's just a few days, treat yourself to a well-deserved rest. That way you'll be able to make a fresh start in every sense.

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