Redundancy changed my life for the better
Redundancy might feel like the end of the world, but it can provide a valuable opportunity. We meet three women who turned their redundancies into the opportunity to change their lives for the better.
You finally landed the perfect job, in a role you worked so hard for across your seemingly never-ending school years followed by all those extra years (not to mention the money) that you dedicated to further education.
Then, one day, when you're feeling happy and content because your career is heading in the right direction, you're called into a meeting room and hear words you never expected: your role is at risk of redundancy.
It's a bolt from the blue. You'd planned to work for the company for the foreseeable future—at least until a fantastic opportunity came up elsewhere; something that enabled you to climb a few more rungs of the career ladder and commanded a higher salary.
So, what do you do now? As unemployment looms you understandably start to panic. Will you have to take the first thing that comes along even though it is, potentially, a much lower salary and far removed from the career path you want to be on, just so you can pay the bills?
Redundancy is, of course, a stressful and uncertain time but one good thing that comes with it is the often tax-free payout you will receive. While this might not make up for the fact that you will be leaving a job despite the fact you haven’t handed in a resignation and will have to start job hunting again it does give you the opportunity to change your life for the better.
If you are currently facing redundancy then take inspiration from these women who have done just that…
'Redundancy enabled me to travel the world…'
Katie's redundancy meant she could finally pursue her dream of travelling
Katie Beck was working as a Corporate Fundraiser for Thames Hospice, an independent charity in Windsor, when she found out that she was to be made redundant.
“It was difficult at the time to quantify the role as it was new and there were no previous KPIs to compare against," she recalls. "However, the funds were coming in and I was meeting targets so was surprised to hear about the redundancy at the time. I was really happy there. I hadn’t ever thought how long I would work there for but I hadn’t questioned looking for another job.”
Katie says, “I know how hard it is to find a job you really like, so I was gutted about the redundancy. It made me feel unsettled and question all of the work I had been doing over the last two years.”
Although she wasn’t too worried due to living with parents, her initial thoughts were to quickly start applying for new jobs. “As I was passionate about the charity sector, I tried looking around for similar jobs but there wasn’t much in the area,” she admits.
"It made me feel unsettled and question all of the work I had been doing over the last two years”
“I had signed up to various websites with local volunteering and upcoming opportunities on it, and I saw something about volunteering abroad. I started to look up costs and realised it was expensive to do. But with my redundancy payout and some extra agency work, it made it a really feasible option for a few months.”
That's exactly what she did: “It began as a planned three month trip to South East Asia, doing the popular backpacking route with a four week volunteering project in Thailand to start with. It ended up being an 18 month trip covering 12 countries!”
Katie’s travels, which also took her to Australia and Africa, wouldn’t have been possible had she not been made redundant.
“Across 18 months, I stayed in luxurious 5 star accommodation, slept in mud huts living with a Masai family, island hopped around the Barrier Reef, saw the Big Five in Kruger National Park, swam with sharks in South Africa, broke my arm in Thailand, met people from all corners of the globe, made lifelong friends, caught e-coli and raked up an enormous credit card bill to come home to—but I wouldn’t have ever had these opportunities if I hadn’t been made redundant!”
If she hadn’t been made redundant, Katie believes she would have happily remained in the same job, eventually buying a house and settling down to have kids, but she explains: “With the experiences I now have, I feel like I am a better person, as cliché as it sounds. It has made me more ambitious, humble and confident. These aren’t skills you can learn from in front of a computer.”
Read more: How to beat the redundancy blues
'I used redundancy as an opportunity to turn my hobby into a career…'
Karen Wiltshire was made redundant in 2011 after 23 years in the same job and with a young family to support.
“Back in 2010, I was managing a busy team of people working in the printers and could see the world of magazine production was changing rapidly," she remembers.
"The onset of tablets and smartphones meant that everything was instantly available and with it a new revenue stream for newspapers and magazines. The print industry was being hit hard, margins were being squeezed and publication print runs were falling. With this being apparent and likely job losses on the cards, I decided to look at improving my skills as a photographer while still having a job to pay the mortgage.”
For Karen, photography had only ever been a hobby. “I can remember asking my family for a DSLR for my 40th birthday and I was lucky enough to get one," she says. "I had enjoyed photography as part of my course many years before at Art School but never had the chance to pick up a camera again.”
“I spent sleepless nights thinking ‘what it this happens or that happens?'"
When Karen’s suspicions became a reality and she was made redundant, she decided to make a go of turning her hobby into a career, but this did, of course, come with some concerns. “I had been employed continually for 25 years with only two short breaks while I had my babies," she says. "I worried about getting clients, running a business, getting money in—all the things any normal person would worry about. I spent sleepless nights thinking ‘what it this happens or that happens.’ But, at the end of the day, I had no choice."
"Redundancy, after being in the same company for so long, could have been terrifying but I saw it as a positive, I was being given the chance to do what I loved, I had a redundancy payout which helped soften the blow and provided a small safety net.”
She needn’t have been worried and her hard work paid off because she now owns her own photography business specialising in newborns and young children and has even been named The Guild of Photographers Photographer of the Year. She says, “If I had simply found another job doing what I did, I would have continued to be stuck in a rut.”
Read more: What to do if you're facing redundancy
'I used my redundancy money to set up my own newspaper…'
Tracey Sweetland was working as a deputy news editor at her local papers, the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian when she discovered redundancies were on the cards. Tracey explains, “I was quite happy there and enjoying the job, so I had no plans to leave.”
Fate had other ideas. “I was told that the role of deputy news editor was likely to be lost as part of the restructure, but that I would have the opportunity to apply for one of a reduced number of reporters jobs," she says. "I was fairly confident I would get one of those reporter roles, but I enjoyed the more varied role I was currently doing, so didn’t relish the idea of returning to a straightforward reporting role.”
“I was very concerned about what other options were available to me if I took voluntary redundancy. I am a single mum of two young children and couldn’t contemplate a long commute to work which would impact on my childcare arrangements, so I was restricted to a small geographical area and opportunities for people with my skill set are few and far between locally.”
"I am a single mum of two young children. Opportunities for people with my skill set are few and far between locally”
Unconvinced by the potential roles on offer, Tracey took voluntary redundancy. While looking into her options, a conversation with the paper's news editor, who was also taking voluntary redundancy, triggered the start of a plan to set up their own paper. “It almost started out as a joke but the more we thought about it and toyed with it, the more it seemed like a realistic suggestion,” she says. “We felt that we had access to the right team to make the project a success and we felt there was capacity in the town for another newspaper.”
And so they set the wheels in motion. “It was obviously absolutely terrifying, particularly as we had to press ahead and put things in place in secret while we were still working at the papers and waiting to be approved for voluntary redundancy. But it was a very exciting and busy time and things moved quickly.”
Their redundancies were approved and Tracey, along with three former colleagues, became partners in their own paper - Spalding and South Holland Voice. “I think without redundancy we would have been too afraid to turn our backs on a guaranteed monthly salary to quit our jobs and give it a go. The voluntary redundancy payments we received also enabled us to invest in getting the business started – we would probably not have been in a position to do that otherwise.”
Redundancy is a stressful, worrying and unsettling time for the people put through it. But, as these three stories show, being made redundant can actually pave the way for new and exciting experiences and change lives for the better.
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