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10 years ago, I experienced my third job loss in a near-40-year career, mainly in retail management. I wrote about the three experiences in a book called Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid: Job Loss, Seriously a Funny Old Game.
I related each experience and then compiled an A to Z for people who suddenly find themselves out of a job for whatever reason.
It is, characteristically, an A to Z that is both jokey and practical, reflecting my thoughts, feelings and actions.
So why am I posting this now? Well, in many companies but particularly retailing, January traditionally is a time for a management cull. Plans in some companies will already be drawn up but first, companies want to get the most out of 'marked' managers through the Christmas trading period. Come the early weeks of the New Year, the cull begins.
If you have a mind to read them, my accounts of what happened to me are in the book. But here is the A to Z in its entirety.
Go on, it’s okay to have a bloody good scream to get all those demons and frustrations out of your system. If you have pets, make sure they are in a relatively soundproofed room before you start.
Select your closest allies as confidantes and advisors, people you can trust to be there for you for advice or new ideas. Keeping it all to yourself and working as a recluse can be a dangerous option. Stay active within a network of contacts.
Boy (and girl), do you have a right to feel pissed of when redundancy happens? Of course you do. It’s a natural emotion and you should allow yourself a little indulgent anger without it festering into long-lasting bitterness. Don’t let it eat you up. Please refer to the Aaaaaargh section above.
Okay, whether or not you are lucky enough to get a redundancy lump sum or some kind of other financial pay-off, keep your eye on your finances by listing outgoings versus your assets. Take a little time to work out how long you can survive without regular salary income and maintain your concerted efforts to use your new “spare time” wisely and productively to find a new job. Cut back if you have to and be very clear about the dividing lines between basic needs and luxurious desires.
It is vital not to burrow yourself into seclusion like this mammal but it iscrucial that you develop an armour-like protective covering. At times like this, you need to have self-protection as much as self-belief.
The was the final battle between good and evil in the Book of Revelations but it is mentioned here to remind you that job loss and consequent job applications can be a series of battles. So be prepared to fight your corner, professionally of course, but fight nonetheless for your rightful place back on the career ladder.
This treat jazzman saw trees of green and red roses too, so don’t forget even in your darkest moments that the world still turns and there are many wonderful things in it. Not everyone and everything is against you, even though it might seem like that at times.
Go for walks frequently to give you some thinking time in the fresh air. Get out of the house. It can drive you stir crazy if you spend hours on a laptop or PC. Pound the asphalt, clear your head and get a bit fitter into the bargain.
The Titan giant had the world on his shoulders. After job loss, you might feel the same way. Atlas was condemned to carry the heavens but you must never feel condemned. This is just a setback, not a lifelong punishment.
You will come across a lot of this in the books, verbal advice, counselling and so on. Always take your time to think things through and sift the bull and the blarney from the real nuggets of wisdom. There are many snake oil merchants out there (not in this book, of course), so be careful what you believe and what you act upon.
If you are partial to an alcoholic drink, then enjoy it but sometimes job loss and the time it takes to find new employment can lead to periods of low (ahem) spirits and the temptations of excessive, regular consumption. The answers to your problems and challenges are not written on the bottom of a beer, wine or whiskey glass.
It is so easy to give up when looking for a new job, so easy to drift backwards into a state of despair when you feel the whole world is against you. Forget backwards, keep driving forward because that is where the future is.
You will hit this state several times in your search for the next phase of your career, anticlimaxes, low points and periods of dullness. If you expect it, you can prepare for it and combat it. Don’t let bathos become pathos. You’re better than that. You have to be.
However badly you feel about your lot, always adopt professional and polite behaviour when applying for jobs and reacting to rejections. It is not unusual to want to throw a rock at your laptop or strangle the postman or zap off a “sod you” email to in response to rejection correspondence. Maintain your integrity, always.
There will be times when you are on your own and feeling down and what better time to lift yourself up than playing air guitar to Chuck Berry’s classic “Johnny B Goode”. Believe me, it works a treat, and blows away the blues.
Bird’s Eye Fish Fingers
This is my comfort snack of choice but you may well have your own, Fish fingers and tomato ketchup in a sandwich brings joy and happiness. Treat yourself. Yum. .
Redundancy and other job loss can be a mixture of pain and pleasure. To some it can be one of the most painful experiences affecting family life, finances and personal dignity. To others, it can bring relief that an unhappy job or workplace experience, or a terrible boss have all now been cut adrift. It is not an easy time, but remaining positive is key to what happens in the next successful phase of your life.
In your campaign to find another job, be prepared for setbacks, delayed responses, no responses. You will encounter blind alleys and cul-de-sacs. Just turn around and get back on track.
You will be tempted to think that the whole world is against you, that there are cabals of conspirators, plotters and schemers out there denying you job interviews. This is unlikely to be true, although disappointment can skew out thoughts. When you are on the ropes, bounce back and keep focused on your plan.
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk
Like my fish finger sandwiches, the odd square of milk chocolate can work wonders for energy levels and spirits. Replace this with your own confection of choice, but do not deny yourself occasional treats as you plod on.
As played by Paul Newman, Butch Cassidy was a man of wisdom, thinking about his business (erm, bank robbing) and always finding ways through adversity. As he says to the Sundance Kid, “I’ve got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” Keep alert, positive and maintain the vision that you will get through your job loss crisis.
Everything you do following redundancy should be treated as a campaign to brand yourself through a concise, honest CV and to organise yourself administratively to apply for jobs and keep records of progress. This is designed to maintain your levels of efficiency but also to demonstrate that you are serious about resolving your situation.
In an effort not to be dragged down by disappointment, learn to celebrate any little success you achieve, even if it is simply making new contacts, expanding your network or receiving an encouraging response from a job application. You have a duty, with everything that is going on around you, to manage your own morale very closely
In the 1950s, westerns on television were all the rage and one of the best featured Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie, a bit of a loner but a man of principle always looking for ways to right wrongs and balance the scales of justice. It is essential to adopt a high moral code personally and hold onto your professional integrity, despite how you might feel about the corporate “villains” who got rid of you.
From the moment you are told that you no longer have a job, your head will spin and you will have periods of time in the ensuing weeks when you feel you are going round in circles. It is natural and all part of this enforced merry-go-round ride, this circus that you have been thrust into. Think of yourself as a trapeze artist rising above all of that nonsense, rather than one of the clowns being kicked in the arse on the ground.
Whether you are a great cook or not, consider the satisfaction from creating a dinner, a loaf of bread, a fish pie or a fabulous sandwich. It is wonderful therapy and a chance to get away from the computer screen for a while and tackle a recipe or two.
I remember an old school playground rhyme: “Dingle, dangle, stick or bust, don’t let your willy drag in the dust.” Tee hee! Kids, eh? The message is not to feel that you have been left dangling. This is a time to fight and move forward to find your next job and new career direction. Get on with it.
He was the biblical character who was thrown into the lions’ den but was protected from death by his faith. This strength of faith trait is something that unemployed people must develop and keep hold of because there will be times when you feel under attack. Self-belief is vitally important.
Be prepared for absolute silence from most of the people you contact. In two years, I calculated that I wrote nearly two thousand letters and emails to chief executives, HR directors, managers, agencies and former work colleagues throughout my career. I reckon I received responses from less than 3% of them. Have high levels of energy but prepare yourself for the real world with low expectations. It’s not a reason to give up, though.
Dejection is not a luxury you can afford. Okay, feel disappointed but get back in the fray and keep punching. One day you will connect and things will change.
Each to his or her own here, but one thing that worked for me was a high-volume burst of Tom Jones’s big hit “Delilah”. Sway along with this and do the Tom Jones actions and I guarantee it as an energiser. Just a tip, make sure no one else is around when you do it.
Plan at the end of each week to demist. Tick off what you’ve done, what you want to follow up and what you want to discard. Keep your metaphorical windscreen clear to enable you to see the road ahead.
If you can find a decent, legal, honest and truthful friend who allows you to offload but who can challenge your moods, ideas, opinions and directions, then it might just keep you on a sensible track. Being insular and self-contained is not always healthy. This cannot be a solo journey, unless you are very, very lucky.
Try to resist living in a bleak house and hold on to your great expectations.
It is so easy to become angry and bitter, but dignity and professionalism in all things protects you and will stand you in good stead in the end.
Refuse to give up in this time of crisis.
An economist is an expert who will find out tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday did not happen today. There us a fair chance that your job loss via redundancy is an economic decision at heart and you should always keep reminding yourself that is the job that has been made redundant and not the person. That may be small comfort, but it is an important distinction because you still have much to offer.
You are never too old to learn goes the old mantra and it is as true today as it ever was.
It is said that elephants never forget and that they have the ability, years after an incident, to spot someone who has treated them badly, and then charge at them in vengeance. Remembering events and people is fine but revenge is not a productive route, no matter how sweet it tastes.
Believe me, do not waste your time creating enemies, especially of the people who decided to get rid of you. For one thing it awards them a kind of status in your world. The comedian W.C. Fields had it about right: “I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally.”
It is okay to dream but keep your expectations realistic. It is feet on the ground time.
Get out and walk about. Take the opportunity to enjoy a spot of exercise. But avoid the lazy person’s route: “Ready? Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down……and now the next finger.”
Exorcise all your bad feelings and try, try and try again to look at things positively, even though that might seem impossible in times of rejection and dejection. Long bouts of bad moods evolve into inertia and submission. Never, ever, ever give up.
We all know it is very important to accumulate and use experiences, even, some would say especially, bad experiences. The trouble is, it has been said, that sometimes you never have experience until after you need it. But, however you see it, experience counts.
Always believe in your own talents and abilities. If you sit down and do an honest appraisal of yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, the opportunities you are best suited for and the threats that might scupper your career planning campaign, you will realise that it is not you that has been declared redundant, it is the job. Think about the positives in that analysis.
One of the truisms in life is that we all have the potential to adopt more faces than Big Ben’s clock. Trusting people is important but being careful who to trust is crucial, especially in business.
I tend to think that redundancy is not your failure, rather the failure of
the decision-makers in the business to keep the balance sheet, erm, balanced. I’ve said it a few times but keep remembering, the job is the redundant thing, not the person.
An old boss of mine equated a career with farting against thunder, pissing in the wind, the budgie on the ladder and the rat on the treadmill – in other words none of us can be in complete control of our destinies especially in corporate life.
Attention to detail in job applications, CV construction and professional etiquette are essential ingredients in a job searching campaign. Treat yourself as a brand, market yourself well but never, ever lie about your background, academic qualifications or anything else that might come back to bite you. On a CV, you don’t have to declare everything but what you do declare should be factually correct.
You will suffer from weariness at times in your job hunting. Plan your days with a bit of “you” time to go for a walk, browse the shops, read an unrelated book or have a nap. It pays to stay fresh and alert. If you get a phone call out of the blue, you need to be ready for it.
I refer you to my CV honesty point. It should be fact not fiction. Honesty is the best policy in the beginning, the middle and the end. Amen.
I once spent two years applying for jobs and exploring opportunities and I realised very quickly that my filing had to be organised and efficient to keep track and to follow up contacts and leads.
Now this might say more about me than my work colleagues, but in twenty years, I cannot go beyond a couple of fingers and actually identify any true, long-lasting friends I have made in my career. I have contacts, acquaintances and loose connections, but genuine friends are as rare as rocking horse manure. In both my redundancies, I did not get many interested or sympathetic or even “I told you so” phone calls. Friendship in business life can be quite shallow because, I suppose, people might be more concerned with watching their own backs. Sad, I think, but something to be aware of.
Sometimes you will feel the urge to react to a rejection letter or email, you will want to vent your spleen, spit venom all over the sender but, before you write or type anything, take a slow, deep breath and consider the consequences. Learn to gag yourself before it is too late. Remember to protect your professionalism and integrity at all times. The person who receives your vitriolic blast will just think you’re a disgruntled nutcase and reject you again.
Gender apart, think of yourself as Galahad, knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, considered noble, pure and chivalrous, who single-handedly succeeded in the quest for the Holy Grail. This is your quest and you must believe you will find what you’re looking for.
It has been said that gambling is a great way of getting nothing for something. In most cases, that risk involves money but in the job hunting world, taking gambles, risks and punts to flag yourself up is essential, as long as it is done in the right way.
Ooooh, how tempting……but, friend, all crime is wrong!
Gazing is allowed as you look out of the window, into the sky, trying to see beyond the clouds as you look for an answer or idea. It’s quite calming, although beware, others might see it as slacking.
In 1863, President Lincoln gave this classic speech to inspire a nation. “….that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…..” It’s a great speech and worth pondering as you strive for your rebirth and relaunch.
The Mona Lisa smile, as it is more commonly known, should encourage us to be very aware of our facial and body language. We communicate in a number of ways and, again professionalism and image are extremely important as we try to market ourselves as an employable brand. The jury is out on the Mona Lisa as to whether or not she was being coy or just passing wind.
I found Google to be invaluable as I browsed job sites and all sorts of other research information. It might well become your best friend, your PA and your main channel to the outside world. It might be sad but it’s practical and always there when you need it. There are other search engines but however you do it, keep looking. The answer is out there somewhere.
One of my favourite examples of graffiti is: “Lethargy rulezzzzz”, but don’t let lethargy become your master as you search for your new direction.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
Don’t lose your ability to laugh and have fun.
I enjoy dabbling with this 17-syllable Japanese verse form because it’s challenging but not too taxing, a little amusing diversion to take my mind off any troubles. Try it for yourself. Here are two samples of mine, as I gazed out of the window: movement in the sky/restless to discover form/clouds shape and reshape; a scratch, another/scritch, scritch, scratch, a noise duel/mouse digs, writer writes. Try it.
Not the Chianti and fava beans Lector, but the Carthaginian general who marched across the Alps into Italy with an army, including several elephants. The message – nothing is impossible no matter how impossible it seems to be.
There are many wonderful Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy comedy moments but for sheer guts and determination, hauling a piano up hundreds of steps rates as an example of getting on with a task. The fact that the piano ends up right back at the bottom of the steps in a heap is neither here nor there. They tried, darn it, they tried.
He escaped many times from his chains and so can you.
Don’t get too far above yourself in terms of pompousness or pretentiousness in your dealings either with your former paymasters or with prospective employers. Be yourself, continues to be a sound piece of advice. People can detect a fraud and a bore very quickly.
It might be worth sticking a post-it note or an A4 page on the wall or the fridge door to highlight your five biggest strengths, just as an aid to remind you that you still have much to offer. In addition, if you get a call from an interested employer, a handy set of notes can help reduce your ums and ahs.
In most cases, this can be your sanctuary and foundation for your support structure. Use it, enjoy it but don’t get too comfortable, as the object of job hunting is to get you out of the house, even if you work from home for a proportion of your time.
I always read my horoscope to get a perspective on what might happen. It’s like free advice that I do not have to take. I always stop short of believing it but I find it interesting to ponder. It can be fun to read yesterday’s horoscope today to see how accurate or inaccurate it was. Heavy stuff for some, light relief for me.
Okay, its nostalgia for the taste buds but, even though nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, it illustrates that the world is not all bad. On a bacon sandwich, HP Sauce lifts the spirits.
I cannot remember where I got this little gem but in each of us there are three people; the person we think we are, the person other people think we are and the person we really are. It’s an interesting idea when trying to explain who we are to the job market.
This is the title of one of the great poems by Rudyard Kipling and it gives much food for thought on the successful fulfilment of life’s challenges. Check it out.
This is the name given to the villains in Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” book but I place it here because it refers to people claiming to be unusually enlightened with regard to some subject or other. It might well refer to business people who through their smooth articulation skills mask the fact that they are not always as expert as they think they are, like people managers who don’t understand people, for example.
The mild man who turns green and rather large when he is angry is a lesson to us all to control our emotions, for professional, practical as well as health reasons.
Stay accurate and don’t lie in your job applications.
As part of my cleansing of wrath towards my old boss, I put together a routine of insults that I could run through my mind rather than hire an assassin to take him out – only kidding. He and I had a personality clash. I’ve got one, he hasn’t. He claims he’s got an open mind, but in fact he’s just vacant. He has a soft heart and a head to match. I only knew him superficially, but I think that was enough. In the company pantomime, we played the horse, me the head and him using his experience as an arse. Managers like him don’t grow on trees, they swing from them and scratch their……..enough, enough, enough!
Set yourself the task of compiling a list of all your friends and former colleagues throughout your career and send them a note reintroducing yourself, asking how they are, explaining that you are in a career changing phase and arranging to meet them or talk on the phone. They might be able to help you, or give you another contact name. But the point is you start building a network and raising your profile.
Most business leaders spend their time in the seclusion of their ivory tower boardrooms and offices, sometimes venturing out amongst the troops to shake hands with the real world. Now, in your post-redundancy phase, do not let your home become your own ivory tower. Get out of the house and stay connected to what is happening out there. The Internet is not the same as being amongst people.
I love nonsense verse because a little nonsense can make us smile. “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll is one of the most famous and best. Check it out. Here’s one of my own, I hope you like it.
This is my comfort world,
my land of chirp and swoosh,
of rustle, hiss, moo and hoot,
of screech, quack and caw.
This is the terrain
of gush, snap, crackle, fizz and splash,
of click-clack, tick-tock, swish and ping,
of splish, squish, squash, ding and clang.
These are the sounds of my shape,
my clank and tinkle, my chomp and sizzle,
my snuffle, whack, thwack and gurgle,
the pitter-patter atchoo of my boom-bang self.
Flaubert said: “Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in.” I think I know what he means.
As I have mentioned before, do not lose the ability to laugh and enjoy as much of life as you can. My favourite joke: A man walks into a Pret a Manger and says, ‘get me an alligator sandwich and make it snappy!’ What’s yours? Share it around, spread a little happiness.
As part of your network building, join business clubs locally and anything else you think will help. Most clubs and associations are free, or charge a nominal fee, and they sometimes meet in pubs. Consider how much you can afford and think about joining national business management organisations. Search the Internet and see what is out there to suit your pocket and ambitions.
When you’re employed and busy, there is precious little time to faff about making fresh fruit juice. In your, hopefully, brief sojourn, you might want to invest in a juicer and get creative in the kitchen. Tastes great. Great therapy, too.
Consulting a solicitor after a redundancy decision will help you understand the legal aspects of your situation, give you a summary of options and help you decide on challenges and appeals. Do not be afraid to consult. Mostly, initial discussions are free.
Keep At It
Simple enough message but very important, do not give up.
Sadly, there is a generation or two that has no idea about the Keystone Cops, a wonderful troupe of slapstickers from the heady black and white days of silent movies. They would run around, fall about and offer up some of the craziest stunts in movie history. I equate some of their antics with the “headless chicken” approach by some companies to clumsy procedural processes, especially involving peoples’ livelihoods. Apart from that slightly deep thought, check them out and have a giggle.
Dipped in a cup of tea to allow the chocolate to melt slowly, then savoured slowly on the tongue, Kit Kats are the best biscuits ever invented and an exemplary companion whenever you have a tea break. Do not underestimate the boosting power of a bit of chocolate.
As mentioned before, resist the impulse to fly off the handle whenever you receive a rejection or hit a brick wall in your campaign to find a job. Kneejerk reactions are for politicians and the Mafia, but you are better and more controlled than them.
In your organised plan to find employment, you will be building your network and contact lists and actually or metaphorically knocking on doors to get in to see somebody in a position of power who might be able to help you. Keep knocking. When you stop, nobody knows you’re there.
Telly Savalas’s lollipop-sucking New York cop had the catchphrase, “Who loves ya, baby?” Ask yourself the question sometimes and remind yourself of your inner circle of family and friends, those who care about you. It is an important feeling in those moments of isolation and emptiness. I’ll keep saying it; it was the job that was made redundant, not you.
Your newly constructed CV (no more than 2 pages) should brim with true and accurate information about you, your background, your experiences and achievements. Kudos is your currency to display your acclaim and prestige. Take the opportunity to do so. As the L’Oreal advertisement says: “You’re worth it.”
This legendary Japanese film director was responsible for “The Seven Samurai”, which inspired the western classic “The Magnificent Seven”. It is the tale of a band of seven heroes defending a poor village, battling against near-impossible odds. It’s a fable, of course, but another reminder that giving up is giving in and what kind of a result is that from someone as valuable as you.
I reckon that on job applications and CV, concise and pithy rules. Find your laconic self because prospective employers like brevity. A recruitment agent told me that when sending CVs, think about the recruiter on a packed underground train, laptop bag over his/her shoulder, one hand on the safety strap and your CV in his/her other. They cannot be bothered with reams of paper. They want the gist of you, not the five or ten page comprehensive biography, as they struggle to avoid getting too close to the other passengers’ armpits.
Land of Milk and Honey
This kind of phrase, like “the other man’s grass is greener’ and the concept of Shangri La can give us the illusion that there is a perfect place for us to live and work. Perfection, as far as I can tell, does not really exist. Life and work are full of flaws, and that’s what keeps both interesting. Stay real.
I remember an old jokey jibe about someone I used to work with: “He is so lazy, he could sit in the corner of the office all day long and collect dust.” Enforced and other types of unemployment can give us the illusion that we are free to do whatever we want, including wasting time. This is dangerous thinking. Your time increases in value when you are unemployed. Use it wisely.
Libraries are a vital, virtually free, source of information, great research centres and a place to go to get you out of the house. You can think of your local library as your “office. The problem I find is that libraries nowadays are becoming more like social centres and crèches, noisier and much less peaceful havens than they used to be. But while they still exist, use them or, eventually, we might lose them.
Lick Your Wounds
If you are unemployed and trying as hard as you can to find a job but it is taking a long time (I was once unemployed full time for two years), then you need to develop a self-first aid approach to licking your wounds, healing and moving on. Allowing your confidence and self-respect to bleed away is not a constructive option.
Like Water Off A Duck’s Back
Take criticism and other feedback on the chin, except when it becomes nasty and personal. In that event, it’s okay to bite back. But most professional opinion of your work and performance should be absorbed calmly and taken as a lesson. You might not like it or be comfortable with it, but use it to become better and stronger, to tweak your CV or to adjust your interview techniques.
“A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom” says it all really.
Sometimes a little accidental good fortune comes your way and whilst you can never rely on luck, it is always good to know that it is a possibility.
Always answer your mail promptly, professionally and politely. It is a small but significant habit to maintain your high working standards and is another opportunity for you to flag your name to potentially beneficial contacts.
Unemployment brings less or, in some cases, no income for a period of time. Being aware of your outgoings versus your assets is crucial to help you stay realistic about your financial circumstances. Make do with what you can afford. Sloppy money management can lead to rising debts, so do not add more problems to your challenges.
After one of my experiences, I felt malicious towards the people who had taken away my job, but, quickly, I got those horrible thoughts out of my system because I knew that it was a waste of my time and energy. I wanted to concentrate on the present and future. They didn’t care about me, so why should I give them headroom. Malice ain’t worth a damn.
He was the wonderful composer of the western theme “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”, the perfect descriptive musical accompaniment to life and work because good, bad and ugly are the three primary headings for all the people you will ever meet in your life.
In the spirit of truth and accuracy, as ever of course, in job interviews and prospective interviews, do not be afraid to drop in the names of leaders and executive you have worked with. From my Asda days particularly, I can say with honesty that I can truthfully connect myself to at least a dozen influential names in business and beyond because I have either spent time in discussion with them, attended meetings with them, shaken their hands and, sometimes, shared a round of drinks with them. I may not know them very well and, strictly speaking they are not friends, but like it or not, they are part of my life and valid ammunition in furthering career connections. Shyness needs to be overcome. Dropping names, without becoming a bore about it, is allowed.
For interviews and casual meetings, your personal appearance is very important, as first impressions are crucial. So taking time to ensure you are neat, trim, smart, dapper and, indeed, natty will show employers that you have high standards. My mother always used to emphasise the importance of well-polished shoes and a comb at the ready.
Redundancy and other job loss conditions throw you onto troubled waters and you need to learn very quickly how to plan, record and control your course of direction on this voyage of rediscovery and survival.
This country music legend has been my spiritual salvation for many years. It could be argued that he can’t sing a note, but his strange vocal style works beautifully for some unfathomable reason. He is my example of something that looks and sounds odd but deep down inside there’s a genius at work. We can all take heart from this.
Never Had It So Good
Harold MacMillan’s 1957 speech reminded Britain about the prosperity and standards of living after the Second World War. Anytime I hear this phrase, I often wonder if it has ever been a true reflection of a time in history, anywhere, ever. It seems to me, especially in my unemployed years, that life and circumstances waver from day to day and no one can take anything for granted, like a job or a trustworthy employer. Cynical, perhaps, but practical thinking, I reckon.
Mr Spock’s big lesson to us all, no matter what planet we are from, is to practice logic - wise direction from a man with a green face and pointy ears. Live long and prosper.
Enforced spare time can be used to the best advantage or wasted like water down a drain. I found creativity and satisfaction in writing for newspapers, magazines and radio. I am always thinking about ideas for books, short stories, features and poems. Published or not, it keeps my brain oiled. Try it and, as all the advice indicates, fiction or non-fiction, write about what you know.
Just when you’ve learned to make the most of your life, most of life can be gone. What a downbeat thought, but one that should spur us on to make the most of our time.
As we all know, the onion is a rounded, edible bulb of the allium family. It is composed of tight, concentric layers of succulent leaf. The onion has been used as a symbol of personality. We have many layers, like the onion, and the ability to enhance the flavour of life or to make people cry. Just a thought.
I am a very proud BA Honours graduate of the Open University and I use it here to emphasise the need to keep learning and to keep hold of the appetite for learning. It brings to mind the wonderful piece of wisdom from my OU tutor who, when pinned into a corner by a rather forceful student asking him to convince her that philosophy, psychology and all the other social sciences were relevant, he stood up, took a long, slow, deep breath and said: “What the fuck? The world still goes round.”
I believe in widening personal scope to consider everything that comes along. Sticking to a narrow career path might limit your options. (See Shatner, William)
Optimism and Pessimism
A pessimist is an optimist on his way back from the bookies. An optimist is someone who sees the opportunity in every crisis and a pessimist is someone who sees the crisis in every opportunity. An optimist is someone who sees a flat tyre but concludes that it is only flat at the bottom. A pessimist is someone who sees a cloud in every silver lining. Which are you? Which one should you be?
This is the term used to describe the starting point of the corruption of mankind, following Adam and Eve’s disobedience by eating the forbidden fruit. It has been described as the first sin. So, in your rationalising of how much responsibility you need to take for your unemployment dilemma, take none and blame it all on that damn apple all those years ago. It’s not your fault.
He invented “newspeak”, a language in which words change their meanings according to the chosen political views of the state. We call it “spin” these days and when someone sits you down and tells you that your job no longer exists, listen to their words and whether or not the verbiage is being twisted to suit their purposes. Calling people “human resources” should have rung alarm bells a long, long time ago.
Over The Moon
Hopefully your location when that new job offer comes through.
These are the only living things that should give two hoots – sorry, lame joke.
US baseball hero Joe DiMaggio called Satchel Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I have ever faced.” In 1971, Paige was inducted into the baseball hall of fame. If you get the chance, look up his story. He’s in this A to Z for one of my favourite quotes: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” He also said: “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
When you are made redundant or lose your job for any reason, seek legal advice to ensure you are paid every penny you are entitled to. The law is on your side mostly but sometimes your inertia can cost you valuable cash.
In my experience, people managers think and talk like politicians, choosing their words and body language with care, not to benefit the people they are speaking to but to make themselves sound efficient and superior. I have worked with some pretty good individuals in HR, but I have had more than my fair share of people-who-don’t-like-people people managers. Bad people managers are very dangerous in so many ways. May the good ones prevail.
This fabulous Arabian bird is the symbol of resurrection, springing back to life from the ashes of despair. Find a picture of one and stick it on your wall for inspiration.
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Sometimes in moments of frustration, I envisage a Pied Piper flute-player, leading all the lousy people managers into an abyss. It’s not right, like cream doughnuts, but it feels good.
Draft a campaign plan to find your new career direction, check your progress every week, adjust your plan if necessary but make sure you have one to begin with.
Playing Fast and Loose
As indicated before, playing fast and loose with your academic and career history is not recommended. Resist the temptation to lie. Integrity counts.
As indicated previously, this is my way of winding down. I love to read it and I try to write it. It helps to clear the mind, and it doesn’t have to be any good. If you can write down your thoughts and feelings every now and again, it helps to get stuff out of your system. I love the songwriter Harry Chapin’s line: “Sometimes words can serve me well and sometimes words can go to hell.” I think that sums up my relationship with poetry…….and wordy business management.
In your “feeling sorry for yourself” phases, try to forget your suspicious mind and concentrate on the wonder of you, you hound dog.
Patrick McGoohan’s weird television show’s great line: “I am not a number, I am a free man.”
He is the genius inventor of gadget in the James Bond movies, an ideas man and that is his inspiration to us all when we are in a tight spot.
Using a pencil, draw lines on a blank sheet to make four equal squares, a quadrant. In one square write “Strengths”, in another “Weaknesses”, in another “Opportunities” and in the fourth square “Threats”. This is the basis for a SWOT analysis of yourself. It helps clarify who you are, what you are good at, what your are not so good at and potential obstacles in your way. Once you have this honest soul-searching information, you can develop actions to maintain your strengths and work on the rest.
Quality CV, quality preparation for interviews, quality dress sense, quality manners…….you get the point.
The early weeks of my job losses felt like swimming in a quagmire or like roller skating through treacle. Everything seemed to be desperately slow, especially responses back from emails and letters. Now, a more experienced unemployee, I know for certain that quagmires and treacle are normal speed.
Being unemployed gives you time to reflect on your achievements and it is worth considering how to enhance your qualifications with certificates, diplomas and degrees to fit in with your career ambitions. Many people discount the need for qualifications but, believe me, proof of experience is no longer enough. Employers are looking for tangible pieces of scroll and parchment. It might help to check out further education courses, including my beloved Open University. It is good for the heart, soul and mind, and might even swing that job offer for you.
And you think you’ve got problems!
Here’s a four-line poem, also known as a quatrain: I might be unemployed/I might be out the door/but I’m not finished yet/I’ll be back stronger than before.
Get used to it. With your job applications, you are in a queue. Somehow you have got to temper your impatience. Actions and communication can be prompted, of course, but generally things take their course. Whatever happens, do not become a pest to prospective employers.
Just this once, follow Peter Mandelson’s advice and be a fighter not a quitter.
Listen, if a rat can save a television channel, as Roland Rat did at TV-AM for Greg Dyke, then there is much hope for you and me. Take heart.
In your enforced “spare time”, catch up with your reading. It takes your mind off any potential doom and gloom after redundancy. Read to learn, read to be entertained, it’s up to you.
Recruitment and Career Events
There are frequent opportunities to attend events to enable you to meet other business people and to add to your network. I found it invaluable to invest in some business cards, designed simply with contact details, to hand out. Remember as a brand, you need all the publicity you can get. By the way, all the events I have attended are free of charge, but check in advance.
Whatever it is in the great scheme of company balance sheets and people management, it is definitely not the end of the world. Treat redundancy as a stepping stone on your life’s journey and challenge yourself to turn this negative into a bright, new positive.
Never forget that you have a responsibility to do the best you can for yourself and your nearest and dearest. In the end, you answer to yourself.
Rock and Roll
Here’s a choice. Pay thousands of pounds to lie on a psychiatrist’s couch or put on a £10 high-volume CD of 1950s Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, etc and you will be amazed at how it clears the head and cleanses your heart and soul, Daddio.
You know when you want to shout out a list of abusive words to clear your pipes a bit, look no further than the Daddy of all word books. Keep one near to hand at all times.
This is my favourite quotation of all time, attributed to the former US politician: “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don’t know we don’t know.” Are we all clear about that?
Ruts, like Brussels sprouts and tarantulas, are to be avoided at all times.
The best business slogan I have ever seen was in a hunting store in Sacramento, California. It read “Badger John’s, because sometimes you just gotta kill something.” I know the feeling.
I love this true story from a business colleague. It is a lesson in how important it is to say “I don’t know” when you don’t know. We were in San Francisco and he told me he overheard a hotel concierge in conversation with a lady guest. She asked him what time Macy’s department store opened and he said: “Ma’am, I’m guessin’ eight
o’clock but I’m thinkin’ nine.” Go figure, as they say Stateside.
Seven Deadly Sins
Pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth are the seven deadly sins of mankind. Sloppy people management is one of the many sins of business, committed by too many managers for comfort.
As with the seven deadly sins, sharp practice is another dangerous facet of business. You may have experienced it but if you haven’t look out for the signs: smart, underhand, dishonourable dealing and low down despicable trickery intended to disadvantage a victim. Business has its shadows. The trouble is that a lot of devious managers are cute enough to choose their words with care and cover their tracks.
In his wonderful autobiography “Up Till Now”, Captain Kirk gives a summary of his career and the dangers within: “I’m concerned about being overexposed, so I’ve been very careful to limit myself to acting on the stage and in dramatic television programmes, hosting documentary-type programmes and game shows, appearing in movies and commercials, endorsing products, doing voice-overs, charity appearances, radio programmes, Webcasts. videos, Star Trek conventions, horse shows and dog shows, writing books and songs, making albums, creating, directing and producing television programmes, performing at concerts, appearing on talk shows, competitive reality-type and award programmes. But that’s where I draw the line.” Like Shatner, you have no limits.
I find solace in music sometimes and I wanted to draw your attention to one of the most beautiful records I have ever heard. It is the haunting “Strange Boat” by Eleanor Shanley, an Irish folksinger. Put on the headphones, kick back and let this take your mind off your troubles for a few minutes. It really is worth seeking out.
Shoot Yourself In The Foot
This practice is to be avoided at all times in your dealings with anyone, and I mean anyone you communicate with in your job search. Prepare and take care to protect yourself and your bankable image.
It’s only appropriate that he makes a guest starring appearance in my A to Z. “You just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at.”
Talk to people as often as you can. One of the most important possessions you have in a job hunting campaign is your contacts list. Planning who to call and when, what you want to talk to them about, whether you just need to touch base on the phone or arrange to meet them in person and so on is you actively using your network. If you sit by the phone and wait for calls, you will become an expert thumb-twiddler and nap-taker. Be proactive and talk yourself up.
Television is one of the greatest inventions ever but it is rapidly turning into one big selling machine where the advertisements are interrupted by enormous amounts of crappy programmes, especially during the mornings and afternoons. Unless there is a major news story going on, I avoid watching TV in daylight hours. Try not to be sucked into its clutches because wasted time can never, ever be reclaimed.
Thanks All The Same
Depending on how much money you have or need, you might want to be choosy and decline some job offers if they do not fit in with your plans. In accepting or declining offers, politeness and professionalism will enhance your reputation.
In job interviews and presentations, you must be yourself but you are allowed to put on an act if you think it is appropriate to the situation.
Think Out Of Your Box
I hate this expression but it seems to fit here. There is no limit to the career routes you can take but your journey starts with the answer to the question: “What do you want from the rest of your life?” So think long and think wide.
If money is tight, then a thrifty approach to it is essential. I always enjoyed this quotation, attributed to the movie star Errol Flynn: “My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.”
In “Bad Day At Black Rock”, Spencer Tracy played a one-armed war veteran and he was still able to see of the thugs determined to get in his way. His character’s integrity was sound as a pound (dollar?). We can all succeed if we have a mind to.
Once of the positives about redundancy, and there are one or two strangely, is that you get to taste a little respite off the workplace treadmill. It is possible to enjoy this career breather if you have a
mind to use it constructively for job searching, indulging in your hobby or whatever, but you will rediscover that there is life outside your old job and former company.
Now, trust is a thing you have to come to terms with. After losing your job, you will trust less people than you trusted before it happened. But, just like your network of contacts, you must work to build new trusts and, perhaps, renew, selectively, some old ones.
This should be our natural reaction to incompetent people managers who disguise their disdain for the human condition by using false smiles, fake sympathy and insincere oily words to create the illusion that they care. Harsh to a degree, but true nonetheless.
The expression “eat humble pie” refers to umble which are the entrails, heart and liver – an offal meal, ha, ha – of a hunted animal, like a deer. When the lord of the manor was eating the choice cuts of meat upstairs, the servants would eat the umble downstairs. In more modern parlance, and with relevance to the people point of this book, sometimes we all need to feel a little humble, especially if a job of status is taken away from us. Perhaps there was a time when we held an important position in a company’s hierarchy, but when the job goes, so does the status. Being brought down to earth every now and again, painful though it may be, can be good for the soul.
When your job has been made redundant you lose that umbrella security associated with an employer – health insurance, life insurance, pension benefits, etc – and in your assessment of your post-redundancy finances, try to include these essential protections in your plans, even lower cost cover and investment, because having some kind of safety net is better than no safety net at all.
After redundancy, you need understanding but you also need to be understanding to those around you. It cuts both ways.
Schubert’s famous composition is a symbol that, even after a redundancy, you are, in human terms, an unfinished symphony, a person with still much to offer, a career and a life ahead worth completing.
The distinguished US writer gave us this pearl of wisdom: “Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better.”
The actor, writer and raconteur said: “It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.”
A condition, a feeling, a place where everything is perfect, Utopia does not exist and it is inviting disappointment to set your goals too high aiming for a flawless future. Stay real and even try to enjoy the rough as much as the smooth.
Never be afraid to do a u-turn or several u-turns in your life and career, if it suits you. Sometimes, as one wag told me, you have to go south to go north.
I used to think this about some of my old bosses – sometimes they get carried away by their own importance….but not far enough!
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
Just a reminder – cast your career net wide after you have done your SWOT analysis and are absolutely clear and honest about your many strengths, skills and interests. Stay in your comfort zone if that is what you want to do but do not dismiss the advantages of a complete change of direction.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
“I came, I saw, I conquered” – could that be your mantra?
One of the lessons learned by the makers of this Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster western was that when it was being filmed in Mexico in the late 1950s, the producers failed to take into account that the Mexican people disliked being cast only as poor farmers, servants and bandits. They forgot about respecting people and were damned by their own ignorance. Respect, respect, respect.
Verbatim Et Literatim
“Word for word and letter for letter” – remember accuracy always.
Make no mistake about it, when you are looking for a job, you are embarking on a personal marketing battle and that is why it’s vital that you are professional throughout. Believe that victory will be yours.
Visualise Your Future Life
Try to think of yourself in one year, five years, ten years and beyond. What would you like to be? What would you like to be doing? Where would you like to be living? Searching questions can help you set goals. The answers to the questions may not come immediately but if and when they do, remember the answers can change according to your circumstances and evolving aspirations.
Voice Crying In The Wilderness
You will get days when it feels like this as you job-hunt. The telephone won’t ring, the email box will be empty, the postman will cycle by, but understand that it will happen and because you know it will happen, you are fully prepared to shrug off other people’s indifference, dust yourself down and start again and again and again for as long as it takes.
One of Mr Spock’s quotations: “After a time, you may find that having
is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” Somewhere in that is a bit of wisdom but, with his green skin and pointy ears, he’s obviously not from these parts.
Job hunting requires a lot of patience and waiting for responses. That is not to say that you should wait forever. About four weeks after I have sent letters or emails, I put a note in my diary to follow-up with a gentle prompt, and four weeks after that to follow-up again. The sad
truth is that most people do not respond.
You might get a few responses from people who give you stock replies, words of convenience and insincerity, telling you that your credentials were impressive and it was a tough decision but, on this occasion, blah, blah, blah. Thank them, move on.
Wight, Isle of
In a taxi not long ago on the Isle of Wight, I got chatting, as you do, to the driver and he told me that he had been driving a cab on the island for more than thirty years. Now, the Isle of Wight is just under 400 square kilometres and for someone to run a taxi service on it for three decades is as fine a definition of commitment I think I have heard. I asked him if he enjoyed it and with a “don’t be bloody stupid” look on his face, he shook his head. There are several lessons in that story.
I have been aware but not involved in dirty tricks like this. Beware because some workplaces and managers thrive on this kind of despicable behaviour to discredit people.
Who, what, when, where, why and how?
These are good analytical questions to ask when thinking things through. As a certain meerkat would say: “Simples.”
Wish Me Luck
The master of English comedy writing has a treasure trove of wonderful quotations. Here is a selection: (1)“I always advise people never to give advice.” (2) “There is only one cure for grey hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.” (3) “If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled. (4) “It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies and the wrong sort take mean advantage of them.” Check out Wodehouse for the sheer joy of it.
Write Things Down
Get into the habit of writing your thoughts, actions, follow-ups, to-do lists, etc in a notebook or diary. Keeping notes means that ideas are not lost and there is a better than average chance that you will not forget to do the important stuff. I recommend that you keep your notebook by your bed. Some great ideas happen in the night!
The former bass guitarist with The Rolling Stones has been credited with a great definition of his twenty five years with the band – five years of music and twenty years of hanging around. How would you define your career – so far?
She was the wife of Socrates and has become the example of a shrewish and scolding woman. Any relationship to any living or dead female HR managers is entirely coincidental.
In the aftermath of your job loss and within your job hunting campaign, keep a copy of everything to help you track where you’ve been and to provide follow up prompts ongoing. I found it wise to keep an up-to-date file as evidence, useful if things became litigious.
When I was a kid, the people upstairs used to give us American comics, anything from Superman to Casper the Friendly Ghost. I loved them and was fascinated by the advertisements in the back pages for all kinds of gimmicky gadgets. But the item I wish I had in my adult business life was the pair of x-ray spectacles that promised the wearer special powers. Just think, I could have seen through quite a lot of the duplicitous people I worked with and avoided them as much as possible.
Well, I had to finish off the X page with something, didn’t I?
Complaining peevishly, like a bleating wimp, feeling sorry for yourself and acting like a downtrodden victim only works for a short time. Crying into your beer or vin rouge only works for a short time before everyone around you gets bored. After your initial blubbing, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start being all over again.
Year of Flowers
Schott’s Almanac notes the cycle of flowers: reviving winter, thawing, budding, leafing, flowering, fruiting, ripening, reaping, sowing, shedding, freezing and dead winter. Call it the circle of life, but it goes on. Life keeps moving, changing, ebbing, flowing, and so must you.
Yeats, William Butler
This wonderful Irish writer said: “An intellectual hatred is the worst.” So use your intelligence in positive ways and ditch the hatred for those that have put you on the unemployment statistics.
The first and only answer to every offer or hint of interest in you should be “yes”. Take each opportunity as far as you want to take it.
You can always say “no” and withdraw at the last minute. William
Shatner says that he based his entire career plan on not turning down anything.
Yin and Yang
These are the complementary forces that are believed to define life. Yin is female, dark, passive and absorbing. Yang is male, light, active and penetrating. It’s all a bit cosmic but a little spiritual thinking can be good for the soul. We are what we are, man.
This famous cartoon character had a catchphrase: “I’m smarter than the average bear” as he went around Jellystone Park stealing picnic
baskets with his minder, Boo Boo. The message for you is to think about your own mantra: “I’m smarter than the average job applicant”, but please avoid the petty crime of nicking sandwiches and fairy buns.
Sometimes you have to find new and interesting ways of attracting the attention of prospective employers and other beneficial contacts.
This is the person you have to be – true to your personality and values. Add in a little performance to suit certain occasions if you wish but maintain your core self and integrity. Remember, honesty is your best policy.
Yves is the patron saint of lawyers – yes, they are allowed to have their holy side too. Remember to use the legal system to appeal against anything in your employment or unemployment situations that you truly believe to be unfair.
I used to hate The Magic Roundabout on television when I was a youngster. It just seemed a bit too weird to me. But I did like Zebedee. So, boing! - good hunting and good luck.