The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Jan 29

A Lehman employee leaves with his desk in a box

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but things are getting pretty hairy out there.  Redundancies are increasingly commonplace, and there’s a good chance that you know someone who’s been laid off or that you’ve already been given a box for your desk plant and family photo’s.

The media are busying themselves with talking everything down and making things look bleaker than a moonless night in Minsk, but the fact remains that lay-offs are happening all over, and redundancy has the potential to shake your world apart and send your self-confidence crumbling to the ground.

I know, because that whole world-shaking, confidence-crumbling things happened to me.

Losing your job sucks, but it doesn’t have to affect your confidence and self-esteem.  Looking back to my own experience, here are my tips for finding your feet and finding your confidence after redundancy.

1. It’s not personal.

I was made redundant in 2001 when the Internet bubble burst.  I was on long-term sick leave for stress and depression at the time (I was a barrel of laughs, let me tell you), so the news came pretty hard and felt personal, like they were victimising me.

Of course, they were just looking after their business and did what they had to to keep it going.  It wasn’t personal, it was business.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true – if you’ve been made redundant they made your job redundant, not you.  You’ve lost your job, you haven’t lost your identity, you haven’t lost your values, you haven’t lost your experience and you haven’t lost the gazillion tiny things that make you you.

2. Use the space provided.

I was depressed before I lost my job, and continued to battle depression afterwards.  Without the space afforded to me by not working, there’s no way on Earth I could have climbed out.

The space I had saved me.

That space is worth its weight in gold, and it’s an amazing benefit of redundancy that you’d be foolish to underestimate.  You have the space to explore things – your hobby, your passion, your relationships, your next career move – your whole life is there for you to explore.

It’s an opportunity you can’t turn down.

3. Get back to what matters.

I kept Starbucks in businessI used my redundancy to do a few things.  I watched a lot of day time TV (I still have nightmares), I drank a lot of coffee and I found a couple of cool bars.

A tad more important than those things, I also rediscovered and reconnected with the things I’d lost – the things that I really cared about and the things that I wanted to bring back into my life.

I wrote a novel, I trained to be a coach, I made new friends, I discovered my inner confidence and I laughed again.

I found a renewed confidence in the things that mattered to me that invigorated me from the heart out — I got back to being me, and discovered that I was okay after all.  It felt amazing.

4. Learn what you learned.

It’s understandable that you might want to draw a line in the sand and move on as quick as you can.  The bastards let you go so you’re gonna let them go too, right?

Don’t be so quick.  Look at the experience you gained from that job and look at what you can learn from it. The biggest thing I learned from the job I was laid off from is that I can never again squeeze myself into a box that’s too small for me and pretend that it’s okay.

Being able to learn and derive useful meaning from your experience is what separates you from a garden slug.  That and the whole opposable thumbs thing (that’s why you don’t see slugs driving cars).

My point is that if you simply draw a line and move on you’ll be taking away from your experience and side-stepping the opportunity to add to it.  By looking and learning you’ll be able to add to your sense of self, your life and your confidence, and that creates potential for real and important change.  It’s not to be sniffed at.

5. Don’t go back.

After my redundancy I eventually climbed out of my deep, dark hole.  On my way back up, my first instinct was to get a job.  I prepared my CV and launched it at every agency I could think of, trying to get a job doing the same thing as before.

What a brainless, stupid decision that was.

Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man in a factory downtown.That garden slug might not be able to drive a car or open a can of peaches as well as I can, but it could have made a better decision than me.

I automatically thought I had to go back to doing what I’d done before, and it was only with the extra space I had that I slowly figured out what mattered and that I could do something else.

After redundancy, please don’t assume that you have to get the exact same job as before.  You don’t.

If you loved your job then great, (but even then take some time to look at what else you could be doing that could be great), but the point is use the opportunity to look for how you can move forwards, not how you can go back or stay still.

6. Get out of the drama.

When I was laid off I rolled around in the drama of it like a pig in shit.  How could this have happened?  Didn’t I do a good enough job?  What if I can’t get another job?  Am I washed up?  What did I do wrong?

Being in the drama of it all only did one thing – kept me in the drama of it.  Living in the drama of a situation isn’t helpful, unless you’re looking for material for a soap-opera or looking for publicity (hellooo Britney).

All the time you’re looking at the drama you’ll only see all the problems and you won’t be able to look at the solutions.

Get out of the drama and get real – that’s the only way to make good decisions.

Thanks Mr Redundancy.

At the time, redundancy hit me like a spade in the face.  Now, I thank my lucky stars for it, and shudder at the thought of who I might be today if it hadn’t happened.

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  • Monica O’Brien

    Steve, great post. I feel like I’ve experienced this exact thing over the last few months.

    I actually quit my last job, but the feelings and emotions I went through were much the same. There was a lack of self-esteem for awhile, because I felt my company had treated me like shit and couldn’t recognize my talents. (How much of this was my own interpretation vs. the reality, I don’t know.)

    I also knew I couldn’t be a software engineer anymore. I had tried a few times to take the semi-software engineer position and try to move myself within the company to another role. It didn’t work, because people always need technical support and never wanted another marketing person, even when they said there was movement opportunity.

    So I had to make a serious choice, and it took me two months to make it. I had to decide if I would apply for more software engineering positions, because those were easy for me to get with my experience. Or if I would take a pay cut and go for marketing or business strategy positions instead, even if it make my job hunt much longer.

    In the end, I had to choose the latter. I didn’t think I could do another technical position and hope someone would recognize my greater potential for marketing and strategy. I didn’t want to box myself in as a technical person anymore.

    Thanks for writing this post. It makes me feel better knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with confidence issues after leaving a job, and I feel more confident about the choice I’ve made to pursue a career I don’t have the “right” credentials for.

    • Steve

      @ Monica: Good for you Monica! So many people take the easy route and carry on doing what they’ve been pigeon-holed to do. It takes some real guts to take the more difficult road, but that’s where the gold is. How’s your choice working out?