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How to cope with retrenchment


Retrenchment is no longer a dirty word. A vast majority of the professionals have been directly or indirectly affected by retrenchment at some stage of their working lives.

The ‘one job for life’ mantra is but a distant memory. The threat of unemployment teeters on the edge of employees’ minds every time they are called into a ‘private’ meeting.

Let’s be honest, being retrenched is stressful, especially the first time. It’s a tough road moving from denial to acceptance, and while some people manage to go through these stages with relative ease, others may take a little more time.

Whether we like it or not, retrenchment is something many people may have to face at some stage of their careers. Here are some constructive tips to help you cope with retrenchment.

Don’t take it personally

It’s only natural to feel shock and anger – shock that your company is letting you go and anger that you didn’t get to snatch that great stapler on your way out the door. That being said, you have to understand that being made retrenched is not your fault and is not a reflection on you as a person. It’s just business. Don’t let what happened to you diminish your self-confidence. A job does not define what you are worth as a person.

You need to get back on your feet, so share what you are feeling with those around you and recognise that this happened because of the changing economic situation and the retrenchment of workers is one crucial step that many companies must take in order to cut down costs to survive.

Since it has happened, don’t take it too hard. Come to terms with it and once you have accepted the reality of your retrenchment, you need to find out what to do next. How are you going to cope with it?

This is the start of a new beginning

It sounds a bit ‘new age’, but this really is your chance to re-assess where you think you fit into the current workforce and where you would like to fit into it. Making a clear and defined list of what you want to achieve in your career is a great start. But be realistic. Moving from middle management in a nice inner-city corporate to Prime Minister of Australia may be taking it a little bit too far.

Sometimes, retrenchment opens up opportunities you never thought of before. If you are able to maintain some semblance of faith and a positive outlook, things will only get better. Remind yourself that even though you are retrenched, the future is now again in your own hands.

Assess your current finances

It’s really important to know where you stand financially and how long you can remain self-sufficient while looking for new opportunities. If you were lucky enough to get a decent payout, it is probably not the brightest idea to take that long awaited European vacation or go out living it up every night.

Sit down with your family or someone you trust and work out the best and worst case scenarios that you could find yourself in. It may be that you will need to find a part-time job or join a temporary job agency to make that little bit of cash that will help you until you find a more suitable position.

Another way is to cut down your spending on things you don’t really need such as those little luxuries that seem to make life worth living. Its amazing how those small things can really add up. Draw up a financial plan of what your expected living expenses are such as the basics and necessities over a certain amount of time and try to stick to it.

Improve your skills

Time is money. Despite the fact that you are retrenched, sitting on the couch in your jim jams becoming reacquainted with Oprah is probably not the best use of your time. Instead of spending precious time watching TV, why not do something worthwhile and enrol at your local community college and learn some new skills

Make an assessment of your current skills set to see whether they are still relevant in today’s job market. If not, there is no time like the present to upgrade your skills and get some extra training. By attending a few courses you will have the extra fire power to land another job easily.

If you are already highly skilled or have a professional or trade skill, you might want to consider teaching part-time at your local community college. It’s a great feeling to know that you have had the opportunity to pass on your knowledge and help someone else in the process.

Be flexible

Don’t be disheartened if you find that there are limited job opportunities in the industry you worked in before you got the boot. You may need to be flexible with what you are looking for and take a position in another industry until times are better.

It’s a depressing thought, but you may need to start at the bottom, endure a dramatic pay cut or work irregular hours before you find a suitable position in the industry of your choice.

In order to get the next job, you may need to show your employer that you are willing to be flexible about these things. It is important to take whatever job you can get at this moment and continue to look for other opportunities as you go along.

Positive attitude

Staying positive, it’s so easy to say but can be difficult to maintain. However, having the right attitude from the beginning means that you won’t lose time watching re-runs of the Simpsons and you will be better able to cope with your situation.

Being retrenched is not the end of the world. By taking matters into your own hands you can bring about positive change. Remain in contact with friends and ex-colleagues and stay in the loop – opportunities often arrive in the most serendipitous of ways.

Another option may be to seek help from employment agencies that specialise in your line of work and be open to various opportunities that they have available.

Coping with retrenchment is and will never be an easy road to travel. By putting the situation into perspective, you will have a better chance of popping out of the other side with your emotions intact and even some new skills up your sleeve.

David Marriott is a technical and operations recruitment expert with over 15 years experience in recruitment. Constructive Recruitment specialises in the construction, infrastructure and resources sectors, providing employers and jobseekers with strategic industry advice and specialist recruitment services.

Photo: u-JU (Flickr)