How to handle leaving your job by choice or not.

7 steps of what to do when you either get made redundant, let go, severed or simply decide you’ve had enough of whatever it is you are doing.

I have been made redundant a couple of times now and have heard stories from friends who have had upwards of 4 and even 5 times been restructured, let go, downsized or whatever the most recent catch-phrase is. Upshot is that you are no longer employed and need to go find something else to do with your time. Usually like most people we need to put food on the table and we need to pay the mortgage, bills, rent or whatever, this means we have to get the cash flowing as soon as possible.

If you have been given some sort of settlement then you may have a few weeks or months of grace, usually these days companies are trying to avoid these sort of situations so they are not writing redundancy clauses into individual contracts.

Restructuring is the way of the world we live in and as companies grow, put on more staff, the economy changes or customers leave, sales decline and companies look again to alter their structure to cope with the diminishing turnover, in a lot of cases to make certain that they are retaining acceptable profit margins. I say in ‘some’ cases because I have seen organizations that when the tough times come, and the always will, look at it from another perspective, that of valuing their staff through the bad times in order that everyone can reap the rewards in the good times.

I have worked for publicly listed companies where the shareholders tend to vote with their stock exchange finger. When things get tough the returns begin to look less favourable so they give the shares the flick before they lose any more value in their asset portfolio. The companies objective is to ensure the share price remains as high as possible to avoid takeovers, splits or sell offs in their share packages. Either way one of the best ways organisations have protected their shareholder assets is by reducing the biggest cost in any business, that of the management or staff.

You know the old story about the company that was ‘rumoured’ to be going under, well the rumours in the end sunk the company as so many of it’s shareholders listened too and believed the rumours rather than what was actually going on.

I have also worked with organisations that keep their shareholders so informed that it is like them being part of the family of the business. They treat people with respect; keep them up to date with the good and the bad news as to how the company is performing.

I know the organization I would prefer to work with. Do you?

But, you say, that is just a pipe dream, all companies these days are about getting a return on their investment, shareholder profits etc etc and to a huge extent this would be true, but do you think that all companies in the world are like this? Maybe or maybe not. I am sure there is those that, if you looked hard and long enough, would find that they are well aligned with your set of values.

I digress however… Let’s say though that you are let go, there is a whole process that the company should follow, some do and some don’t. Where I come from the Human Resource laws are very much in favour of the staff member should a company not follow the ‘rules’ for carrying out any redundance action or restructure. The good companies who genuinely have to go through a not so pleasant change as this treat their staff with a huge amount of dignity.

The ultimate outcome however is pretty much the same, you wake up the following day after your job of 2, 5, 10 or 20 years is no longer required, superfluous to requirements. You wake up with nowhere to go and the furthest you travel that day may simply be to the mailbox or the local grocery store to purchase the daily newspaper.

So wake up, it is day one, the best thing I have found is to take positive and affirmative action, take stock then take control.

Here are a few steps you might like to think about…

  1. First step is to ‘allow yourself to panic’. Let the ‘oh my gosh’ feelings flow and let them out, it is going to happen at some stage so I figure it is best to get them out earlier rather than later. You may in fact find yourself returning to these moments again and again as the days or even weeks go by. Let those ‘what the heck and am I going to do now’ thoughts flow out of you. Notice I say ‘out’ of you, the reason being that these thoughts allowed to fester over time will consume you and you will become completely paralyzed, unable to even think you can get out of the situation you find yourself in. Remember ‘it has happened’, there is nothing you could have done to change or alter the situation and you have the rest of your life to do something about it. As I have heard many a time, “it is not what happens to us that matters but what we ultimately end up doing about it”
  2. Consider your options. I sat with a very good friend of mine recently and we pondered the options available to someone who leaves or is forced to leave their point of employ for any reason. It is not an exhaustive list of course but we think it covers the major options available.
  • Consider getting back into the workforce in a similar role, lesser role or a sideways role in a similar industry or company, even a competitor is worth a crack.
  • Consider the option to start something up from scratch on your own or with a colleague or colleagues, friend or business associate.
  • Consider the option of something artisan-like, turn an interest you already have for something artistic into a business or income generating idea, knitting for instance.
  • Consider the option of purchasing an already operating business and adding your own flavor and value to the operation.
  • Consider contracting your skills to another company that is already operating in your space.

These are just a few thoughts and if you take the time to look at each one of these and their merits I am sure there will be ore and more ideas coming to you as a result.

I just thought of another, perhaps purchase a franchise of some sort with a proven system of success already built in.

3.Take Stock; By this I mean you need to carry out a financial review of your financial situation. I think if you asked most people these days how long they could genuinely survive financially if they lost or gave up their job tomorrow most would say somewhere between 1 month and 10 weeks.

This is because we usually, in most societies live 5-10% higher than we can afford, hence the rising levels of credit and charge card debt.

It is though necessary for you to sit down at the dining table and use a large A3 pad of paper to start writing all of your expenses, the income statement should be fairly simple, it is nothing, unless of course you are wise enough to have a business on the side already bringing in some cash

Put down as much detail as possible and also categorise the list, put fixed expenses, like insurance, carp payments, rent, mortgage, power, gas, phone etc into once column and put the variable expenses in another. Variable expenses change from month to month, like food, use as best as possible some form of averaging.

When you have gathered enough information in this way sum it all up and add an additional 10%, remember we all live 10% beyond our means usually. This ‘buffer’ as it may become later could save your life, your house, your everything. It could make the difference between being out of work and bankrupt…

When you have done this you need to determine how much you have in savings, investments and your redundancy settlement, from this and your expense line you can calculate roughly how many months you have before you need to sell the shirt on your back. Again I would reduce this by 10 – 20% to give you some form of buffer.

Remember to have a momentary panic attack at this point as  you will realize you have less time than you think you had.


  1. Brainstorm Ideas to generate income. At this point you may have less time than you think and you may be thinking that now your greatest problem will be to bridge the gap between unemployment and employment, you want to make this as short as possible if you have some financial stresses about to pour out on you.

How humble are you willing to become to put food on the table, if the difference between having to sell everything and working pumping petrol would you pump petrol (no disrespect to anyone pumping petrol). Or alternatively as part of your brainstorming session consider everything you could turn your hand to. For example in my case I spent my early pre-study years working in a market garden, if I had or wanted to I could go back there anytime, it doesn’t pay a great deal but it does pay and at least if you are gainfully employed then you can then put your mind at some rest to be able to concentrate on getting the role you want.

One other thing to do here would be to immediately get your personal information up to speed. Your CV, Will, letters of interest and the like.


  1. Cut back where you can or where you are allowed. If financial pressure is going to paralyse you then you need to do something proactive about it, for example your mortgage. Some lending institutions will give you a mortgage holiday for a few months, it means you will have to add some months on the end of the term usually but hey if it prevents the cash well from drying up then I am sure it is worth it.

In our case we put the mortgage on ‘interest only’, the banks allowed us up to 10 years of paying interest only mortgages, a blessing not quite as fortunate as a mortgage or rent holiday but at least it was a step to help the cashflow challenge.

  1. Almost finally do something every single day that moves you towards getting your self back into productive and satisfying employ. For example make it a daily routine to put your CV to at least one prospective employer. The book, ‘What colour is your parachute’ is a great help in this department and the last time I bought a copy there was a version available every year.

I have found this book invaluable over time, I have given more copies away than I have bought, if that were possible, but you know what I mean. I think it is one of the best self help guides to getting you moving and it has great support systems in place to help you get back on your feet.

  1. Finally make certain that you keep your family informed as to where you are up to with your job search, your feelings, your state of mentality. They are usually your biggest fans and will be there no matter what you end up having to do to put food on the table.

Family is your greatest asset in times like this and it is important if you have a supportive partner, spouse, husband, friend or so that they can avoid asking you every 2 minutes how your search is going, there is nothing worse than being asked this question day after day, especially when your are in a senior position that takes a huge amount of time to find the right role.

If you have children then they too are part of the family, no matter what age, they need to know you are okay and that everything will be okay. Kids are usually tougher than we think but they are definitely more sensitive than we realize, they will know if something is not quite right with you and they will pester you until you tell them what that is.

Kids need to know that this is also the way of the world these days, that there really is nothing like a ‘job for life’, that the reality is that companies that they may end up working for could eventually go through similar things and they themselves could be in the same state as Mum or Dad.

I feel if we can teach our children again the benefits of having some sort of plan, avoid panic wherever possible, have faith in all that they do then they will end up in a safe place.

Hope this helps in some small way.