One in seven British employees has lost their job since the beginning of the recession in 2008, but when I was being made redundant at 23, all the advice and personal stories I could find were aimed at people in their thirties and above, meaning I felt confused and isolated.
Normally young people turn to friends and family when they are facing a problem, but redundancy isn't something many 20 -somethings want to discuss or have much experience with. On top of this, there is still some stigma attached to redundancy, no matter how old - fashioned it may be and the notion that it was somehow 'your fault' makes many young people question their place in the working world.
Here are some of the things I wish somebody had told me when I first heard that my job was at risk of redundancy:
Every job is only a temporary contract:
It's true, you should view every single job you have as only a temporary contract; whether that contract is three months or ten years will be up to you and your employer. Put simply, your employer can easily get rid of you without too much aftermath, providing they can afford to pay you out, whilst you can hand in your notice and within six months or less you can be gone from them forever. This means that redundancy is hardly ever personal (and if it is you are probably better off out of there anyway!)
Exercise what little control you do have over the process:
I remember the day I was formally 'made redundant', the meeting had finally been set in the company calendar after so much chopping and changing that I was pretty much drained before I even got there. I was a bit worried about becoming upset during the meeting so I asked my employer to meet me in the café next to the office where I felt I would be more comfortable. Redundancy is a process where you often feel as if you have very little control over the outcome, so don't be afraid to ask your employer to make small reasonable changes for you to make things easier.
Always bring in a note - taker to every redundancy meeting:
Quite often our emotions and can get the better of us in time of stress and we might forget important things said during a redundancy meeting so I would fully recommend taking a colleague or Union representative into every meeting. I had a colleague accompany me to every meeting, to take notes for me and for a bit of moral support. Not only do you want somebody to bear witness to the conversation and take detailed notes whilst you ask all the questions, you may also want a hug and drink afterwards!
Don't expect things to carry on as normal (even if your company says they will)
Being made redundant is a big deal, and if your organisation is making multiple redundancies then there is likely to be an apocalyptic atmosphere in the office. Do not expect to come into work and just work your notice period as normal; there is likely to be a tirade of emotions going on inside you every day until you leave and that's ok. You and other fellow employees also facing redundancy may be asked to work your notice period but make sure you negotiate things that will make it a bit easier for you - like working from home.
Don't be embarrassed to tell family and friends what is happening!
One of the biggest challenges for me was finding the courage to tell my friends and family that I was losing my job. After all, I left Cardiff University as the Honour Roll Student of 2012 and had been in continuous employment since graduating. On top of that, I am the oldest grandchild/cousin/sister/whatever in the family so the pressure to succeed has always felt quite intense. What would they say when I had to tell them I had been made redundant at only 23?
I needn't have worried. My dad and my then - boyfriend had both been made redundant in the past so were great sources of support and my friends came round and watched Netflix with me when I was broke and couldn't face going out. Redundancy is going to be hard either way but your friends and family are there for you - there should be no stigma attached to redundancy.
Don't go job - hunting straight away (but do get an interview outfit with the correct sized shoes)
Contrary to most advice, if you can afford to I would recommend taking a week or two to figure out what you want to do before you start applying for jobs. You're likely to be feeling a bit stressed and confused and we humans don't always make the best of choices when we are stressed. I found myself attending two job interviews IN THE SAME DAY wearing one shoe in a size 3 and one in a size 4 (don't ask) for two jobs that weren't really suitable for me. I got rejected from both and it wasn't until my next interview about six weeks later when my head was screwed on the right way that I got a yes for a job that seems to be a perfect fit.
Speak to the bank manager as soon as find you find out you're losing your job.
Most likely this is the last thing you feel like doing, but it is much easier to extend your overdraft and cancel any direct debits you don't need to be paying (like my phone insurance from 2006) with a month's notice when you have still got one final pay cheque coming through. In addition, start making a note of any unnecessary outgoings, and cut them out as soon as possible, the key culprit being of course a shop - bought coffee, infamous for tugging at the purse strings of both the employed and unemployed alike.
Look backwards for help with your CV:
Hopefully there is a previous employer that you still have a good relationship with. If so get in touch with some of your old supervisors and let them know you are looking for work and also accept any offers of help with your CV and applications. Often they know your strengths and weaknesses and can offer you free advice on job applications that might make all the difference between getting an interview and getting thrown into the rejected pile. I was extremely lucky to also be offered some part time work by a former employer which helped me keep my head above the water and goes to show that you never know what can come out of a conversation!
Job - hunt what you want.
Redundancy does not make you worthless. It is tempting to think that other employers may see you as 'tainted goods' but redundancy is so common now that this isn't the case. When applying for other jobs, go for what makes you happy first and foremost. It's tempting to go for the biggest salary or soonest start date, but remember you don't want to end up leaving and going through the whole job hunt process again soon after your start date.
Look after yourself, and seek further help if you need to.
Stress suppresses the immune system which makes us more vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses and bugs so look after your health. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing signs of depression or anxiety and remember that this is just one chapter of your life and there are many more to come.