Planes, trains and P45’s
Of all the moments in 2020, and haven’t we all had a few that stand out like a terrible speech at a great wedding, one of the main ones that stays with me is this…
“The global pandemic took the decision out of my freshly sanitised hands”
It was the first ‘dropping off’ of my four-year old daughter at school as she started Foundation. Chatting (socially distanced) to a few other parents as we watched our little ones go in for the first time, the conversation became about what we ‘do’ and I had to say the words ‘actually I’ve just been made redundant.’ Cue genuine sympathetic murmurings and me trying to light-heartedly bat them away with “oh no, it’s fine, I’m fine about it.”
When I was walking home with my toddler, not being in a rush as no one was expecting me to be anywhere or to log on, or do a job, I realised how much of my identity came with my job.
PP (Pre-Pandemic) I had been wondering about leaving, having been back part-time for nearly a year, after many years full-time. But the part-time role was only permitted with a demotion and although I loved the three days, I missed the challenges that came with my old role. But I loved working in travel, so I wasn’t sure whether to pack up and find something else. Anyway, the global pandemic then took the decision right out of my freshly sanitised hands.
The industry became a spreadsheet graveyard
I loved the part of the job where I’d email and speak to Greek city guides, Slovenian coach companies, Spanish restaurant managers and French vineyard owners. Making connections over email, sharing small insights into each other’s lives, I’ve always had a fascination with other cultures, countries and languages and pre-children I was able to travel too. But in June, 95% of our near 40 strong team, were told we would likely be made redundant and after many hours of Zoom consultations, by August it was a done deal.
Explaining it to people for whom it’s not their day-to-day industry, is easier to achieve if you imagine instead that the travel industry professionals are all accountants. Since the end of March the work for accountants dried up, no-one needed them, most of them were on furlough or had been made redundant and no-one can say for sure when they’ll be needed again – a spreadsheet graveyard.
Redundancy can mean a drop in confidence
Very quickly your skills feel like they are not required, your industry expertise becomes not at all relevant. It feels like some foreign currency that has become horribly inflated and worthless. No one needs it.
Falling down the daily rabbit-hole of Instagram I started wondering about next steps and whether I should start as a trainee financial planner or if I should launch myself as a VA whilst googling ‘What is an OBM?’ Instagram is wonderful but it can aggravate career anxiety on a crazy scale. Redundancy can mean a huge drop in confidence as you lose your ‘work’ comfort zone, and whatever you next do there will be some sort of learning curve involved and new relationships to build. Coming across people who are confidently ‘Head of Content’, ‘Chief Operating Officer or ‘Full time Influencer’ put me into a mild panic. It made me wonder if there is a full-time job googling what the Made in Chelsea lot really do for a living, as that’s about the level of professionalism I felt I was at during furlough.
I signed up to do a copywriting course
Scrolling through Instagram in the summer, I spotted a post on Mama Tribe about a copywriting course and in testament to how good Eman (who owns the business and runs the course) is at her job, I immediately wanted to join and I paid to sign up. I’ve loved it, it’s given me something great to focus on, I love the content, how she delivers it and it’s made me think about what I like doing. I then somewhat spontaneously contacted a local marketing agency and asked if there was any chance they might need someone like me, as an intern (I cringed as I wrote that word as I’m mid 30’s) or part-time. The result was me writing a short blog post for a client of theirs – it gave me a boost and it felt like a step towards something new. I am starting to seek out local connections and businesses who I feel I may be able to offer something to, while looking for part-time jobs.
“Redundant” is an awful word
What keeps coming to the front of my mind is also the realisation that this new life we have all been living isn’t it. We aren’t done here folks. Life will go back to something it resembled before. We will take holidays, we will hug, we will not stand socially distanced in the playground with masks on. So, the travel industry and the experience I’ve gained will have value again. I still don’t know what I’ll end up doing. But what I’ve concluded after this year are the following small nuggets of wisdom:
1. My husband always reminds me that I have a long way yet to go in my career, so there is still plenty of time to do what you’re going to do. You don’t have to have achieved everything by your thirties.
2. Your career does not define you.
3. Opening up to your friends and family is a huge help and people have got different opinions about you. My cousin, who laughs at the fact that I haven’t really had many ‘do nothing days’ but continue with various online courses, has said ‘you’re just such a ‘do-er’’ and she’s right – I need to do something. I thrive when I’m with people, doing something and making connections. I also thrive (not 100% of the time obviously) when I’m with my children, but like most Mums I also like the balance of working and see the huge benefit they get from not being with me 100% of the time.
4. It was the position that was made redundant and not me. I am not ‘redundant’, it’s an awful word.
5. I have been lucky. A few years ago I was the breadwinner and working full-time and the small business that my husband had would have taken a really hard hit. So I’m grateful that this situation didn’t happen in 2015, and I know that it’s not the same for everyone and times are really hard for so many at the moment.
6. Reach out to friends who have lost jobs and see what you can do to help. Keep giving to charities if you can. Donate to the foodbank.
And for the Mums – to the ones I know who inspire me, help me, amaze me and share great memes with me – and to the ones I don’t know – it’s been a hell of a year and we are all powerhouses.
You are not redundant and I wish you every luck in next steps and a new start.