by Dr Catherine Armstrong
Although the issue of redundancy is on many people's minds at the moment, private sector workers are being hit harder than those in the public sector. However, redundancy is not unheard of in the university job market. For example, in 2002 the entire history department at the University of Luton was made redundant. Coping with redundancy is challenging, so here are our top five tips to help you.
It's really important not to get too depressed or disheartened when the news of redundancy breaks. It may well feel like your ability to do the job has been judged, especially if only a few people are being made redundant. The facts are quite different, however. The decision will have been taken by a group of people who don't even know you, but who simply have to save money and who believe that drastic action is needed to do that. Rumours of redundancy will have been spreading for some time before you are actually made redundant, so a positive way to look at things is that you know your fate and you can start moving on with the rest of your life.
The financial terms of your redundancy will depend on your employer, how long you have been with them, and how senior a role you occupied. For many people the chance of negotiating a decent redundancy package is a possibility. Just because you are losing your job, it doesn't mean that your former managers simply want to see you out on the streets. Natural human feelings mean that they will probably care what happens to you and will want to see that you are treated well. Also they will want to show existing employees, and possibly the media too, that you are being looked after and not simply abandoned.
Ironically, negotiating a redundancy package can be a little like negotiating a pay rise. You need to sell your importance to the institution. If your manager is convinced that without you the department wouldn't be where it is today then you have a good case.
At the same time as offering you financial benefits, your institution might set up a careers advice service to offer those being made redundant extra in-house support. Make sure you take up this advice: it will be free and it may open up avenues of opportunities that you have not considered before. Take advantage of everything your former employer can give you!
As with any jobseeking situation, redundancy is an important opportunity in which you can use your networks to get a new position. As soon as your job loss is confirmed, begin to contact people you know who are in positions of authority in your field to let them know that you are looking for work. Conferences and other face-to-face meetings are often the best ways of doing this, but email is also an effective networking tool. For more details on how to get a job after redundancy by using networking methods, have a look at Neil Harris's recent article: Networking a Job after Redundacy.
If you have been in your previous job for a while then you might not have done much work on your CV lately. It is important to keep it updated at all times, but if you are finishing work for one institution this a great opportunity to update your CV. Things you need to think about are the courses you have been teaching, the funding awards received and the publications that have been released since your last update. But also try to think about the skills you have developed while in your post. This will help you when applying for new jobs because you will be able to directly tailor your experience to the advertiser's job specifications.
Your CV will become an important selling point for you in both networking and job application situations so a well-laid out, informative and concise document is vital.
Redundancy can be incredibly traumatic in a psychological way as well as financially damaging. Your confidence can take a knock and it can seem as though your world is falling apart. You may feel rejected and that an insecure future beckons. Although it is easier said than done, it is important to try to stay positive when you have learned of your redundancy. Even in today's difficult job market it is possible to find new employment. If you decide you want to stay in academia then it's important to focus on the positives, such as the fact that more money is going to some institutions thanks to the RAE, resulting in new jobs being advertised.
However, you might decide that your redundancy has come at the right time for a complete change of career. Perhaps you want to go back to university yourself to study for new qualifications. Or you could take the opportunity to have time out of work and travel, for example. Redundancy can seem like a psychological blow, but it also presents exciting new opportunities too.