There’s little doubt that job loss is front of mind for many Australian workers at the moment, with a slew of high-profile redundancies dominating the headlines in recent months. Just yesterday, Qantas became the latest in a growing list of household names – including GM Holden, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – to have slashed its staff numbers, following the national airline’s drastic move to cull 5000 employees from its 33,000-strong workforce.
But it’s not just the big-name companies who are laying off workers. The statistics indicate the current malaise reaches into the public sector and small- to medium-size enterprises too. The latest official data, released earlier this month, shows the national labour market in worse shape than it has been for a decade, with the unemployment rate hitting 6 per cent – its highest level since July, 2003 – in January.
If you’re one of the thousands who have been made redundant – either on a forced or voluntary basis – it can be hard to know what to do next. Losing your job can be one of the most dislocating and confronting experiences of your life, even when it’s an option you have actively chosen. The good new is that, even though redundancy can be traumatic, it’s also a great opportunity for a new start.
1. Take stock
Financial Planners’ Association spokesperson David Strybosh says the first step is to find out your entitlements.
“The first thing we do is encourage clients to look at their entitlements,” Mr Strybosh says. “Normally you can’t have your benefits go into superannuation but there are certain clients with older contracts that can.”
If your workplace is offering out-placement services, take advantage of them. These can include helping with your resume and giving you access to resources and information you’d otherwise have to find on your own from places like Centrelink or Job Services Australia.
2. Be realistic
Most people might be warning you not to despair, but sometimes it’s the opposite that is true; people are overestimating how easy it will be to get a job again.
“People aren’t aware, I believe there’s a higher level of white collar unemployment than what is being advertised out there and those professions tend to not want to apply for benefits and not want to let people know,” Mr Strybosh says.
So sit down and look at your prospects – get online, go to a recruitment agency and treat finding a new job like, well, your new job.
3. Don’t spend
The redundancy payout is in your bank. So what next? A holiday? A new car? Home renovations? Perhaps not.
“The biggest problem is that people spend the money before they receive it,” Mr Strybosh says.
When being made redundant, it’s unfortunately a time to use financial common sense and restraint.
“I’ve seen with friends who were made redundant and were very confident with employment, spending all their money on upgrading the home, or a holiday and then they are devastated when they don’t get a job straight away and it’s not near the level of income they were receiving before. It completely stuffs them up from a lifestyle perspective and puts them at greater financial difficulty in that time of stress.”
4. Don’t hide
It might seem the right thing to do, but it’s also not the time to drop it straight onto your mortgage or superannuation.
“Debt reduction is the most important thing,” Mr Strybosh says.
He recommends getting rid of high interest debt first – like credit cards. This should be done in the first post-redundancy payment to make sure you are entitled to the best government support. Mr Strybosh also says if you want to put it on your mortgage or super – make sure you can still access your money just in case.
5. Make a financial plan
The next step is to sit down, work out what you are spending and make a plan – with a financial planner if possible.
Mr Strybosh says when looking at your budget you need to address needs and cut wants. “We can give a fairly accurate pointer to show at what point they’ll have a cash flow issue and we can then work around their budget and be realistic about what they can afford to spend.”
While it may seem like a cruel joke to pay for things like income insurance when you are out of income, it’s also not the time to cancel everything.
“You don’t want to cancel things like income protection when you might need to reapply once you are back in the workforce,” Mr Strybosh says. “The last thing you want to do is cancel something you can’t get again [agreed value, terms etc] that may become more important as you get older.”
He says depending on your age it might also be possible to look into withdrawing money from your superannuation to start paying debts.
6. Do a career check and perfect your resume
Take stock of where you are at, where your industry is at and where you might go next.
The Australian Career Development Association national president Andrew Rimington says now is the perfect time to do a career health check. “Many adults have never had formal career counselling, guidance or professional involvement – they’ve self managed their career – redundancy is a timely opportunity for people to revisit that,” he says.
Look at the job you are leaving, what your experience is, make sure your skills are up to date and review your resume – make a list of your attributes, training and education.
“It is about how they can turn that resume into a personal marketing document that will promote their skills to a potential new employer,” Mr Rimington says. Of course, make sure you have correct spelling and grammar and create job specific applications.
Having a break might also be a great opportunity to move up.
“Up-skilling is about looking at where job trends and opportunities in the labour market are, as there are areas of skills shortage and it is a matter of looking at opportunities,” says Mr Rimington.
This can be through keeping eyes open and looking at what’s on offer on job seeker website, newspaper advertisements and through networks. Some states offer support for training in certain areas, so get in touch with the local job seeker offices or state government bodies to get an idea of what you could be entitled to.
The Financial Planners’ Association’s Mr Strybosh agrees. He says even while in employment people should look to continue to train and update their skills.
8. Self help
Line dancing might seem like an odd portal to your next job, but keeping active and healthy is a key.
When Australian Career Development Association’s Mr Rimington was made redundant he used it as an opportunity to get fit.
“There can be a lot of emotion and anger in their sudden transition where people have it thrust upon them,” he says. “People who haven’t been in that position might need to consider what sort of emotional support they need – do they need to see a counsellor, or more in-depth support through a GP or referral to counsellor or psychologist. One of the first things I did was have a medical check. I was overweight and in bad shape so I joined a gym, lost weight, exercised.”
While a gym might seem like an extra cost – there are plenty of local government supported activities like line dancing, Pilates, yoga or meditation that won’t break the bank and will have the added benefit of expanding your networks.
Volunteering or join more community groups to show you are active and expand your network is also a good idea.
“When you are out of work it becomes more complicated the longer you are out of a job and the harder it is to sell yourself to a prospective employer so I suggest people get involved in community or volunteer based activity so they can demonstrate they are not sitting around. All those things also help built transferable skills,” Mr Rimington says.
SEEK Volunteer is at volunteer.com.au
10. Who you know
Being made redundant is not the time to sit in silence – especially in this current market it is not like you are alone in searching for a job. As well as recruiters and job applications, social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook provide important tools to connect to professionals that could be your next employer.
“People underestimate the network they’ve built up,” Mr Rimington says. “Networks are a great opportunity for information and advice to see what’s happening or find potential jobs.”
This means getting in touch with the “hidden job market” where Mr Rimington says the bulk of people find jobs. “This is where sporting clubs, community organisations, friends are important – you may know someone who knows someone who needs someone.”
It is also important to maintain contact with professional networks, and keep yourself a visible part of your industry.