In 2010, Melbourne man Nils von Kalm landed his dream job writing for a large international charity. The job was so good it didn’t even feel like work.
Then, four years later, he was called into a room and told his role – along with many others – was being made redundant.
It was Mr von Kalm’s second experience of redundancy, but he was far from prepared. The news was heartbreaking.
“It was more of a shock [second time around] because I was much more invested in the job,” Mr von Kalm says. “I felt very, very sad. I had a good cry and all that, but also, I didn’t feel bitter. I still loved the organisation.”
Mr von Kalm says the experience was difficult to quantify.
“There was just a real mixture of feelings – disappointment, a bit of anger, I was upset but also I was grateful for what I had had for all those years.”
A fact of life
With a string of Australian businesses announcing plans to downsize in recent years, Mr von Kalm’s experience is surprisingly commonplace.
In fact, the Bureau of Statistics says about 270,000 Australians were made redundant in the year to February 2019.
According to research conducted by jobs website Seek, one in four Australians has been laid off during their working lives. But the good news is about 60 per cent of workers find a new job within two months.
Fiona Lamb, executive general manager of employment services MAX Solutions, says while reactions to mid-career redundancy vary widely and depend on a person’s circumstances, Mr von Kalm’s reaction is a familiar one.
“The most common reaction we see is shock and anger,” Ms Lamb says. “A mid-career redundancy is often unexpected and embarrassing.”
For some though, she says the offer of a large payment can come as a welcome surprise.
With hindsight, Mr von Kalm says both of his redundancies gave him valuable opportunities to clarify what he wanted in his career. Ms Lamb agrees that redundancy can be a gateway to new and exciting opportunities.
As technology and globalisation transform industries, Ms Lamb says her advice to workers is to understand their transferrable skills or consider retraining.
“People should generally consider retraining or undertaking further education where the occupation they were made redundant from is disappearing from the labour market, where they want to move to a different occupation or industry or where they just need to brush up on particular skills,” she says.
Ms Lamb encourages her clients to visit the Australian Government’s Job Outlook website, which has information on various careers and the demand for them, as well as areas of future growth.
For instance, the government expects two in every three jobs created in the next five years to come from four industries – healthcare and social assistance, construction, education and technical services. More than 90 per cent of new jobs created in that period will need education beyond high school.
Ms Lamb says after redundancy, people should look to their support networks and stay positive.
“It is critical that people who have been made redundant look after themselves mentally and emotionally,” she says.
“You should talk to trusted advisers or family, even if just to vent. What we most definitely would advise is not to burn bridges in your current workplace.”
Many companies will provide employee assistance or counselling as part of the redundancy process. It’s always advisable to use these resources or other relevant professional services, Ms Lamb says.
“A good tip is to talk to the recruitment staff about the roles that you are interested in and find out which training companies can help you attain the required competencies,” she says.
“There is a good chance that a person made redundant mid-career has not had to apply for a job for some time and needs help in this area.”