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Redundancy destroys your sense of self. I wish I’d realised sooner

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Our CEO came down to our floor one morning and stood on a chair in the middle of the room. Straight away, I knew what that meant. He made an announcement that a ‘significant amount’ of our roles were being moved offshore – most of us would be losing our jobs. We had individual meetings that afternoon and sure enough – I was one of the ones who would be going.

While I knew my company – a huge retail firm – was making cuts, it still knocked me sideways. I’d been with them 12 years – working on the shop floor at first, then moving into the head office. I really worked my way to the top and loved my career.

After I had my first daughter, they didn’t treat me particularly well, changing my role while I was on maternity leave. In hindsight, I think this was the first blow to my self-esteem. Being made redundant was then the nail in the coffin, which I struggled to come back from.

 

Early days

A lot of my colleagues, who were friends, were going through the same thing, so I had plenty of people to vent and sympathise with. I also had a pretty healthy redundancy package and enjoyed the time off with my two daughters. Plus, I had been dabbling in upholstery and decided now was the perfect time to try and make it into a business.

After about nine months however, my business wasn’t taking off as I’d hoped, and I decided I couldn’t do it. My husband had a new role, which meant we should be able to live off his income, so I decided to be a stay-at-home mum for a few years at least.

I now realise this was a mistake and one that came from very low self-esteem. I felt I didn’t have the skills to make a go of my business, yet was too nervous to try applying for jobs. I hadn’t written a CV or really been interviewed, in almost 10 years.

My mental wellbeing steadily declined and had a huge impact on my relationships. I was isolated, jealous and very unhappy.

 

Financial strains

Eventually, it became clear that we couldn’t live off my husband’s income alone, so I would need to get a job. I reached out to an old friend who worked in recruitment, and she helped me with my CV, which was a lifeline.

After writing it, I realised just how much I’d achieved at my previous role and stopped focusing quite so much on the fact I’d been ‘let go’. This gave me a little confidence back, and it didn’t take too long to get a new role.

Around this time I also went to the doctors, actually for a throat infection, but through conversations, she suggested I may have depression.

It took a while but I decided to try counselling, and one of the things that came from it was just how much I had been impacted by my redundancy.

I think a big problem was, I had never realised how much validation I got from my career. Perhaps because I’d stayed in the same place for so long, I didn’t consider myself a ‘high-flyer’.

But after reflection, I realised that I’d always been really hard-working, even as a teenager, and had worked my way to the top of my firm pretty quickly. For someone who had never felt successful academically, I really achieved a lot in the work sphere. So to be made to feel that I wasn’t valuable to the company I’d given so much to was a huge blow.

 

Next steps

My current role isn’t my dream job but getting back into the work environment has meant a huge weight has been lifted. I feel able to see things a lot more clearly now and am much more confident in setting ambitious career goals for the future.

For anyone else going through something similar I’d say, don’t be ashamed to admit how hard redundancy can hit your sense of self. But also, get straight back on the horse – I wish I had done sooner.