The hardest thing about being made redundant is the feeling of having absolutely no control over what is happening to you.
It’s not often you find yourself in that situation and when the thing you’ve lost control of is basically the most important thing in your life, your career, it’s really difficult to take in.
The day it happened to me is still so clear in my mind, despite it being almost three years ago. I still feel like I’m reliving the moment my boss called me to the little room in the far corner of the office.
He said to me, “please don’t worry Amy, it will all be okay”.
“You have no idea”, I wanted to scream at him. This was nothing short of a disaster for me.
He wasn’t to know that I was eleven weeks pregnant at the time and terrified about the effect the stress of that day would have on my unborn child.
Such was the shock of that experience; I had nightmares about it for many months afterwards. I still think about it now, as I lay in bed at night, and each time I do my blood runs cold.
Redundancy affects people in so many different ways:
I knew I would eventually become the latter, I just couldn’t work out how I was going to get to that point. Things could have been far worse, I knew others who had mortgages to pay and children to feed, but that didn’t take away from the pain I was feeling. It was all so unfair.
You see, when I finished university nearly 10 years ago, my move into the working world sadly coincided with the country going into a recession. After that, my career path went somewhat ‘off track’.
I took on various jobs, from supervising in a restaurant to looking through people’s bins (with their permission, obviously!), but none of the roles offered any opportunities to develop. That was until I got my first permanent job and the first that paid over £20,000 a year (for a graduate it seemed ludicrous that I had been on no more than £16,000 until I was almost thirty).
The position not only brought with it a chance to use my skills but also the peace of mind that I had a secure job that I could start using to plan long term. Waiting to be in this position was the main reason I had held off so long to start a family and being so settled was the main reason I chose to go ahead with the pregnancy.
When I lost my job I didn’t just lose my income: I lost my plans for the future and all the pride I felt for the hard work I’d done. All that effort seemed to count for nothing and I was terrified to face that uphill struggle for employment all over again.
The world was passing me by.
When I look back on that day now I always picture myself being thrown off a moving train: I’m safe at the side of the tracks, but watching the world continue to pass me by and I don’t really know how to get back on.
For a while that’s exactly how being made redundant felt: life was the blur of a fast moving train. I couldn’t think coherently and, to be honest, I didn’t want to because there was so much to process.
For the first few days I just felt numb. I couldn’t do anything useful, I don’t think I even used social media (if you know me, you’ll know what a big deal that was!).
I couldn’t go back to my own flat which I’d moved into just six months before, it hurt too much. Moving there had been the start of a wonderful new life for me: a settled life where I was finally living in a place I loved, close to a job that was helping me develop.
My head was spinning and I just needed to be somewhere different, somewhere I could cut myself off from everyday life. Luckily for me, I had an incredibly supportive partner who asked me to move in with him straight away.
But, while he was at work it was very lonely and as much as I tried to distract myself with chocolate and box-sets of my favourite TV series, no amount of Ross Poldark could take my mind off what happened.
So many people have said to me, “it’s not personal, you mustn’t think it is something you did wrong”. But I just can’t seem to agree with them, no matter how much I think about it.
I have always been a great believer in hard graft, often complimented on my ability to get my head down and just ‘do what needs to be done’. I was never one to play games or boast about what I had achieved, I just got on with it.
For months I beat myself up about this, I was forced to question everything I had done and, worse, everything I believed in. I hated that I had allowed myself to be walked over, for years I had watched people being tactical with the jobs they chose to do and the people they chose to work with, but I always shied away from that approach.
You spend quite a bit of time feeling resentful of the people that are left behind too, why me and not them? How had my approach to work been the one that was wrong? It made me question huge parts of my own personality.
You see, when I was made redundant, something shifted in me. A part of me will never be the same, the part that trusted people and tried to put the needs of others first.
With a little help from my friends…
There was one good thing to come from all of this: I was humbled by the way my closest friends rallied round to help me through the fallout. My lovely partner Luke is included in that.
My best friends told me to write a list of all the things I would be able to do now I didn’t have to trudge into the office every day. And so I did: top of the list were ‘spend a week with my parents’, ‘find places to go for walks’ and ‘get back to writing’.
I looked around Luke’s flat with Captain Ross smiling toplessly at me from the television screen and literally felt my vision start to become less blurry, my head less fuzzy.
As things stood, I had no idea what was going to happen next but I did know it would all work out okay, it had to. Having my list to focus on didn’t stop the hurt I was feeling, but it helped a little to clear the way to better times.
Without thinking about it, I felt myself reach down to my tummy, placing a protective hand on the bump that hadn’t yet started to show. In the mess of all that was going on, there was only one thing that really mattered.
This blog was first published in January 2017, it was the first piece I wrote and the inspiration for Mum Full of Dreams. I have come such a long way since then, and there is still a long way to go! I hope you will join me on the rest of my journey.
After I was made redundant, the days seemed to pass in a blur. My moods swung from anger to despair, exaggerated I’m sure by the hormones racing round my 11 week pregnant body.
I couldn’t think straight because I didn’t really know what to do next. Should I be snapping into action and looking for a new job straight away? Or, could I be permitted to mope around for a little while?
Having suddenly had all this free time imposed on me, I found myself pulling together endless ‘to-do lists’. There were things that I knew I needed to do, but importantly there were also things that I simply wanted to do.
Some jobs were a priority: moving out of the flat where I had settled just six months before, signing off the paperwork for the redundancy and telling people what had happened.
The first to receive that call: my parents.
I’ve been made redundant, what do I do now?
My partner and I had decided to wait until after Christmas and New Year before revealing the exciting news that my folks would soon be welcoming their first grandchild. But, losing my job had added a horrible complication to that plan, now I had to explain I had also lost my job.
Both pieces of news would be a shock and I was scared they would be worried about me.
I needn’t have been, of course: My Mum was ecstatic, I could tell she was concerned about how I would cope with a little one and no job, but it was obvious she was over the moon! My Dad was more subdued, absorbing the news carefully before offering me sensible advice, as is his way.
One thing they have always said to me is that if ever need them I can always go and stay with them. This was definitely one of those times.
You see, my parents, who have always taught me to strive for my dreams, live in the beautiful county of Cornwall. Leading by example, a few years ago they fulfilled their lifelong dream of moving to a seaside home near the harbour town where they shared their honeymoon.
When I hopped on a train to the south coast it was ‘off-season’ down there, perfect for what I needed: some peace and quiet and time to get my head together. Being a Daddy’s girl, a week spent with him visiting beautiful places like Chapel Porth beach and the Eden Project was ideal.
In my short time away I learned how important it is to have some proper ‘time off’. I began to understand the need to have time away from work, the monotony of house chores and the daily grind of the commute.
This was the first time I hadn’t thought about what was going on in the office for months, probably even years. There was no quickly checking my emails to make sure I wasn’t overwhelmed by them on my return to the desk. There was no obsessing with the social media feeds to see if they had featured any of my latest work.
The only thing I thought about was me, and boy did it felt good!
When was the last time you took a ‘proper’ holiday?
I think we are all guilty of not using our holidays for actually taking time out. We never just use our days off for relaxing and doing nothing. For some reason, we believe showing resilience and working tirelessly on any given task is the way to prove our worth.
But, if you have no time to rest, how can you expect to be at your best?
My week away unexpectedly served to give me a lot of clarity on the job I had just left. Frustratingly, I found I had new ideas about how to make projects in my old job a success, a fresh perspective on the problems we had been having and sensible theories on how I thought those could be resolved.
It was too little too late for me, but hopefully a lesson to others that taking a week away from it all really can make you a better worker. This new found focus wasn’t wasted though, it brought me the opportunity for a fresh start.
In my quest for a stable job that would allow me to pay off my debts and have my own family, I had lost sight of what it was I actually wanted to achieve in my career. I realised this about six months before and, the truth is, I had been looking to change jobs. I wanted to make better use of my skills and do more of the things I enjoy.
Now, I knew that redundancy could get me back on track and started to wonder if this could be the chance to work on the writing career I have always wanted. I honestly think this holiday saved me from the fallout of my redundancy; it gave me the space I needed to be able to cope.
The anger about losing my job lessened. It was still there, but I could reason with it.
The grief for the loss of the life I had planned, turned to hope that I could now begin a new, more exciting one.
With my head clear, I could build a plan of action for what to do next. I formed a list of things I needed to do to stabilise my working life, both before and after my new baby arrived. These were things I had simply not been able to think about at home, while my head was still spinning from what had happened.
And I guess that is the reason I’m writing this post. To say to you – please, take some time out.
If you’ve lost your job, or you no longer enjoy it, or if you’re feeling totally burned out – take a week off work and get out of town. The space you’ll give yourself will work wonders.
This post first appeared in January 2017.
I am writing to you today to apply for the role you advertised on the job site I spend most of my waking day glued to.
Every day I ‘favourite’ the jobs that interest me most, adapt my CV to suit vague job descriptions and try to come up with intriguing cover letters to make myself sound impressive. In doing this, I have become very familiar with the art of applying for jobs, so now I’m tired and, I don’t mind admitting, a little bit bored of writing applications.
I don’t have a job at the moment, I lost it unexpectedly, but I do spend many hours working hard at trying to find one. I wake at the same time as when I had to commute to the office, I get myself some breakfast and ready the laptop for a day of selling the best of myself when, frankly, I feel the worst of myself.
And do you know what the hardest thing about all this is?
Despite the fact I’ve put my heart and soul into these applications, it’s very rare I ever hear back from the person I sent them to.
It’s soul destroying and quite unhelpful to spend so much time hoping you have got the information just right, to then receive no response from the vast majority of recruiters.
I estimate around one in five take the time to reply to my emails or pick up the phone.
Does my CV really look that terrible?
Have I not explained well enough that I’m fully qualified for the role?
Did the HR assistant accidentally drop the print out she had of my message?
Or worse, did you look at my education and think ‘she’s too qualified for this role’?
Because, while I really appreciate the compliment, please don’t presume to make that decision for me. I’m applying for this job because I want it.
I hope the CV below is of interest to you. But if it isn’t, please, please, could you take five minutes to drop me a line and let me know where I went wrong?
I know you will be looking through a lot of letters today, but I really would value your feedback.
I’d like to thank you in advance for taking the time to read this, I hope you find the honesty a refreshing change.
AMY DOWNES: CURRICULUM VITAE
Address: A lovely little home in the town of Pudsey, just a short train ride from Leeds and a five minute drive from two major motorways.
Please note: This choice of location was not a happy accident, I made the decision to live here to make working anywhere in Yorkshire easy.
Easy to pass over, but you’d be foolish to think I’m being purposefully vague. These words describe the greatest of my talents.
From writing for a magazine, to connecting on social media. From delivering presentations to doing a piece to camera for a Vlog. These are my favourite things to do and I’m good at them too.
A skill I worked hard to earn in my last job. I ran several activities concurrently, whether it was my job to or not.
Recently updated during my role as a stay-at-home Mum: Now able to multi-task urgent requests while balancing a baby on my hip or toddler hanging off my ankles.
An important skill, yet so many get it wrong. I’m proud of this, because it’s the one others will tell you they like best about me. Being good in a team means my hard work is taken for granted by some, but I don’t let that affect how I work with others.
Charity campaigns - Lots of hard work, very little recognition. Found opportunities to use aforementioned key skills by working late and going to meetings others didn’t want to.
Legal admin - Busy and under pressure. Mind numbing repetitive tasks that had to be done right as others were reliant on me. A good stepping stone to the charity role.
Restaurant supervisor - A step away from my career to support a family business. Right decision at the time, completely wrong one with hindsight. Swore never to wait another table again.
Promoting recycling - Literally spent every day looking through rubbish bins explaining to people what they could recycle. Won’t provide details of the things that I saw, it may put you off your next meal.
Freelance journalist in my home town - My best job so far. Included press conferences at my favourite football team. Heartbroken when recession caused major reduction in freelance shifts.
Hobbies and interests:
I love the weekends. They mean my partner is home and can share the childcare, they mean having wine without feeling guilty and, once a month, they mean abandoning everyday life to spend an afternoon shouting at eleven men supposedly trying to win a game of football.
I have a two-year-old son who I completely adore and our new little family is my life now.
In fact… they’re the reason I’m applying for this job. They’re the reason you can be sure I’ll work my arse off for you and be a success.
References available on request:
I’m tempted to set up a hashtag on Twitter and let my followers tell you all you need to know about me. But I promise to use more traditional contacts if that is preferred.
In fact, that might be safer.
This blog was first published in February 2017 and, in the spirit of honesty, it's one of my favourite things I've written. Hence deciding to re-post it! If you like it too, please do share it on social media :-)
Could flexible working help you get a better work/life balance? As it’s National Work and Family Life month, there's no better time to ask why more of us aren’t able to introduce this into our working lives.
A recent survey showed that since the government introduced laws that give everyone the right to ask for flexible working, there’s been little change in the number of people actually doing so: ‘In 2010, 44.1% of all employees worked flexibly, and by 2015 the figure was 44.3%’.
"Many employers may remain sceptical about the benefits of flexible working… Barriers such as negative line manager attitudes and a cultural presumption against flexible working may dissuade employees from submitting an application”, says Joanna Wilson pulled the results together.
Between June and August, I applied for more than 50 jobs… all but a handful have been rejected, or worse, ignored altogether.
As a Mum of one, to Harry who’s two, this is what I've committed to so I can have the right work/life balance for me and my family. I want to be able to spend time with my son and flexible working helps me do that.
Between June and August, I applied for more than 50 jobs - mainly through sites like Indeed and almost always via recruitment agencies. Each time, I told them about my goal of flexible working or part time hours… All but a handful have been rejected, or worse, ignored altogether.
The agency will give me a call and ask about my work situation, I’ll explain what I’m doing and run through my employment history. Then they’ll ask for salary expectations and if I drive… and eventually the fact that it is full time.
I’ve taken to raising it at the very beginning of the phone call, meaning them can say ‘sorry, I don’t have any roles with flexible working hours at the moment’ much earlier on – and saving us both a lot of time.
The worry is that employers see this as me not wanting to commit to them, that somehow this means I’m lazy because I don’t want to ‘work’ 40 hours a week, or even just that they don’t think it’ll work for their business.
A recent YouGov survey showed employers are ‘concerned about the security and management implications… despite the fact that staff now have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements’.
When are companies going to catch up with the rest of us and start opening up to flexible working hours that don’t match the Monday – Friday, 9 – 5 norm?
Why are parents still having to choose between their career and their home life? Being at their desk, or their child’s play? Answering some emails, or being able to pick their little one up from school? Having a full-time job, or getting one extra day a week to spend with their family?
Why does every task on a person’s to-do list need to be done in the office at certain times of the day? Why is there a lack of trust that they can do this at home, in the evening, once they’ve had an hour or two chatting with their kids around the dinner table?
Because I am a Social Media Manager, I can be working at any time of the day (or night), so for me the flexible working hours are a perfect fit. For almost a year and a half, I've been able to do my work around my family, whilst (mostly) still hitting my deadlines.
On the four days a week that Harry’s at nursery, I get as much done as I can, but come pick-up time (which I can be whatever time I like, depending on what work I have on) I can focus entirely on him and have some much needed, much loved Harry and Mummy time.
If I feel a slump in the afternoon, which I always seem to do, I can take a break and recharge. I watch some Netflix or even have a nap – then later that evening, when he’s down in bed, I settle onto my sofa and do another of hour or two while I’m feeling more motivated again.
Freelancing means I’m able to work at the times I know I’m more productive, and the only person who needs to give me permission for that – is me!
Interestingly, it seems more people are coming around to this way of thinking: according to a HSBC survey, 89% of employees in the UK believe flexible working is key to improving productivity. They even have stats that prove this to be the case!
In my opinion, everyone should have the chance to make the most of that.
In my old job, I tried to change my working hours from 9 – 5 to 10 – 6. Only a small adjustment, but it’d mean I avoided the cramped morning trains and could work later when the office was quieter.
The request was immediately turned down, that wasn’t how things were done in the team and it wouldn’t be viewed very well by others. I often had the same reaction when I asked to work-from-home, there just was a fear that this would affect productivity.
It is my firm belief that every single one of us should have access to flexible working conditions. Doing has changed my life considerably, but I don’t think people should have to opt for a risky freelance lifestyle just top achieve that - Companies should offer it for permanent, full time roles too.
And that is why I’ve relaunched my blog today, on National Flex Day. I’m looking forward to sharing the things I’ve learnt about this completely different way of working – and I hope that some people reading it might be inspired to try it, or even offer it more to the people who work for them.
If you’ve enjoyed this read and want to join my mission to get everyone, parents or otherwise, the perfect work/life balance they deserve, please come and join me on Twitter or Facebook.