The 40-something redundancy scrap-heap challenge


A look at how redundancy affects professionals over 40 and how the job market is changing.


By Ros Satar

“So, tell me.  Why did you leave your last job?”

They came from recruiters, from people interviewing me for a new job, and I had to take a deep breath, and try to put a positive spin on taking voluntary redundancy.

Since 1992, I have put down my roots, settling in Richmond.

Houses get bought, mortgages get paid, you live to your means, and suddenly it all changes.

Dauntingly, the job searching process has changed remarkably over those years.

Dr Deborah Kerslake is a professional coach, based in Kingston upon Thames, and has worked with some of the largest global corporations, who have made their base in South West London.

Companies like BP and GlaxoSmithKline engage her to help advise senior staff who are at risk of redundancy.

 “When you are so defined by your job and you lose it, you have to rethink who you are.”

Her approach can be pivotal in helping someone deal with the coming upheaval.

“It’s about overcoming the fear that you are not good enough, and coaching really helps with that.”

“A lot of it is about what they want to do next. A lot of them will choose a change of course,” she says.

“Attitude is absolutely key.”

Cynically, I wondered whether some of the large corporations are using coaching as a measure to encourage staff to leave.

People may identify the reason for their issues, resolve them and return to work, or they might decide it is time to move on.

She said: “I ask them if they are happy with those and they almost always say yes, because it is a hell of a lot cheaper than going through the HR route.”

Joanne Monks was recently made redundant and agrees it is important to take stock.

Ms Monks said: “You’ve lost structure but you’ve not taken the time to think: what do I WANT to do, what COULD I do.

“It is important to recognise that even if you make the conscious decision to leave your job, there will be a period where you will be uncertain of everything.”

She added: “It takes a lot of effort to stay positive and to stay focussed.

“We’re half way through our working careers and it puts a different perspective on things.

“You know what you’ve tried and what you like, and what you don’t like.”

Chris Churchman is an outplacement consultant with 20 years of experience in both the corporate and private sectors.

The first task is to question and understand the psyche of the individual, and how they go about being as effective or as energetic as they need to be.

Mr Churchman said: “It can be a very raw experience, so to win them over can be a challenge.

“Sometimes people are cluttered and need to clear out their system, for example things at home which need to be sorted, financial issues which need to be taken care of.”

In my case, I almost felt obliged to take the first full-time offer than came along while progressing with my plans to retrain.

“There are very compelling reasons why people will go down that route,” said Mr Churchman.

“It is a common approach to think: I’m taking it, it’s there.”

Some companies grade employees’ access to coaching and outplacement by levels of seniority.

However one London recruiter is trying to ‘give-back’ to the industry by providing practical job-seeking advice.

Sarah Cooper has over 14 years of experience, and wants to help people understand how they can approach the market more positively, again focussing on attitude.

Ms Cooper said: “The problem is we’ve stopped recruiting for potential in the last four or five years.

“Candidates have nothing to lose, hirers have everything to lose.

“If they get it wrong, the cost and implication for that department is huge.”

The sheer volume of applications cripples the recruitment process, hence the practice of recruiting by rejection.

She says: “We find the few, rather than attracting the many.”

However candidates still tend to carry a lot of history when meeting recruiters.

Ms Cooper added: “When you have just been made redundant, you need to talk to friends and get that out of your system.

“When you come to a recruiter, you need to present that as a fait accompli.”

There is a common theme of attitude.

Dr Kerslake concludes: “That is the trend you see – people who are achievers, once you get over the hurdle of the disbelief and the hurt, they will achieve again.”

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