Since March, unemployment in the UK has been rising. Nearly a quarter of British employees (6.3 million) have been furloughed with reduced salaries and no certainty of when — or if — they will be able to return to work. And some predictions suggest that 13 million jobs could be at risk from the end of May.
Losing your job is always difficult — even if you have savings, losing the security of a salary can be a huge cause of stress and anxiety, and figuring out the next steps in your career certainly isn’t simple.
That’s why I reached out to talk to a careers coach on what to do if you’ve lost your job or are feeling uncertain about your career during this time.
Sarah Williams-Gardner has a wealth of experience as a business leader and coach. She started out at IBM before moving into the fintech space and supporting purpose-led initiatives like Fair 4 All and Surviving Economic Abuse. She now coaches entrepreneurs and CEOs across the business landscape.
Whether it’s managing your career, money, or relationships — everyone needs help from time to time, says Sarah. “Coaching is about prompting people to ask themselves about what they want to achieve in the short and long-term. They are there to make your goals real to you, even when times are hard.”
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Feel what you need to feel
When you’ve just lost your job, you’re likely to be feeling a myriad of emotions.
Our careers can often give us a sense of purpose and direction — either because of the job itself, or because the money you earn allows you to work towards a goal. With that gone, it’s normal to feel a huge range of emotions: sadness, anger, even relief. There may be days where you are in shock or feel stuck in a whirligig of anxiety. Other days, you may feel full of energy and direction.
Let yourself feel what you need to feel, says Sarah. “The very first part of any coaching session is to work through your emotions and figure out what’s really worrying you and why. Losing your job feels different for everyone. There is no one size fits all, even less so under current circumstances. Remember, you are not alone and there is no right or wrong way to feel.”
Social isolation is challenging but living outside of the usual patterns of daily life also opens up an opportunity to do some important reflecting.
Sarah’s first recommendation is to take the time to think about what you enjoyed in your last job — what went well, what you would do differently, what you might like to change, what kind of job you want next. Were there any projects you loved or colleagues you admired? Write it all down.
Next, take stock of yourself. Look at everything you are worried about. Think about all the things you feel are on your to-do list. Make a mindmap if it helps. The trick is to get everything onto a page so you can think about how to prioritise the information.
Lastly, think about your current situation. Ask yourself what things you must do, what things would be good to do, and what things are nice to haves. Think about what is time-sensitive — the life admin, work admin, financial admin; things like sorting out your home office, filing for Universal Credit, or updating your LinkedIn.
“The important thing is to look at what’s within your control,” Sarah explains. “A lot of anxiety is rooted in a sense of lack of control — and you’ll be surprised how different you feel after writing things down. Prioritising the information in your head is always easier with a list. This way you can externalise your thoughts and set realistic goals for yourself.”
Work out what you want to achieve
Sarah describes setting deliverables and measurable milestones as integral to moving forwards with your career. It’s important to reflect post-redundancy, but you also need to decide what you want to accomplish next.
“You have to set achievable goals. That’s important,” says Sarah. You need to break things down and make things manageable. Set tasks to send out a certain number of applications, update your CV, or sort out the technology to do digital interviews.
If you can, give yourself time to ensure that you’re in the best position to find that next role. Talk to your friends or family, or people from your network for perspective. If you’re chasing every opportunity, chances are you’ll land the wrong one.
No matter what sector you work in, your network is one of the most powerful assets in your career. Whilst there may be certain intricacies to navigate if it’s not common knowledge that you’re job-hunting, don’t neglect it whilst you’re not working.
Linkedin is a good place to start — look at what your community is talking about and engage in the conversation. Open yourself up to new contacts and questions. Check out other people’s profiles and assess how they describe themselves and whether there’s anything you can adopt or use to update your own bio.
Finally, give thought to which contacts you feel you can trust and talk to them. Consider who might be able to give you advice and reach out. It might feel difficult or too personal but seeking support is one of the most vulnerable and powerful things we can do. It’s also something that can help build better, stronger relationships.
As Sarah says, “Be selective. Be open. Be smart.”
All of this applies to your finances
Listening to Sarah, it’s very clear that the principles involved in taking stock and setting achievable goals in your career are linked to your finances.
This is something Deirdre Rooney, ikigai’s very own financial expert and portfolio manager, was also keen to reiterate, saying that when it comes to our money we have to think in terms of priorities. After all, this is what will define what we can afford and therefore how we progress in our job hunt.
She laid out seven steps that can help put your finances in order and prepare you for the future.
1. Review your finances. The first thing to do is to make sure you know your financial situation. This is not the time to bury your head like an ostrich. You need to know what you’re spending, how much you have in savings, how long your money will last.
“It’s scarier to not know,” says Deirdre. “And you really can’t make good decisions for yourself and your money unless you know your financial standing first.”
2. Know what you have incoming and for how long. You may have a redundancy package or be part of a furlough scheme. Make sure you know how long this will last and whether it’s enough to see you through a week, a month, a year etc. If you have money in shares or investments, this could also be the time to review when things like dividends may be paid out (if at all) or when you might be able to sell in order to access your cash.
3. Understand your priorities. Ask yourself what you absolutely need to pay now, what you may be able to hold off (with a payment holiday) if necessary, and what you can cut back on for the time being.
According to Deirdre, lockdown leaves plenty of time to reflect on your spending. “Lockdown could show you cutbacks on your spending that you want to maintain. Equally, don’t assume that boring things, like your pension, are the easiest to cut back because in the long term you should see real benefits there. Instead, you want to think about your long-term goals and values and how your financial decisions can best take you there.”
Need help? Check out our blog on mindful spending.
4. Look at your savings. Have you set up a “rainy day fund”? Do you have savings that will help you well into the future or do you need to urgently find a new income? Once you know how much you have in savings, you can start to calculate how long you can maintain yourself and your lifestyle.
5. Don’t forget your debt. Not all debt is created equally, and personal debt tends to still be very expensive. Pay attention to your cards with higher interest rates and consider your overdraft expenses too. You may be able to take a payment holiday, but Deirdre was keen to emphasise that we don’t yet know the full terms and conditions for how these holidays may work in the future. Practice caution and review whether you can pay off more expensive debt first or transfer it to a card with better rates.
6. Make a budget. “If you can’t afford your outgoings, you need to reduce your outgoings,” says Deirdre. “Simple as that. Times like this necessitate prudence, so take stock and decide how you’re going to cut back.”
7. There are opportunities.And we’re not just talking deals here. If you have the flexibility to not take immediate action on your money, lockdown may be a good moment to consider investment opportunities and savings accounts.
“Think about ways that your money can make money,” says Deirdre. “The impact of lockdown will linger far longer than the restrictions. People need to shore themselves against the next few months and if you can, you can start to bolster your financial positions by saving. It is essential that we all have a rainy-day fund for the future and are prudent with our money.”
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