How to deal with trauma of becoming unemployed
As more and more companies in SA’s declining economy battle with decreased profits and increased job losses, experts say seeking the right channels of support can help employees through the uncertainty that comes with a career transition.
Career Management Consulting managing director Elise Ronquest, a specialist in outplacement, job readiness coaching and training, said many people might experience high levels of stress and anxiety due to uncertainty over their future.
“It is, however, very important to stay positive and keep motivated.
“You can achieve this by taking control of your career.
“Take proactive steps and set daily targets – your job is now about getting a job,” Ronquest said.
“Employees facing such a situation often don’t seek the necessary emotional help to support them through such a process, which can be very difficult – in many cases, they are responsible for large families.
“The process can be daunting and overwhelming, and this is where you may need the help of a career coach.
“It is important to get yourself back into the market as soon as possible, depending on your financial circumstances.”
Ronquest said she often encountered employees wanting to start their own business following retrenchment, but they did not necessarily know where to start.
“It is worth seeking and investing in time with a business coach for some advice.
“Seek guidance regarding your financial status, particularly if receiving severance pay and where you have a provident or pension fund,” she said.
NMU industrial and organisational psychology department head professor Roelf van Niekerk said all employees should take steps to ensure that they were relatively indispensable long before any notice of retrenchment was received.
Van Niekerk said while employees still had a job, they should set up an emergency fund to help absorb the impact of possible unemployment.
“When responsible companies retrench people, they make certain services available to those who have been notified.
“These often concern training opportunities. Employees should seek to take up any or all of the training opportunities made available.
“People who are in specialist roles can find themselves in deeper water once they have been notified of retrenchment.
“It’s important to keep a wide range of competencies alive,” Van Niekerk said.
“Be willing to take a lower paying job – you might not necessarily be able to have a job that is exactly at the level you have held in the past.
“You might even have to start from scratch in an unrelated field.”
He said many employees tended to look back rather than forward and often tended to dwell on the unfairness of the process.
“People are sometimes angry over how much they might have sacrificed for the company.
“All of this may be realistic, but it doesn’t help you in the situation you are in now.
“In South Africa there is reason to be concerned if losing your job, because the labour market is extremely tight at the moment.
“It can be difficult, but try to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Joubert Galpin Searle Port Elizabeth director Rowan Willcock, who consults with employers, said employees who felt that their employer was not following fair procedure were permitted to apply to the labour court to interdict the process, to compel their employer to follow the correct procedure.
“It is also correct that in the event of a major retrenchment [10% of the workforce as a rule of thumb], post retrenchment employees can either refer their alleged unfair dismissal to the labour court or embark on strike action.
“The one choice excludes the other.”
Start preparing for career transition
With more than two decades of experience in the industry, Career Management Consulting managing director Elise Ronquest said her primary focus was to offer employees the necessary tools to help them align with market expectations.
Ronquest said it was critical for employees to be aware of what to expect when facing retrenchment and how to prepare for a career transition.
Here are her tips:● Embrace this change. While naturally you may want to resist, remember you cannot control what has been decided – but you can influence your future.● Assess your professional brand.Are you going to stand out from the pack?How can you differentiate yourself – your skills, ability, experience and key competencies.In other words, why you? According to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.“They are the words that are invoked when people think of you – your skills, values and talents.“Your brand is what people can expect from you.”● Update your CV. This is the foundation for your job search.Statistics show that a recruiter only spends a few seconds looking at a CV (or resume).You have one chance to capture their attention.● Don’t use a generic CV. You need to customise your CV for every job you apply for.Ensure your CV is relevant to the job you are applying for and differentiates your skills, ability and competency.● Review and update your LinkedIn profile – use LinkedIn as your digital CV to optimise your brand.Make sure your profile is differentiating you.● Create a “Job Campaign Plan”, as I like to call it – this is your job search plan.Identify companies you want to work for and draw up a wish list, to create a proactive strategy.● Start connecting to build or improve your network.And don’t under estimate how powerful your network may be.● Use the opportunity to further your skills – if your finances permit this.Alternatively, volunteer your services in areas where you might be able to learn a new skill.● Become noticed and stay informed. Read, share insights and knowledge.Subscribe to industry blogs and contribute. Increase your activity, particularly on LinkedIn.● Find a mentor who can support and guide you, someone you can trust.● Align yourself with positive people who can inspire you, who appreciate you – people who will make you feel good and confident about your abilities and skills.● And lastly, be honest to those around you about your retrenchment – do not try to hide it from them.