September 25, 2019
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
I Was Made Redundant Four Times In A Row. This Is What Each One Taught Me
Lots of people hear the word redundancy and think it’s the end – yet the way I see it, it’s an opportunity to grow and learn. That’s because between 2008 and 2016, I was made redundant four times in a row. I truly believe that it always leads to something better… as long as you let it. Here’s what I’ve learned from each redundancy.It’s not your faultI was working as a primary school teaching assistant when I was first made redundant. The headmaster pulled me aside a few times in the first couple of months to tell me I was doing a great job, the kids loved me and colleagues had nothing but good things to say. “Keep doing what you’re doing”.
So it came as a bit of a shock when I was suddenly asked to “prove my impact” in the classroom – I knew my colleagues weren’t being asked to do the same, and it became obvious that I was being singled out.
Eventually, I was told the school were losing funding for the role. That sometimes happens when things are government funded, and I knew that, so although I was sad about leaving the job, I felt worse about how I’d been treated. I was confused and disappointed, but mostly felt betrayed. I had given everything I could to the role and those I looked up to and trusted, belittled me and my efforts. The head apologised for all the “messing about” as he put it, but it just didn’t make sense to me.
And that’s when I realised it was never really about me – if I was doing a terrible job, surely I would have been straight up fired? Or at least given some feedback that things weren’t going well? What I learned is that it’s nearly always about the bottom line (sometimes with a sprinkle of internal politics thrown in). When you get made redundant, the official reason they give you will undoubtedly be a weird, company version of “It’s not you, it’s me”.
Believe them.I realised it was never really about me – if I was doing a terrible job, surely I would have been straight up fired?Don’t take it personallyI later found myself working for a government-funded educational programme, around the time the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government was elected into power. George Osborne’s austerity policies shortly followed and, you guessed it, our funding was cut.
I started to get a lot of well-meaning advice on not taking it personally. It made me want to scream. Someone, who had never met me, had decided that two years of my life, all my hard work in this job and the money the programme had added to the economy, wasn’t worth it. It definitely felt personal. But that’s the key word here: “felt”. Just because you feel something, doesn’t make it true.
Tying your self worth to your job is dangerous and when you become unemployed, for whatever reason, it can cause a crisis of identity. Success is not about how much you get paid or how fashionable your job title is. It’s about how happy you are with your life and yourself – and no one ever asks you that. In the simplest terms, you are not your job.  You are so much more than that.Don’t let fear make your next decisionThen came my third redundancy, this time from an in-house marketing team. Again, this one wasn’t wholly unexpected. A new CEO wanted to work with an outside agency and however good our work was, there was nothing we could do.
This time round, I wasn’t angry or hurt. I did, however, panic. Here we go again, I thought, and I jumped into the first job that was offered, taking a dramatic pay cut. My decision was based on fear. Energy bills, council tax, mortgage, food, water, upcoming birthdays, Christmas, holidays – everything we needed to pay for in the coming months kept circling my mind. I was anxious and I didn’t want the uncertainty of God knows how many months of struggling to make ends meet. I hadn’t thought through whether this new opportunity had anything in common with my experience, my career level, or my aspirations. It was pure, blind terror at the prospect of having no income again.You cannot control other people – only your responses to themMy fourth redundancy was from a retail business where I worked on their website. Around six months before I was made redundant, a colleague implied my team would be made redundant within the year. Alarmed, we spoke to our manager.
“Don’t listen to her,” he said. “I’ll tell you if there’s anything to be worried about”.
Six months later, lo and behold, I was made redundant for the fourth time in a row. Disappointingly, a graduate I can only assume was being groomed for a management position was invited into the room for my redundancy conversation without my consent. It was humiliating and, to me, showed a complete lack of professionalism and respect in what was a difficult conversation.
At this point in my career I had learned to pick my battles though, and this one wasn’t worth fighting. Looking back truthfully, I hadn’t been happy in that job and would say it was a huge relief to be let go. I was there for over three years, and in that time had lost my dad and got married. Losing my dad made me reevaluate everything. Work seemed trivial and the job completely ill-fitted to me. I felt like I was letting him down because I knew what he would have been saying if he was still alive. He’d be telling me to leave, but I was scared. I think I was a little seasick from all the ups and downs I’d experienced and wasn’t keen on jumping back into uncertain waters. This time, redundancy gave me the push I needed to move on.Looking back truthfully, I hadn’t been happy in that job and would say it was a huge relief to be let goBe cautious with your money, be conscious of your timeDuring each period of unemployment my finances were tight, but I learned to be frugal and track all of my outgoings, so that I could shave them down wherever possible – even just meeting a friend in town for coffee became a luxury I couldn’t afford.
Redundancy bled into every area of our lives. It made me massively appreciate the time I did have with my loved ones though. It could have pushed my boyfriend (now husband!) and I apart, but we chose to make the most of our time together. We went for long walks, or we cooked budget meals and watched old DVDs, and we actually got to know each other much better. It taught me to be cautious with my money and conscious of my time. You can budget for financial difficulties, but you can never get your time back. Take time to look after yourselfNot having a purpose each day can quickly turn things sour. It’s no wonder that many people become depressed and anxious when unemployed. I took up running.
It was free and it kept me both mentally and physically fit. I also used it to raise money for the British Heart Foundation in memory of my dad, so it gave me something positive to focus on and a reason to keep it up.  Almost four years later, and I still run at least two or three times a week. I really credit it with helping my mental health.Follow your passionsWith oodles of spare time, I followed my passion: writing. I joined a group and set up a website to encourage other writers to share their poetry online.
In fact, that website was cited by my next employer as one of the reasons they hired me. They wanted someone genuinely passionate about writing and this showed that it was more than just a day job for me.
My varied experience also helped, as I knew how to deal with different clients and manage projects of all sizes. I’ve now been in my current job for over three years, even receiving a promotion last year.
Each redundancy and following role gave me the skills and experience I needed to move onto something bigger and better. I learned to be adaptable and resilient, and those two skills are vital for a happier outlook.
Redundancy is challenging to every part of your life, and it affects your loved ones as well as yourself, but it’s only one detail in a much larger story – a complicated and rich composition of your experiences which, in turn, builds your character. 
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. If you’re made redundant, it spells the end of your employment but it’s just the beginning of a new chapter in your book.
Don’t be afraid to turn the page.
Danielle Pegg Mowbray is a writer, poet and content marketer. Follow her on Twitter at @scrambledpegg
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal After Burnout I Was Unemployed For Six Months. It Was The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me. I Put My Mental Health Before My Career, But I Still Feel Like A Failure My Best Friend Was Too Young To Die. This Is How We're Honouring Her Memory.
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