Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

How to survive losing your job

In the financial meltdown, the threat of redundancy is worrying. Jane Hardy hears how one man coped, plus gets some expert tips

‘You need to start looking for a new job immediately’

Sean Proctor (39) works as a Jobs and Benefit Officer at the Foyle Jobs and Benefits Office. He is married with two children, Leon (10) and Conor (7), and lives in Claudy. |He says:

I was a processor at Seagate Limavady, and last October we were issued with a closure notice. I’d been there for 10 and a half years — of course it was like every job, you had good days and bad days. It was a manual job and repetitive, but I liked my colleagues and had made some very good friends there over the years.

Management just put up a tent outside the factory one day. Rumours were flying round, and we sort of knew what was happening. All four shifts crowded in, 900 workers or so, and the atmosphere was a bit hostile. They were trying to tell us facts and figures, but we just wanted to know what it meant for us, and they had no clear answers. That got people’s backs up.

The redundancy itself was worked out later through the employee forum. Seagate didn’t recognise unions. In fact, although some people wanted more, I was quite pleased with my package, getting six weeks’ pay for every year I had worked. I was happy enough, and haven’t yet done anything with it, apart from paying off credit cards, and making one or two home improvements.

I didn’t get that kicked in the stomach feeling because I had already been looking around. I wanted to get out as I had two young children I wanted to see at the weekend and at Seagate I worked every other weekend. I was thinking of leaving, but realised that if I held on, I could get my redundancy money. So I’m not a classic example of an upset employee.

But it did upset people that, basically, Seagate were looking for cheaper labour on foreign shores. It wasn’t a great sign when they had two companies here, one in Limavady and one in Derry. One minute we were supposedly making great profits, the next we were closing.

At the time Seagate mentioned closing, I and a couple of mates heard on the radio at work that the civil service had vacancies. You had to do an aptitude test and I thought it would be good to get into the routine of tests and interviews. I passed my test, which surprised me, and my friends didn’t. It was a mixture of maths, an intelligence test and tables from which you had to work out stuff. I thought after 10 years in one job my brain would be too slow.

Before the interview, I did my homework and my wife helped by downloading stuff relevant to the job. I was very nervous, though. But the lady and gentleman holding the interview were very nice and put me at my ease. When I got the job, I was over the moon. Even better, although everybody said I’d be going to the Belfast office, I ended up a 25 minute drive from home.

Now in my fifth week, it’s going grand. People here are very nice. What I do is meet a client, somebody who’s on the dole, then help them look for jobs. I’m what’s called a signer, and I am now signing boys I worked with at Seagate which is sort of strange. I was just dealing with one client, asking him what sort of work he was interested in. The trouble is that factory work in this part of the North has dried up. There are only one or two places looking for employees, and they’re only taking small numbers. So I try to point them in another direction, and if they’re willing to retrain, there is help available.

What advice would I give to somebody facing redundancy? Try to remain hopeful, in spite of the credit crunch, and to believe there is something out there for you. I think it’s wrong when companies don’t answer all applicants, even with a form letter. It’s important not to give up, to apply and apply again.”

‘Keep smiling and try to stay motivated’

Sara McKinty (40), is MD of Sellick Partnership Northern Ireland, is married to Keith and mother of Jennifer (12). She lives in Bangor. She says:

We’re a specialist financial recruitment agency, dealing with everybody from qualified accountants to trainees. In general, the job market has changed, with some people scared to change jobs and fewer opportunities about, but it’s not all negative. Some businesses, such as environmental businesses and technology businesses, are growing and some of the initiatives of InvestNI, encouraging smaller businesses to go out and export, are impressive.

But undoubtedly we are all having to work harder, and smarter. It’s head down, feet on the ground time. Thankfully I’ve never been made redundant but I have worked in a sector where there have been serious redundancies — it goes in cycles. One minute there are millions of jobs and no candidates, the next minute no jobs and all these good people around.

If you’re made redundant, you have to look at what is available and establish what you’re going to be good at. In terms of your CV, everybody knows you’re supposed to list transferable skills. It’s easy to just jump for the same kind of job you had before, but change might be good. You maybe have particular weaknesses that need work on or have been in a managerial role, and be more suited to project-based work.

Look at your key strengths and what you enjoy. One of the big mistakes in cvs, especially with more mature candidates, is to go into a lot of details that employers aren’t interested in. We saw one CV with three paragraphs about how good this guy’s golf was, and I’m not sure in the current climate that’s relevant. Don’t write more than two pages and be very specific.

There is going to be an opportunity out there for you, once you get the interview. So read the papers, go online and use all your contacts. Networking is vital as you never know when you’re going to get vital information that will lead you to your next job.

Retraining can be useful at any age. People assume it’s always older people that are made redundant, but that’s not the case. A lot of employers actually take on older people because they want — and need — to work and have more commitment.

When you examine your redundancy package, check the details of your entitlements with the Labour Relations Agency. Their website, www.lra.org.uk is excellent.

Finally, remember to smile at interviews, don’t wear too much jewellery, practise what you’re going to say, listen to the questions asked and make sure you don’t have a wet lettuce handshake. It’s also worth reading some motivational books to build your confidence. Eat well, too, and look after yourself.

And if you’re not getting the jobs, re-evaluate to see if you’re doing something wrong or need to change direction.”

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