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Navigating Redundancy

For most people, “we’re letting you go” are the words you never want to hear. Being made redundant, or laid off, can be shocking and devastating. Suze Shardlow has faced redundancy three times in her career. It became easier each time because she learnt something new about the process, and knowledge is power. In this talk, she will outline the things you need to know and do before, during and after your job is taken away from you so you can protect your emotional and financial well-being.

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Transcript

So, for most people, we are letting you go are the words you never want to hear. Being made redundant, or laid off, can be shocking, and devastating. Here are some of the things that scare people about redundancy. Some of them are the ones that scared me, and others I got from asking around a couple of weeks ago in preparation for this talk. Feel free to add any more in the chat if you want to share, so..

"Will I find a new job?" Is a big one. What are people going to think of me. What is the next place going to be like? Whether or not your current place is good or bad, it's always a bit of a worry being the new person. If you're in the country on a work permit or a visa, will I have to leave the country is a bit of a worry, if your visa is tied to your job. For those of you who are not in a country where you get state healthcare, what am I going to do if I lose my healthcare tied to high job?

How will potential employers view the situation? I'm just generally worried about the job seven because that's painful at the best of times. The job market you may think doesn't look too good. Somebody did say what am I going to think of myself? Not only what are other people going to think of you, but what are you going to think of yourself? How are you going to feel about yourself if this happens to you? Here are some of the feelings that you're likely to feel.

Again, these are all the feels that I have had over the years, and some of the things that people have said to me that they felt as well. So, you feel rejected, it is quite hard not to take it personally. You might feel victimised, or singled out. You know, I actually did feel happy at one point, and maybe a bit relieved. You might feel confused as to how this has happened to you, or why it has happened to you. You might feel wronged, and you might feel resentful. All these are perfectly valid. You should allow yourself to feel the feels, and just recognise how healthy it is to continue feeling some of them, and maybe to stop feeling others, and again feel free to share in the chat, any other feels that you felt in this situation.

So my name is Suze Shardlow, and I've faced redundancy three times in my career. It became easier each time because I learned something new about the process, and knowledge is power. You can find me online. I would love to know what resonates with you. Kevin and I had the conversation, best part of a year ago, about doing this talk, at which point the job market looked really healthy. There were redundancies, and not as many as now, and unfortunately now, people really need to hear this advice. So a little bit about me. I'm a software engineer, coding instructor, event MC, and technical writer and head of developer community at Redis. Those of you who have seen my talks before, this is a picture of me on my 13th birthday using the computer that I learned to code on.

Like I said, I'm giving this talk because there's been a lot of redundancies in the tech industry over the past few years, and there seems to be another surge of them at the moment. Some will have have been made redundant before, and some fearing facing the situation. I will outline the things that you need to know and do before, during, and after your job is taken away from you to help you protect your emotional and financial wellbeing.

The first thing I want to say is that I always try to say it is your job that is being made redundant, not you that is being made redundant, because that's true. They can't make you redundant, it's not you. It's your job. I know that is hard to believe, whenever anyone says it's not you, it's me, you don't believe them. It's not you, it's the job.

Although redundancy is a form of dismissal, it has harshly pointed out to me I was being dismissed by reason of redundancy, you haven't done anything wrong, and it's nothing to do with your ability to do your job. The reason you're leaving is nothing to do with your ability to do your job, it's for business reasons. It doesn't make it feel any better, but I think it's important to make that distinction. So let's start with the things that you can do now.

Preparation is key. And this is all about trying to keep your knowledge current in various ways so that if your job does get made redundant you'll be in a better place mentally as well as from a practical point of view. The first thing you're going to do is make sure you soak up all the information you can where you work. You might think you already know a lot. But you probably don't know everything you need to know.

So, if you have all hand, or town hall meetings, so if there is a meeting that the company holds with the C-suite, it invites everybody in the company, make sure that you go to those meetings. Listen carefully and ask questions if you need to. Some companies need to ask you anonymously. If you want to do that, do that. Ask your managers anonymously, if you have got questions, make sure you ask them. Make sure you're holding these people to account.

At the end of the day, they are paying your rent or your mortgage, so make sure you ask what you want to know. Now, I've started with this tip, because if you have to attend these meetings anyway, then you don't have to use your spare time and some of the other tips I'm going to talk to you about, you will have to do some work in your spare time, but these meetings are held within your working day, so you won't have have to allocate your working time for that. Sometimes, they make a recording so you can watch it whenever it suits you. You just need to get used to listening out for a few things if you attend these meetings. And sometimes they are a bit dry, but it's got to be done.

The first thing you want to know is the company profitable? Just for the avoidance of doubt, profit is the difference between the money coming in and the money going out. It has got to do with how much is coming in, but it also has got to do with how much is going out. There are three types of profit, but essentially the only differences in calculating them is the types of outgoings you include.

So I'm to the going to go into the ins and out of that. And I think a lot of people are assume because the company has a lot of fund, and is spending money on recruiting and nice offices that they're profitable. That is not always the case. In fact, I would argue that especially with start-ups, they probably are not profitable. Because they're trying to gain market share, because they're a brand new company, they're trying to increase their customer base, and to some extent they're still developing their products. That all costs money. In salary, marketing, advertising, all the rest of it. And now if you're working for a company that isn't profitable, that isn't a problem in and of itself, because I've already said that lots of start-ups aren't profitable.

What you need to think about is how long they've been operating and whether they're getting closer to profitability. Have there been any comments made in the town hall meeting about whether the sales targets have been met and things like that?

The next thing you want to be listening out for in a town hall is funning and runway. That is the amount of time that the money in the bank will last. If the runway is only six months, that might be a bit of a red flag, and you want to know about funding. How many rounds of funding has the company received? Have they been successful each round? I've heard about some founders that will promise and plan a lot of things based on the funding they're confident they're going to receive in two weeks' time only then to be turned down and cue lots of redundancies and rescinded job offers, but that's a whole other story. That's the company intel you need.

The next thing before you get whiff of trouble, check your contract. Some employment contracts tell you what you would be entitled to in the event of redundancy, and I used to work for the Met Police, and that was a Civil Service pension place, our redundancy was controlled by Civil Service pensions. Have a look at your contract and see what it offers you, in the event of a redundancy.

If you've got friends at the company that you trust, ask out and find out what happened to people who have been made redundant to people there before. What you can do is search Twitter to see if any ex-employees have tweeted about how they were tweeted. Some will do that especially if that he haven't signed an agreement that says they're not going to disparage the company, they're quite open with all of that information. So things might have changed since those people have written about it, but at least you will have some idea of what you might be able to expect, especially if the leadership at the company hasn't changed since then.

And the other thing you need to make sure you know is, while you're still employed, you need to know what the demand and the value of your skills is in the industry. So every so off, browse the job sites for the role you currently do, and a level or two above, because we want to aim high.

Even if you are happy in your job, I cannot stress this enough. It is much more -- it is much easier and less stressful to have a look at those job ads when you really don't need to move. So make sure you appraise yourself of the situation. Make sure you know what the job market looks like, how many jobs there are, how much they're paying, and what they're looking for. See if you can notice any trends.

Are they looking for a tool you haven't used yet? Can you start using that at work? Is there another language that is high in demand that you don't currently use that much? Do you have any experience in it? Is it something you can feasibly increase your confidence in. This means you're more job-ready if you do lose your job. This is especially important if you are not a permanent residence in the country you live and work in because the visa is tied to your job. You really need to know what the job skills look like for you at that moment.

Consider joining online groups for other people that are in the same situation and you're, people who are there on work permits because often they will share information about where they work and you can build up a list of companies that are willing to sponsor visas, because sometimes that can be quite hard to find out, and also, again, it's not something you want to be finding out five minutes before you need a new job, so you can build up that list before you start, and keep adding to it. So there is no silver bullet here. But, if you have all of this knowledge, then the job search won't be as much as a shock if you were suddenly thrown into it.

So, you've been told those words, "We're letting you go", what do you do during the process? If you're told your job is being made redundant, sometimes you have options, and other times you don't. It means sometimes you're going to be asked to leave straightaway and this seems to happen a lot at tech companies. Your last day is essentially, going now. We will pay you in lieu of notice. So what happened to me the first time my job was taken away, I was a marketing manager and they took that role away and put in a new role of sales support.

So that is drop for me. They offered this role for three months, if I remember rightly, it was quite a long time, nearly 20 years ago. So if I remember rightly, they offered me the sales support role for three months on the same salary as the marketing manager with a commission element on top. And at the end of the three months, either side could say they didn't want to continue. And I knew I definitely didn't want to work in sales, because it is not my bag. But I took the job anyway, because it was three months of income. And there was a thing at the end where either one of us could say goodbye. I thought right I can do the three months, I can still take the redundancy at the end.

The way I've described it sounds like they were doing me a favour, but to be honest, they weren't. The commission was hardly anything, and I hadn't had any sales training so I wasn't set up for success in this role. But I took the job because I wanted the income. They had basically told me that they were making my role redundant. It was just before Christmas. I was not living in London, and I had to commute in by train. I had just bought an annual season ticket for like £3,500, and I was like, yes, I'm not happy about this at all. So I took the job because I wanted an income. And so I looked for a new job. I received some offers which I rejected because they were too low, and then at the end.

Three months, I took the redundancy option with no job to go to because I wanted to leave, and like I said I wanted the redundancy pay on top. If I had resigned, I wouldn't have got that. It wasn't much redundancy pay this they paid me the minimum required by law which was hardly anything but still better than nothing. They let me go straightaway. I left the same day and paid me a month's salary in lieu of notice, or didn't have to work that, plus the statutory redundancy pay which was only a few hundred pounds.

Then, luckily, my job hunting paid off, and I got another job that paid 35% more than my ex-marketing job a few weeks later. After that job, I vowed not to take a salary lower than I felt I was worth. I set my number and stuck to it. I'm not too sure why it worked. I'm glad they didn't take away my self-esteem with what happened to me. I felt really powerful, I could get that salary, and I did.

So despite fact that it was really upsetting and it is the first time that it has happened to me, it worked it out okay. Like I said, I left without a job to go to, but I did get one shortly afterwards at the salary I wanted. So, it was scary. But it was fine.

So, another thing to remember is that if a company is making redundancies, it doesn't mean it isn't growing, and that might sound like a really weird assertion to make. It is like why what are you talking about? It is true. A company can make redundancy in one area and hire aggressively in other areas. They might still be hiring aggressively in the same area but different roles.

So this happened to me the third time that I faced redundancy. Like I said I was working for the police. We covered 32 of the 33 London boroughs. The role I had, there was one of us on each of the 32 boroughs, so 32 of us, and they decided they would trim down the numbers. Instead of having one borough each, each person would have four boroughs and then at the same time, they would change the roles, so a higher grade, a higher grade, more boroughs. And also within those teams, there they were aggressively hiring admin people three levels below me. They were growing that layer and trimming my layer. You could see how that kind of worked. They decided that is what they needed for business.

So it all depends what the organisation needs at the time. I was offered the opportunity to apply for the hire job but I declined because - *the higher job but I declined because I wanted to leave the organisation. That's why I pivoted into tech and I had gone on a coding bootcamp and I was ready to go.

This is common when there is a restructure. I talked about the first time I was facing redundancy, the third time, so the second time my job was made redundant, there were three of us at the grade I was at, but only two jobs in the new structure of that unit. So doing a restructure, there were three of us in there, and they reduced it down to two. One of the jobs was very similar to the job I was doing. But, I wanted a complete change and I decided to apply for a completely different job in a new area. So I went from marketing and communications into covert surveillance.

I'm trying to say with all of the above that it depending on your skills and what you want to do, you might be able to do what I did, preserve your income and get a job elsewhere in the company. Make sure you ask that question. It doesn't have to be forever. It can be for a short period. It depends how open you are to change, depends what is available, depends how you want to take your career. That can be an option that is available to you. It is something that you should definitely ask the question about.

I know a lot of people that can't do what I did, and they couldn't take the money and go without something else to go to, so if there is another job available in the organisation that you'll be prepared to do, speak to them about it and see if they will support you in moving to that role.

So, if you are definitely leaving, what can you negotiate? There are some things. You might be able to keep your laptop and other hardware so ask the company if they will include this. Often. It is more useful to you than them, and they could write it off as another loss. It's worth asking the question. If you're in the UK and you're not leaving straightaway, you're entitled to paid I'm off to look for jobs.

My boss was super pragmatic and let me have time off to go to hackathons and stuff because she knew I was pivoting from policing into tech. So you might be able to negotiate the money that they give you that that depends on a lot of things so don't rely on that. If the company is really desperate and getting rid of people because they don't have any money, the chance also they won't be able to give you more severance. You feel it out and see what you think.

And if you're in somewhere where like the US where healthcare is sometimes tied to your job, make sure you know your rights under what is called Cobra, like the snake, which is designed to protect people who lose their jobs. There is a sort of in-built period of time after you finish working somewhere where you still are entitled to some healthcare coverage, so make sure that you know what your rights are there.

After you've left, take some time to breathe. It can be very traumatic, and a shock, even if you've done all your research, it can be a shock to have that conversation. Especially if you're the only one, or you don't understand why it was you and not other people, you know, it is very painful. Think about what you want to do next, and, if you know the market, and your skills, then entering the job market will be less painful.

Reach out to your networks, and tell them that you're looking. I know when I lost my job the first time, it was a relief in the end because I could be more open about the fact that I was looking, and I just erased the sales support job from my history. You probably find it a bit weird at first that you don't have a job and I definitely found this because I hadn't realised, because I had always been working, that that is one of the first things that somebody new asks you on a meet-up, like where do you work.

If you don't have a job, it is really hard. It is weird at first, but, that's a fact. People have to accept and you don't have a job and looking. I remember when my dad's job -- it was desirable to take redundancy because people could take the money and opportunity and do something with it. In the UK, the first £30,000 of your redundancy pay is tax-free.

If you receive more than that, you claim the tax back straightaway or wait until the end of the tax year, and then they will send you the money. Check your entitlement to benefits because you might be able to get something even if you think you're not eligible.

So in summary, to navigate redundancy, understand environments. That means understand environment that you're working in your company, and understand the environment outside in the job market. Understand your options, so know what will happen in the event that you face redundant, if you do get told your job is redundant, find out what other options you have inside and outside the company. Feel the feels, and be kind to yourself.

You can't get away from the fact this is an extremely painful situation. You didn't ask for it. It is something that is being done to you. One thing I would say is that the resentment, it does take hold in you, but try and get rid of that one quick because I always feel like resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It doesn't work like that. It's natural, but as soon as you can get past that, you can move on, and go on to the next great thing.

So my name is Suze Shardlow. I hope I've given you something to think about today. Feel free to reach out to me. Thanks for listening.