What to do if you’ve been retrenched

What to do if you’ve been retrenched

The world is a pretty scary place for many people right now. Confronting a global pandemic was certainly not on the to-do list of most individuals, let alone countries..

The world is a pretty scary place for many people right now. Confronting a global pandemic was certainly not on the to-do list of most individuals, let alone countries and governments. It has created untold emotional devastation for many people – most especially for those who have lost a loved one to Covid19. It has also resulted in a huge degree of financial insecurity as the pandemic’s reverberations echo across the global economy.

If you are one of the many people affected by retrenchments, no doubt you are experiencing feelings of fear and anxiety. In this space it might be hard to think clearly. This is completely understandable. What follows are some practical suggestions that can help you tackle this reality.

What are the first steps to take?

Make sure you consult with your company to ensure that all your documentation is in order, so that you can make the most of any sort of support provided by the state, such as UIF. Although you might be disappointed with your employer, it pays to keep a professional relationship with the company that has retrenched you as you might need former managers to provide a reference, or you might need to engage with the company in various ways in your search for new work.

Also realise that you’re allowed to be angry and anxious. It’s a tough time in the world, and it’s scary to be retrenched, and it’s important to acknowledge these feelings. You are also not alone - the fear that you are feeling now is shared by many.

Where should one start when looking for a new job?

The first step is to review your CV. Make sure it looks professional, and that it highlights your best skills and most recent work experience. There are really incredible tools online to help create good-looking CVs, but if you don’t have online access, ask around for advice. Ensure that you tailor your cover letter for each application. Do some research into the company to see what their values are, and think about what their ideal employee should offer.

Consult an employment agency to get a sense of what companies are still hiring, and whether you have skills you can offer, or find out what skills you might need to work on. Be open to taking on roles that may not be at the level you had in your previous company. You also might need to be negotiable in terms of salary.

Being retrenched can also offer an opportunity to reset - to think about what you’re really passionate about and the companies that you might want to approach. There are many industries that have been negatively affected by the pandemic, but this is not the case for all of them. Read newspapers to get a sense of which companies might still be thriving, or new companies that might have seen a surge in business (eg online businesses), and decide whether these might be companies you have skills to offer.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. Stay connected to your previous employer and to your co-workers. Ask them, and friends and family, for any contacts they might have who might be able to help you in your job search.

How can you make productive use of your time while looking for work?

While you look for permanent employment, take note of what services your neighbours and community need. Perhaps there’s something you can offer for those people who have gone back to work – for example, doing laundry, looking after children, offering tutoring.

Employers like to see that you are constantly working on self-improvement. If you have a break in employment, it is also an opportunity to do some upskilling. There are many online courses, short and long (and often reasonably priced). Make use of these. If you don’t have access to online courses, try to get access to self-help or business books. If this is difficult, see if there’s anyone in the community that you can learn a new skill from.

It’s also critically important to keep yourself healthy and exercise when you can. This will positively affect your overall attitude to your new situation, and is an excellent way to tackle stress.

What is the best way to keep mentally strong?

Work hard on trying to control the things you can. Set yourself achievable tasks each day to focus on and create a sense of achievement. Also take a deep breath and try to find things that you can be grateful for - whether it’s a roof over your head, or family. Think about the baby steps you can take on a day-to-day basis - don’t look too far ahead, just focus on the task at hand and tackle what you can.

Finally, you’re not in this alone -- there are many other people going through a similar experience. If you need assistance or guidance or any sort of psychological help to cope with your new situation, don’t be afraid to ask or to look for some support groups online.

Yumna Aysen, is a Cape Town-based Life and Business Coach (www.ohyesitsyumi.com)