Facing unemployment can be frightening, but keep calm and consider your options before you carry on, says Laura Woodward

Q: I have been informed that my role could be made redundant. It is unlikely that a new role can be found for me within the company, so I need to start looking for a job. I am feeling very low, having given over 15 years of service to the company, and have no idea where to begin.

A: To start with, redundancy is not personal, although it can sometimes feel that way.  Redundancy usually occurs because a business needs to reduce or restructure its workforce. In the UK, employers are legally required to follow a process of consultation with you and others who are at risk before they can confirm that your job is redundant. If the redundancies affect between 20 and 99 employees, a 30 day consultation period must take place before the first dismissal. Where there are more than 100 people at risk, this consultation period increases to 45 days.

Your employer must tell you:  

The reasons for the proposed redundancies

The numbers and descriptions of employees affected

The proposed method for selecting those who may be dismissed

The proposed method for carrying out the dismissals

How redundancy payments, other than the legal minimum, will be calculated

It is natural to feel you must find another job immediately, and with bills to pay, it isn’t always possible to take time away from paid work. That said, where you can, I would encourage you to use this time to reflect and consider your next move rather than jumping at the first thing that comes along.

Time to reflect

I often meet people who, with hindsight, feel that redundancy was a positive thing. Sometimes redundancy is just the trigger you need to think about other possibilities. This might include re-training or even starting your own business. Sometimes the financial package from your previous employer can allow you to explore those options.

Try to avoid taking a pay cut, just because you feel it gives you more options. Employers may be suspicious that you are applying for a stop-gap position until something better comes along. If you are applying for roles with a smaller salary, perhaps because you want to re-train, you should make it clear that you recognise this in your application and give the reasons why you wish to make this change.

If you are looking for jobs, you need to ensure that you are best placed to find that next role. The first thing to do is get your CV up to date. It may have been some time since you last did so. It is also essential that you tailor your CV for every job you apply for; you won’t be creating just one CV for all jobs.

I would recommend that you consider producing a skills based CV. This type of CV highlights the skills you have rather than simply detailing where you have worked, and is particularly useful if you are moving into a different career or type of job. Try taking a skills audit to identify what your key strengths are. These are quite straightforward and examples can be found online. 

Don’t panic

A focused and planned job search is much more likely to have a positive outcome than sending out lots of applications for different roles. Don’t feel that you must spend all day, every day looking.  I would recommend that you spend around 20 hours a week job hunting, but this includes  looking on the internet, updating your CV, updating your LinkedIn profile, joining recruitment agencies, completing applications and going for interviews.

Networking is another important aspect, but I would stress that you should decide what it is you are looking for first. Networking isn’t about asking people for jobs, but about letting people know that you are looking for work, and what types of opportunities you would be interested in. 

If your employer is providing outplacement support as part of your redundancy package then make use of it. They will be able to help you with your CV and with your job hunt, and often provide interview practice. And don’t forget, if you are a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the careers team can provide support too.

If you have more advice you’d like to share about this month’s question — or have your own career conundrum for Laura — please write to chemistryworldjobs@rsc.org