For our first ever blog post, I thought it would be good to start with a topic which is unfortunately very prevalent at the moment, but one which I have a slightly different view on – redundancy. You may not have had the exact same experiences as the below, but nonetheless I hope a different perspective helps, or that I say at least one thing of marginal use or comfort to you.
A quick Google states the definition of “redundant” to be: “not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous.” – ouch.
You may ask what my qualification to speak on such a topic is, to which I’d answer: I’ve had two (and a half) jobs in my life – I was made redundant from my first role and, most recently in April, I was made redundant by a company I’ve never actually worked for, before even joining my near-third role. So, with two redundancies, out of not even three full jobs, my answer would be that this is not my first redundancy rodeo, despite my young age.
And look, when it happens it’s not fun, it’s scary, it can be upsetting and it can make you angry; I get that and I can fully empathise with you.
Now time to move on.
Going back to the definition of redundant, more specifically, “no longer needed”, I’d like to point out the first reason why being made redundant shouldn’t be seen as the be all end all for your career or, more importantly, your happiness.
My parents like to tell me, probably too frequently, that once I’d grown up and left for uni, they felt their job was somewhat “done” and they felt “redundant”. But in the same breath, they also like to tell me, a lot less frequently, that they are proud of the finished product and are enjoying watching it from the side lines.
The first role I was made redundant from was a small tech start-up, which we’d grown to a fairly good place before the founders made the decision to sell the product. This meant the whole marketing team was made redundant and we were now on the side lines. It was frustrating and upsetting, but by looking at it as we’re “no longer needed” because the job is done, rather than because we’re bad people, we were able to immediately view the experience as levelling up, rather than levelling down.
I’m aware this is a fairly niche example, and it’s not really as clear cut as that for many in the real world when it’s not as easy to see redundancy as a “job done”; but it's what taught me a very important mindset to try and get into and maintain when you’ve been told you’re no longer needed. It's not because you're shit, you’re no longer needed because the job you came to do is done – your child has grown up.
Look back at where the business was when you joined, look at the impact you’ve had since, however “big” or “small”, and be proud in the fact that you did your bit. Did the business grow while you were there? Did you work on anything that will be remembered as one of the business’ finest moments? Did you help anybody else grow or make somebody’s life easier? I’m sure you did and, if that’s the case, then job done.
I’m also sure you met and impressed somebody at your previous role. Do they have any power or advice to help you? Do they know anybody that has power or advice to help you? The CEO who made me redundant introduced me to his dad, who worked in PR, and having a chat about what he did made me realise I’d like to do that too. I looked up PR agencies offering internships to people with no strict-PR experience, applied to all I could find, eventually taking a three-week unpaid internship and that’s how I entered the PR world.
Fast forward a year.
My second lovely redundancy experience, which I now like to call “Big Bangs”, came in April when the world came to a standstill and nobody knew what to do. I’d handed in my notice at a great agency and was on my way to a top five agency globally – I was excited, happy my hard work had paid off and was looking forward to the next stage of my career.
Ironically, I had actually asked the MD of the cross-agency team I was joining whether it was risky joining a team created for just one client and she said, “I’m not worried about it, so you definitely shouldn’t be”. A couple of weeks later, she was on the phone to me explaining the client had taken a hit with lockdown and the role I was due to join in a week no longer existed. To be fair, no one could have seen that coming, and on the redundancy call she actually brought up the fact that I’d previously asked her that question, which I found funny in a slightly morbid way.
But anyway, my girlfriend had gone back to her native Austria to lock down with her family, our flatmate fled back to Italy, we were told not to leave the house, go travelling or basically do anything else for the foreseeable future – and now I didn’t even have a job to keep my mind busy (or to keep food on the table).
This “Big Bang” was a lot less clear, this one really seemed shit: I’d worked hard, taken a step forward in my career and through no fault of my own, the step disappeared before my feet landed on it and I was now about to sit alone in a flat indefinitely, with a growing hole in my CV and diminishing funds.
So, I took a breath, paused and thought.
I messaged every agency head, recruiter and talent acquisition person in PR that I could find on LinkedIn and received a uniform reply: “Sorry to hear, can definitely look at your CV, but it would be more for September/October time.” So just the six months of solitary confinement then, nothing to worry about!
What scared me most at the time was the idea of sitting idle, the black hole in my CV and the realisation that I’m probably not the only one losing their job, so there will likely be a mad rush of people all applying once the dust settles.
So, I went into survival mode and thought: how can I gain experience and keep busy if no one will hire an unemployed 22-year-old in the midst of a global pandemic and upcoming recession?
The literal only option I arrived at was to create something for myself and everyone else in a similar situation. I came up with an initiative to connect unemployed comms pros with charities – as both were really struggling at the time. Charities needed help to get their valid causes noticed with all attention going to COVID relief efforts, and the literal pros of getting things noticed were sitting idle looking for something to do.
I put up a post on LinkedIn explaining the idea; and 65,000 views and 250+ new joiners later, we got cracking on supporting charity clients with immediate fundraising drives, longer-term comms strategies and anything else they needed.
That “Big Bang” was the birth of Look After and, I can say with some certainty, one of the best things that's ever happened to me. If I wasn’t made redundant from my first role, I wouldn’t have decided to try out PR and joined my second. If I wasn’t made redundant from my near-third, I wouldn’t have created Look After. There’s always a way forward and if there isn’t, create one.
Depending on who you ask, everything you know and love came from an infinitely packed, dark, hot and volatile thing called the Big Bang. Equally, redundancies are shit while you’re in the midst of it, but I can assure you that once you’re out the other side, if you keep your head up and keep doing you, they aren’t the end, they’re the beginning - they're "Big Bangs". It’s always what you make of it and everything happens for a reason.
Because this has turned out to be quite lengthy and I love a philosophical quote, I’ll curtail the rest of my thoughts into a few random quotes I think do the rest of the job better than I possibly could.
“Chaos is a ladder”
“Pressure bursts pipes, but pressure makes diamonds”
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on”