"Stuff happens". Dealing with the realities of a fragile job market.

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This blog post has been inspired by the very entertaining Carl Gilleard (CEO of the Association of Graduate Recruiters) whom I was very fortunate to hear speak at a recent HE conference. Speaking about the graduate job market he was keen to point out, a few times, the honest realities of today’s economic climate: ‘stuff happens’.

Decoding the phrase, Carl was of course talking about the omnipresent threat of redundancy which appears very much a standard feature of today’s employment market. Whether this happens to you as a graduate or at a later point in your working life chances are that most people, at some point, will need to face the threat (if not the reality) of redundancy. So why am I reinforcing this point? I’m not doing it to deliberately make people feel insecure or uncomfortable but rather to emphasise that it is a reality which, to an extent, needs to be planned for. The concept of the ‘job for life’ no longer exists and our career paths today are a lot more fluid and unpredictable than they were a generation ago.

Redundancy affects people in different ways. There will always be those who struggle, and there will be those who bounce back stronger. You need to do what you can to ensure you fall into the latter category. How I look at it is that there are 2 ways people need to cope with the realities of redundancy in order to respond with the resilience required to ride the storm. They need to cope with it emotionally and they need to cope with it practically. Lessening the effects of the emotional impact relates to what I have just said. Redundancy is, sadly, commonplace. And whilst different companies will decide how to nominate those for severance, it isn’t something that should be taken personally. Redundancy is a reflection on your employer, on the employment market and on the role that you take up within the company. The fact is that restructuring may not work in your favour is so often due to what you do at work, and not how you do it. I’ve been there myself. It’s not easy and I realise that. But to personalise redundancy and to start laying blame on yourself is not the solution.

Dealing with it practically is about planning for what may happen. It’s about taking sensible steps - on an ongoing basis - to make sure that you are in the best place possible, if redundancy does affect you. These simple steps should include:

  1. Planning financially - saving money where possible so that you have a contingency fund in place. Or just learning to tighten your belt a bit so that you can live on a lower income for a while, if you need to.

  2. Keeping your CV up to date - getting into the habit of updating your CV every 6 months (even if you feel your job is safe) just so that it is ready to go as soon as it may be needed. The hurdle of updating a CV is huge if it isn’t something you’ve done for a few years and can be a real psychological barrier to new job seekers.

  3. Networking on a continued basis - having people around you and in your life who you can call on if you need to (and, please, don’t be too proud to do this). Keeping your industry links strong. Remember recruiters who have helped you out before and keep in touch with them, even if it’s just an occasional email. Attending networking events which are specific to your industry and make use of social media platforms such as Linkedin.

  4. Keeping up to date with job market trends - being aware of the issues that may be facing your industry in the future and knowing the industries for which growth is likely. If need be, ask yourself - what other industries and jobs are my skills transferable to? Seek out training opportunities, and network in these areas. Be aware of areas where there may be future skills shortages and which appeal to you. Plan for the long term as well as the short term.

So, yes, in today’s job market stuff does happen. And if it does, think of it only as a temporary set-back. Be prepared emotionally and practically to deal with the challenges that it brings.