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Im still standing

After seeing Elton John’s movie last week, Rocket Man and hearing the song ‘I’m Still Standing’ it made me think of how I have survived two redundancies and the emotional rollercoaster that I went through to come out the other side, and what I’ve found waiting for me there.  His rise, fall and rise again were certainly comparable.

The first loss, yes, it is like a death, certainly cuts the deepest.  For the first time in a long career I felt sad, angry, lost, worthless and confused, just to name a few. The good news is the benefit of hindsight for the second redundancy made me cope much better. Thank heavens!  I don’t think I could go through all those feelings again.

When I say “lost” – that’s how I felt at the time – the business I was working for at the time restructured.  Something that happens every day to people and businesses all over the world.  On this occasion it happened to my team and I.  I had seen it happen to my colleagues in the past, had read about it, or seen it in the news, and comforted friends that had it happen to them.  But on this occasion, it happened to me.

My team and I ran a successful business in a large Multinational.  We were recognised by the business across the group for many years as one of the best operating units globally.  We created, challenged the boundaries of what the industry did, came up with new products that reinvigorated our business.  For 10 years we were at the front of the curve.

The GFC came along and like many, it stalled our growth and the growth of the global business. We put things into place and became quite granular with our approach.  As a local management team, we thought we were handling the situation well.  Unfortunately, our parent company didn’t have the same view, not only of our business but also for the division globally.  We were to be rolled into one of the bigger businesses

Wow – What a hit to the ego.  It hurt – not just a little – they had taken “my team and my business” away.  The roll was part of who I was.  The years of effort we all had put in had meant nothing, the past successes we had were just that – the past.  We were paid out, thanked, given some external support and sent packing.

For the very first time in my working career – I went from Hero to Zero.  I felt how many thousands, if not millions of people around the world, feel after being retrenched.  Sad, mad, lost, worthless, confused, again to name just a few.  How could they do this to us – How? 

They say in the business world – it’s not personal, it’s just business – well it certainly felt personal.

I’ve learned many things about the business world, myself and others as a result of this event.  The first thing I remember learning from my support is that on average retrenchment happens 3 times in someone’s career. 

So, what have I learned about myself and the business world as a result?

  • Being retrenched when your role is part of your identity is like removing a limb. The surgery was the easy part.  It’s the healing that takes time.
  • The first one was painful, whilst the second was like water off a ducks back, hindsight certainly helped.
  • There are times that I look back now with a smile and not a frown at the experiences I had in my role, remembering all the excitement and achievements, rather than what was lost. Enjoy the successes you had.
  • You are going to go through the emotions of sorrow, loss and anger. We are all human – it doesn’t matter who you are or what role you played.  If you enjoyed your position, it was part of who you are – it’s going to hurt.
  • Having support around you makes a world of difference. Family, ex-colleagues, consultants, coaches will all help you get through it.  Each support will provide you with different things.  Family will give you the love you need at the time. Show you that your more than just the role you have lost.  Ex-colleagues will share with you the stories of the past, and if they too have been retrenched, you can share stories on what you are encountering.  Finally, outplacement consultants/coaches they will give you an unbiased view on what your thinking, give you that business sounding board, help you with starting to think forward.
  • Spending time on your own, gives you time to think – with what has happened and the information you are receiving – its good to get on your own and have the time to let it sink in and mull it over.
  • Recruitment process takes time – it’s selling a product – YOU. The sales process takes time, you have a product, you have the market – what you need to remember is that you need to convince someone that the product your selling is the best fit for them.  On this occasion the product is you.  Ensure you present that product in its best light. 
  • Interviews are like speed dating – both you and the person doing the recruiting meet for a short period of time, twice, perhaps three times and both decide – is this the right person for me. Its this short period that gives both of you that opportunity to sell your wares.  It can go very well or not for both parties.
  • Your Network – in today’s world – is key in finding you a new role. More roles are taken up by someone that is known to the prospective employer or has been referred.  How many times have you heard of a role that has been filled and it wasn’t even advertised?
  • It takes time to get over the hurt – losing that limb, you don’t just get over it in a moment. It takes time to work through your emotions.
  • Being retrenched several times does sit in the back of your mind when things are happening at work. Will it happen again?  The best thing to do is acknowledge it and use your previous experiences to move things forward.
  • You don’t own that role. It has been lent to you, a privilege, something that is on loan to you. 
  • Being retrenched is not and I repeat not an indication of who you are – Roles change, business change – they come and go depending on the market, technology, competition. How many Encyclopedia book of Britannica sales roles do you see being advertised today?

Travelling through these events in a working career can be quite an experience.  It makes you comprehend the emotions and reactions of very public figures that have reached the heights, have the limelight, and the next day its all gone.  Look at some of our cricket sporting hero’s, recent list of Prime Ministers or TV personalities that have lost their role. It makes you wonder what they have gone through, and at times we haven’t had to wonder as it’s been quite public, how they have fallen and what they went through to rise.

You’re not alone, we all deal with down times it in our own way. Elton did just that – got up and stood in his own style. The important thing to do though is use the support around you, ex colleagues, mental health specialists, business consultants, and the main source of my support – your loved ones.  Then get out there and sell the best product in the world – YOU.

I’m still standing.