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Lessons in pointlessness

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

This isn’t my usual ‘thing’. It feels a little uncomfortable, self-indulgent, to write about myself. But if this post helps just one person in similar circumstances, then that’ll make it worthwhile.


In mid-June, I was made redundant. My ‘Termination Day’ was yesterday, 6 August.


It was a genuine shock to receive the news, inevitably in the current times by Zoom, but please let me get one thing clear from the outset. Having been a business owner and employer myself, I can only imagine how tough and scary and uncontrollable the last few months must have been. I remember the feeling at the pit of the stomach as another month-end approached, and the recurrent doubts about cashflow reappeared. COVID-19 has affected businesses everywhere, and the partners had to act. I’d rather it hadn't happened but I'd prefer it was me than one or more of my more junior colleagues.


That logic didn’t make it any easier to take, though. It was emotionally destabilising and financially concerning, and it brought on feelings of sadness, anger, self-doubt, anxiety, loneliness, and embarrassment.


Hence my surprise that I now find myself able to write positively about the last few weeks. My feelings of pointlessness have created lessons that, I hope, are far from pointless.


Re-emphasise

One of the first people to whom I spoke advised me to:

Remember it’s the role, not you

It sounded like a different version of the classic “it’s me, not you” break-up line. But my friend was right. My post had gone, but I was still good enough to continue with client work that afternoon. I was reliable enough to close down projects during my notice period. And I was valued enough to be invited to do future work with the same company on a contractual basis.


My mindset improved when I separated ‘me’ from ‘my job’.

Lose the passive

There’s a language that goes with these experiences, and it’s mostly passive in tone – “made redundant”, “told the news”, “given my notice”.


But, while you may be made redundant, there are things that you can do to stop feeling that way. Losing your job need not mean that you feel worthless or of limited value – or pointless. The last few weeks have been some of my most productive as I’ve re-engaged with my network and set the tone for my new venture. And, yes, I've made time to rest and relax.


Taking action has been my way to reassert control.


Remind yourself

I’ve always told my mentees that they should update their CV every three months. I’m obliged to admit that that was very much a case of “do as I say not as I do”.


Now that I’ve corrected that omission, I won’t let things slip again. It was good for my confidence – and informative to establish the service offer for my new company – to remind myself of what I’ve done and the difference it’s made.


As I noted down what I’d achieved, so my sense of worth and self-esteem increased.


Be self-centred

Public servants (which, despite appearances, will always be my resting heartbeat) tend to be selfless – concerned more with the needs and feelings of others than with their own.


In these last six weeks, I have chosen to be preoccupied with myself and my affairs. I haven’t lacked consideration for others and their feelings – that would be selfish. But I knew I only had sufficient energy adequately to manage my response, not to help too many others with theirs.


By being self-centred, so I was able to look after myself.


Reflect

The first meaning of this is obvious: I learned to think deeply but kindly about the situation.


The second is less obvious but more important, at least to me. I knew that my behaviours had to align with my values. I never wanted to behave in a way that would make it impossible to look at myself in the mirror.


I had lost my job, but I refused to lose my self-respect.

I’m not a great believer in fate and what’s written in the stars, but the redundancy experience has encouraged me to consider that there might just be meaning in things that happen.


Much more than that, though, it has pushed me to take meaningful steps in response to the unexpected. That's something for which I'm peculiarly grateful.


Good luck to the millions more who will face similar challenges in the months ahead. It could well become the best thing that could have happened.

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