What you need to know if you’re made redundant.

Three weeks ago, on the day after my 31st birthday, I was called into a meeting with my CEO and told I might be losing my job. I wasn’t on my own, there were other colleagues who were also on the chopping block. It was unexpected, and it was quick. If I were to go, I’d be gone in two weeks time. And three weeks later I was out the door, desk plant in hand and a card-full of farewells.

So here I am staring into the abyss of unemployment. Day one. Uncertainty, no income and a suddenly very empty 9 to 5. And you know what I needed? I needed a list of how the hell to deal with redundancy. So I’m writing one.

"Uncertainty, no income and a suddenly very empty 9 to 5." Image via iStock.

Evaluate where you're at

Everyone's life circumstances are different. Single, married, children, big mortgage, no mortgage. All these things play into how you manage redundancy and unemployment so it helps to know where I'm coming from. I'm 31, in a long term defacto relationship with a (wonderful) man who works FIFO at the mines, so I'm on my own for stretches of time. We have no mortgage, a little bit of debt and no kids. I live in a city, but I live in Adelaide, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country (6.9%).

Take stock

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Being told you're going to lose your job is a big shock to the system. It feels bad and scary and the uncertainty is brutal. Tell the most important people in your life what's going on so they can support you through it. Don't be ashamed of what's happening and don't take it personally. It's the role that's being made redundant, not you. It's purely business.

Hey Mia: Have you ever cried at work? Post continues below. 

Know your rights

Get onto this one straight away. Yes it sounds dry but you gotta look after number 1. As an employee you have rights that are covered by an Award, Enterprise Agreement, or at the very least the National Employment Standards. Log onto the Fair Work Commission and Fair Work Ombudsman websites and read as much as you can. It's also a good idea to give them a call, ask for advice and get a customer reference number to start keeping a record of your communication. Make sure everything your employer says is in writing and all letters are signed. This is going to be especially important if things haven't been done the right way and you choose to make an unfair dismissal claim. If you need legal advice, there are many free legal services in each state and territory. Just do a google search to find one.

It's all about the money, money, money

The best advice I got was to act (financially) as though I'd already lost my job. This means cutting back on all unecessary expenses and making savings where you can – I got a cheaper deal on our health insurance, reduced my personal loan repayments, cancelled the data pack on my phone the day and ignored the horn from the coffee van. These are just small changes but it all adds up.

Then take a look at your savings. Luckily I had the foresight to put together an emergency fund in case life went belly-up. It's not as big as I would have liked it to be, but it gives me a few extra months of breathing space if I can't find work. Next, see what you're entitled to. If it's a genuine redundancy your employer has to pay you a sum based on how long you've been working with them. They also have to pay out any accrued leave. If you're lucky, you might also get extra money as a gratuity or “golden handshake” and they can choose to pay you in lieu of working through your notice period.

Emma Freedman was vocal about losing her job in late 2014. Image via Instagram @emma_freedman. 

Once you have a rough dollar figure you can work out your monthly expenses and see how long you can last without work. For me, this was the most comforting thing to do because it turned out to be longer than I expected. Don't forget to call Centrelink as well, as you may be eligible for Government assistance. And don't feel bad about it. You have paid taxes and you're entitled to financial support if you need it.

Get your CV ready to go and draft a skeleton cover letter. Sign up to job alerts and download all the job seeking apps you can. Then apply, apply, apply. You might not get something straight away, and you might get knocked back over and over again, but that's the job market. Don't lose enthusiasm and don't let it dent your ego. Think of every interview as good practice for the next one. And if you're in a real pickle, think outside the box – temp work, hospitality or cleaning – there are many perfectly good ways to get a dollar in your pocket. In the short term any job is a good job.

Get help if you need it

I'm not going to lie, there have been moments where I've felt bloody awful through my redundancy. I've cried, I've been anxious, I've been scared, I've been embarassed and ashamed. I called in sick one day because I couldn't get out of bed, and when I eventually did, I dragged myself around the house like I didn't give a hoot about life. This is ok and it's normal. Hopefully your employer will offer you a free external counselling service straight away – take advantage of this. Go see your GP if you need to take some time off. And if your malaise and melancholy feel particularly heavy GO SEEK HELP. Your mental health is incredibly important.

What now?

This is going to be different for everyone, but it's important to make a plan for what you're going to do with all your (suddenly) free time before you find your next job. It really is a great opportunity to pursue a passion, upskill, or just take a bit of a break if you need it. Whatever you do, stay present in the world because your unemployment won't last forever and you'll be moving onto the next chapter in no time.

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