My client Jeremy Saunders is married and works — or rather did work — as a design director in London for a large firm of manufacturers of sports goods. He has worked for the company for over ten years, but last week was told that he was being redundant and was no longer required.
He had been half expecting to hear some bad news because a new CEO had recently been recruited who had threatened to cut staff numbers. He had talked about his fears with his wife but they decided to enjoy their Xmas and then face the situation in the New Year. It wasn't definite and there was a good chance of him keeping his job.
Although the company has suffered during the economic downtown and Jeremy, himself, has had to recommend people in his department for early retirement, he could not believe that his own name would eventually be on the list.
However, when he got back to the office, last week, he was called in by the CEO to be told that he was being made redundant. There was no discussion, just the blunt news that he would not be required after the end of January.
He found it difficult to comprehend. In an instant, his whole world seemed to be broken into little bits — a world that he had so carefully built up over the past eight years. How would he pay the school fees, his health insurance, the contract on the Audi sports car? And what would be the reaction of his wife when he broke the news to her? His mind was numb as the reality of no more monthly salary cheques hit him.
In an instant, he changed from a confident design director to just another unemployed man looking for a job in a marketplace where every job advertised had more than 100 applicants.
It was a great shock, both to him and his family. Jeremy has one small child, a large house and an even larger mortgage. It was something that he thought could never happen to someone who had grown with the company over all the years when it had climbed from a small player in the marketplace to a brand leader, today. And that was very much due to his efforts. He had been the one to design the right products during the recession and his efforts had always been recognised by the company. It had been his only working career since he left university and now he is obliged to compete against younger applicants for every job advertised. It is a sobering thought and one that makes him a little frightened about the future and how he will pay the bills.
We spoke about him going solo but he said that he didn't think he had the right personality and mindset to do this. He was a ‘company man' he said and liked to work as part of a team. He told me that one of his friends was now working from home and is apparently finding it difficult, within a domestic, environment to remain motivated. The distractions of children and domestic problems are not conducive to concentration and he apparently misses the human contact of his former peer group. Working from home is okay for some but you need to have to have the right attitude and mindset to ensure that you have the self-discipline to be successful.
Jeremy now has to find a new job. To do this he has to learn to market, not products, but himself. From being a highly paid executive to an unemployed breadwinner, is not an easy challenge for anyone. But he has an inner strength and determination, and is certainly very talented, so I am confident that he will be successful in the near future, although he might have to accept a lower salary than that of his previous position.
In a position such as this, it is essential to maintain morale within the family and to have faith that talent is always recognised and in demand by companies who still need to make a profit and to employ staff, even in a recession.
In 2012, we have to get used to the fact that the only thing that is certain, is uncertainly itself.
The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee well-being consultancy based in London.