Why being made redundant could be the best thing that’s ever happened to you

Redundancy is a one of the more stressful things that could happen in your working life. There you are, happily working your permanent contract and then *poof* you’re suddenly surplus to requirements. It can be devastating, both for your finances and your morale. However, there are ways to turn this unexpected ending into an exciting new beginning.

Usually, when people are let go, there are certain redundancy entitlements to look forward to. If you’ve been with the company for over two years, you should be entitled to severance pay. This will be calculated according to your age, your salary and how long you’ve worked for the company. You should also make sure that your redundancy is fair. You can read more about this on the gov.uk website here.

Okay, so I’ve sorted out my rights and worked my redundancy notice period – now what?

Now it’s time to work out what you want from your working life. The comfort and security of a permanent contract is the main reason people cite for staying put in one job. But, as you’ve discovered, there are no guarantees in life, and a permanent job can be just as precarious as a temporary contract.

If you’ve got the skills and experience, this is a perfect time to evaluate whether or not you might be happier and more financially successful as a contractor.

Take advantage of the time and space redundancy has forced upon you and ask yourself some serious questions:

What kind of work do I want to be doing?

For practical and comfort reasons, most people don’t want to stray too far from the profession they’ve already chosen. It’s hard enough to find work and your experience is a major selling point.

That said, now is the time to take a look at the structure of the work you were doing and evaluate if that’s something to return to.

For instance, you might have started your working life in a more practical role and then got promoted up into management, where the bulk of your time is spent supervising the people who do the work you once enjoyed doing yourself. If you feel that you’re ill-suited to a managerial position then now is the ideal time to free yourself of the shackles of endless meetings, reports and administration.

Where do I want to put my time and attention?

One of our favourite freelancing podcasts, Back To Work, talks a lot about time and attention. Their basic argument is that these two things are the most valuable commodities a person can have. This is especially true for contractors who really do have a greater level of autonomy when it comes to organising the structure of their working life.

One of the main advantages of leaving your job to go into contracting is that you can more closely define how you’re going to spend your time. If you’ve got a family or a couple of side hustles (or both!) you probably felt extremely stretched working a permanent job on top of your commitments. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you decide to become a contractor, you can define your hours by selecting the kind of assignments that give you breathing space. Contracting work is much more well paid than a permanent position, so depending on your needs, you can maintain your former salary by working less or you can earn a lot more by working full time. Then, once you’ve accrued some savings you can take some much-needed time off to give your full attention to the important things in life.

 Isn’t contracting unstable and scary?

There’s nothing more stressful than not being sure about how you’re going to get through the month. It’s a horrible feeling and carries with it attendant feelings of guilt, depression and powerlessness.

One of the more effective ways of making sure these extremely stressful emotions don’t overwhelm you is to plan and implement a way of regaining control of your life. Trialling a contract role after you’ve been made redundant is a risk-free way of seeing if you can make the contractor lifestyle work for you.

In fact, one of the perks of the contracting lifestyle is the speed with which you can acquire a gig. Unlike permanent employment, which might require several rounds of job interviews, you can apply for a contract assignment and be at work, earning money, within days.

Don’t I have to start a company?

No, no, no! You don’t have to do anything hasty when you’re dipping your toe into contracting. The main philosophy to live by at this point in your life is: see how you go. You’ve just been through what is, at best, an extremely difficult situation and it’s important that you don’t feel rushed or pressured into a life that you don’t want.

A more useful approach is viewing this time as a period of re-evaluation and experimentation. If you don’t want to source contract work entirely on your own, you can join an umbrella company and work with recruitment agencies to place you somewhere that works for you. The umbrella company will take care of all your admin and invoice chasing and, crucially, pay you a weekly wage even before you start bringing in the big bucks.

The most important thing is that you feel you’re working to improve your life, not just making the best of a bad situation. Once you’ve developed a rhythm, contracting really is a lucrative and exhilarating way to make your living. But see for yourself, take baby steps and maybe you’ll find that this was what you were meant to be doing all along.