The Reality Of Being Made Redundant In Your 20s
The Debrief: ‘Your job becomes so much a part of your identity, but we are more than our jobs – and losing mine gave me time to do the things that make me “me” again.'
Illustration by Vanessa Lilak
‘Naively, I thought redundancy only happened to much older people, but I was made redundant when I was 24. It was my first job out of uni, and I thought it was the end of the world,’ says Milly, who's now 27.
In the first three months of 2017, 16-34-year-olds accounted for just a third of all UK redundancies, while people over 35 were most likely to find themselves redundant. There's never a good time to lose your job but, for young people like Milly, redundancy at such an early stage in your career can have a devastating impact on your confidence.
‘I was working for a small travel firm, who never gave me a contract. The owner basically couldn't afford to keep the business running, so they made me redundant as the most junior member of staff. It all happened in the space of a day. I remember being very scared, and worried about having to move home’, she explains.
‘At the time it felt horrendous, but actually, I ended up getting a great job with the company that kick-started my career. I wish I'd known then how well it would all work out’, she adds.
For Kate too, being made redundant at 24 turned out to be a blessing in disguise. ‘It was my second job out of uni, and I'd only been there a few months, so it was still quite fresh. They basically called us in and told us they were shutting down the company,’ she recalls.
‘I was incredibly lucky because some of the clients heard we were closing down, and asked me if I could carry on freelancing with them,’ she adds. ‘From there it was kind of a natural progression to try freelancing, but it was still terrifying.’
Kate is now 27 and going into her third year as a freelance photographer and PR consultant. ‘I had a couple of months that were a bit touch and go, with worries about money, but the rest of the time it's been brilliant. It was a complete blessing in disguise, I really went on to thrive,’ she says.
For her, the experience of being made redundant definitely had an impact. ‘It makes you more resilient I think, and teaches you not to rely on stuff. It's always good to have a reminder not to get too comfortable,’ Kate adds.
London-based success and accountability coach Ayesha Giselle works primarily with millennial women, and advises clients facing redundancy to: ‘see this not as a knockback but as an opportunity for growth and new beginnings.’
She explains: ‘The universe has a way of shaking our world to either get us back on track with our purpose or to wake us up to the opportunities we are sleeping on. Young women must use redundancy as a time for self-reflection. However hard and unfair it may all seem, realise that you need to go through this to prepare for where you are going.’
For 29-year-old Hayley, being made redundant at 25 was the push she needed to take the plunge and start her own PR business, Boxed Out PR.
‘I took voluntary redundancy because things at the company were becoming more and more uncertain,’ she says. After struggling to find a new role in PR, Hayley took a temporary job at a local secondary school library. ‘At the time I had a mortgage, I'd just bought a house with my ex-partner, so it was a massive sticking point – I needed a job,’ she explains.
‘Initially, I didn't even consider setting up a PR company – I didn't think I had enough experience – but a friend asked me to help with a bit of PR for his business, and it made me realise that I could do this on my own. That situation gave me the confidence to go for it,’ she adds.
‘As you can imagine, at an all-girls secondary school, not many people go into the library, so that was what helped me to establish the business. I took my laptop in and worked from the school for two months, which was enough to establish the foundations of the company and sign my first client,’ Hayley says. ‘It's been nearly four years now!’
27-year-old Jessica was on sabbatical when she was made redundant from her job as an analyst last year. ‘We'd agreed that I'd take three months off as a long, unpaid holiday, they'd cover my outstanding projects, and then I'd pick up where we left off,’ she explains.
‘My partner had quit his job to travel, so we were relying on my income to come back to – but they sent me an email about a week before the end of my trip, while we were in Thailand, saying there wasn't the work for me to do,’ Jessica says.
‘Because I'd been there less than two years, they only had to give me a week's notice. We cut the rest of our trip short and headed home the cheapest way possible, which was a bit of a downer,’ she adds. ‘I'm a big believer in things happening for a reason, so I like to think of it as a positive now – although I can tell you I was not feeling the same in Chaing Mai!’
With both herself and her partner out of work, Jessica initially moved back in with her parents, which, she says: ‘meant I could do a low demand job for a bit, as a chef, while taking the time to find a really great opportunity’ she says.
‘I'm now managing a customer service team, which was always my end goal. I took a bit of a cut to start out as a customer service advisor in February this year, and was promoted to manager this month, so it's going well,’ she adds.
Amber*, 27, found herself being made redundant from a communications role at a trade union, after taking three weeks of compassionate leave during her probation period. ‘My dad was killed in an air crash, which really affected me,’ she says. ‘The shock was so profound and I was later treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. At first, work was really supportive, they sent flowers and told me to take as long as I needed.’
However, just a couple of months later, Amber found her contract being terminated due to ‘poor performance’. ‘I feel like they were looking for an excuse to get rid of someone - there were two of us doing very similar roles, and they never really needed both of us. But the way they went about it was so brutal. I cried the whole way home,’ she says.
‘Work had been such a constant since my dad died, it had actually been a reassuring distraction, but I was told just to leave. It was completely out of the blue,’ she says. ‘It's very, very difficult to get back up afterwards because it was like I'd failed. Any self-doubt I had felt validated by that. I felt totally directionless.’
Amber has since started a new job but says she's ‘not really stretching myself professionally’ because being made redundant gave her the time and space to reflect on what she really wants out of life. ‘I'm planning to go back and study French literature again, which I haven't really thought about since my degree,’ she explains.
‘Having more time to read meant I was re-reading some of my favourite French books – the very things that inspired me to want a job involving writing in the first place – and I'm now applying for a masters,’ she adds.
‘Your job becomes so much a part of your identity, but we are more than our jobs – and losing mine gave me time to do the things that make me “me” again. Especially when you're young, you might as well do something for yourself; something you really love.’
*Name has been changed
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