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Career Advice

Self-Promotion Part 2: Tell a Positive Story – A post on Redundancy by Author Robin McKay Bell

Robin McKay Bell is a respected author and voice, on the subjects of Age and Employment. Last month Robin started a the first of a series of blog posts, on the subject of coping with redundancy and the story you have to tell. Click here to read Part 1 and please read on if your ready for Part 2….

“In my last blog I discussed three types of stories commonly told by those who have experienced involuntary redundancy. To recap, they are:

  1. Temporary derailment
  2. End of the line
  3. Moratorium

These are internal stories, in that the truth they contain is personal. As I mentioned previously, they’re called coping narratives, and they’re used to explain your situation to yourself and to manage a difficult time. They are not usually made public, although your nearest and dearest will likely know the story you tell yourself about what happened and what it means to you.
You won’t relate your coping narrative to those outside your inner circle, unless it will help you find work. For example, it’s relatively easy to tell a temporary derailment story (No. 1 above) if redundancy has simply knocked you off track and you believe you’ll be welcomed back in a similar (or better) position with enough effort. I’ve seen people assess their situation, analyse their shortcomings in today’s market, upgrade their skills as required, and return to employment within a few months.

However, that’s not an easy task if you’re still feeling deeply wounded, or you simply don’t know what to do next. You wouldn’t want to say this to a useful person in your network: “Well, it’s all over for me. No point in looking for anything else. Besides, the recession is killing all opportunities” (No. 2) and if you are seeking work, publicly stating that, “I just need some time to sort myself out. I’m not sure what I want to do next”, (No.3) won’t gain you any ground.

In our culture, work and identity are intertwined. When you were working you had a ready answer for this question: “And what do you do?” Even if you didn’t like your job, your place in the world was established, both for yourself and the questioner. If you’re unemployed, your response to the question is likely to be something along the lines of: “I’ve recently been made redundant”, or “I’m looking for work”. Describing yourself as an unfortunate or needy person immediately puts you on the back foot. In our book, Finding Work After 40, we suggest you give another answer, one that is framed in positive terms and is actually a more truthful comment:“My role was made redundant. I’m looking at new opportunities.” This statement works for everyone, unless you really believe you’ve hit the end of the line.

You’re not responsible for the business structures in which we operate. Unless you’ve been grossly incompetent or you’ve embezzled money, it’s unlikely that your redundancy has been entirely your fault. In today’s economy, a no-fault redundancy is completely believable. So tell everyone your role was made redundant, and acknowledge that you as a person are valuable and able to contribute.

Once you’ve reframed your position in positive terms you’re ready to develop your story….

I’ll offer suggestions on how to do that in my next blog.

Robin McKay Bell is co-author of FINDING WORK AFTER 40 (Bloomsbury, 2011). The book is packed with essential advice distilled from a network of job clubs for the over-45s. Robin is a member of TAEN –The Age and Employment Network, and The Society of Authors. He has recently been a mentor with the Silver Academy. He leads workshops using the FINDING WORK AFTER 40 model, and he speaks and writes on the topic of age and employment. Find him at www.robinmckaybell.com and on Facebook http://on.fb.me/tmmhu5


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