What advice would you give to people going through redundancy?

Clockwise from top left: Katie Lee, Bruce Daisley, Annabel McCaffrey, Liz Wilson, Gareth Moss, Amy Edmondson, Liz Jones and Kelly Knight
Clockwise from top left: Katie Lee, Bruce Daisley, Annabel McCaffrey, Liz Wilson, Gareth Moss, Amy Edmondson, Liz Jones and Kelly Knight

Losing a job is always tough but it can also bring opportunity.

It’s a difficult time for some staff working in media and advertising at the moment.

January’s IPA Agency Census found that adland redundancies more than doubled in 2023 and, it seems, more could be on the horizon for this year.

This week, Channel 4 confirmed its job cuts will be deeper than first expected as a result of declining ad revenues while, at Dentsu, 2% of jobs in the UK and Ireland are set to go as part of a restructure.

As Landor’s Liz Wilson says below: “Redundancy mostly sucks” but steps can be taken to help process and reframe your position.

Katie Lee

Chief operating officer, Wavemaker UK

I never thought, when I wrote my article on redundancy back in 2019, that people would still be emailing me four years later, thanking me for writing it. To be honest, it was selfishly written as a cathartic outlet for the grief I felt at the time.

I wouldn't change any of the advice now but there are three things I'd emphasise as I reread and reflect.

First, be led by how you feel about it. I ran around like a nutter, too scared to stop. Plenty of people I know took some time out and went travelling or sat around in their pants watching daytime TV. All admirable activities and it's important to follow how you are feeling in those early days.

Second, feel no shame. The Collins word of 2022 was permacrisis and in 2023 it was AI. It sounds trite but the world is changing at pace and redundancy is a reflection of that and not you. It doesn't feel like that, I can still feel the pain and hurt ringing through my writing from 2019 but I've been through redundancy again since then and it becomes a whole lot less frightening.

Which brings me to my third point. We have made great strides in how we talk about all sorts of things – menopause, mental health, working practices – so why are we still so ashamed to talk about redundancy? I met a friend recently who said: “I can tell you the real story” but, honestly, this is part of working life. Let's be open and honest and take the stigma out of it so that it becomes less scary and quicker to recover from emotionally.

Bruce Daisley

Ex-VP EMEA, Twitter, host of Eat Sleep Work Repeat and author of Fortitude

Having been made redundant myself a couple of times, I remember the emotions I felt. Chief of all was a sense of anxiety that, for the first time, I didn’t know where my next money was coming from. I had friends who took off on holiday with their payoffs, whereas my own stress meant I didn’t spend a spare penny until I had something else lined up.

Redundancy can be a moment for reflection: “Was I in the wrong field?” But, in truth, big existential questions are often better tackled when you have a regular salary coming in, unless a career switch was already something you were working towards. Targeting a job that you are less qualified for is almost inevitably going to reduce your chances of landing a new role quickly. Maybe apply for a few long-shot roles but you’re more likely to be hired into something you’ve done before.

So keep calm, stay focused. I’ve received emails from people who’ve been made redundant, saying: “I’ve just applied for 20 jobs on your company’s website, can you put in a word for me?” You’re far better finding one job on a firm’s website and applying for that and using a call with the recruiter to ask them if there’s anything else you’re qualified for, than just saying you’re down to do anything from marketing to credit control.

As bleak as things look right now, firms are hiring and the economy is likely to pick up soon. Stay positive.

Liz Wilson

Group chief integration officer, Landor

Redundancy mostly sucks but, in truth, it’s just another, increasingly common, career challenge to nail. We all know change is good but that’s usually in hindsight, and it doesn’t mean it’s easy or anxiety-free at the time.

If and when it happens there are a few things that I think really help. First is getting out and talking, not just to experts but to lots of people right across your network.

Almost everyone is up for 30 mins to talk and help you think about your options.

The second is spending time getting really clear at a high level on what you want (and don’t want) and key questions you want answers to; otherwise it’s a bit like going shopping when you’ve skipped lunch – everything looks a bit better than it is.

And thirdly, making it a great new start. That starts with a great ending and closing up the old job nicely and professionally (not a three-month bitch-a-thon about the company or boss) and continues with laying great foundations, like a plan of attack to build some momentum in the first few months, some new mentors and a boringly good look at the contractual provisions for the possibility of it happening again in the future. After all, when did you last go to a retirement party?

Gareth Moss

Founder, Blueprint

Most importantly, remember that it’s not personal, it’s a business decision and it shouldn’t affect your sense of your own value. The role is being made redundant, not you.

It’s a challenging time but redundancy can allow you to come up for air after intense and stressful situations. It could be a chance to take some time off, unwind and reconnect to the things that make you happy. You will return to work refreshed and better than before.

Seek out Nabs (more guidance below), which not only has an excellent redundancy guide but also people to speak to if you need immediate financial or emotional support.

And, finally, if you want to stay in our industry, there are still lots of wonderful agencies and brands looking for talent. Try not to look at it as the end of something but the beginning of something new.

Annabel McCaffrey

Head of support, Nabs

Being affected by redundancy (or any change process) can be daunting, isolating and filled with uncertainty.

To regain a sense of control alongside information about the redundancy process and acknowledgement of how this is impacting you, you can do several things:

  1. If you’ve had less than two years’ service with your employer, read our redundancy guide to get immediate information on what to expect.

  2. If you’ve had longer than two years’ service, read this guide or if you have a more complex redundancy situations, contact the Nabs Advice Line on 0800 707 6607 for information and guidance on processes and to share how it’s affecting you. Expect a compassionate and tailored conversation with someone highly informed.

  1. Join our free, therapist-led Connect session on 27 February and leave with some trusted self-care tools.

  1. Assess your next priorities, whether it’s financial concerns or career direction, take a look at our financial wellbeing hub and sign up to our newsletter as we run monthly workshops focusing on how to build your personal brand, confidence, skills and mindset.

It’s important to recognise that those making the decisions, those carrying out the processes and colleagues will also be affected. Managers and colleagues – you’ll undoubtedly want to provide support to those affected so acknowledge the circumstances with compassion, signpost your colleagues to Nabs and keep to your boundaries, both time and emotional.

You can’t always fix this, but you can be kind. Everything above is open to everyone affected by redundancy, including managers, colleagues and HR.

Kelly Knight

Founder and chief executive, Opportunity Rocks HR

For many, redundancy is an uncertain time but I see it as an opportunity for individuals to re-evaluate what they want from their career and life. No workplace is perfect, so take stock of the things you don’t like and see it as an opportunity to do what really resonates with you.

For some, that’s a career change and for others it’s refocusing on what’s important in life. The main point is this, it’s not often you get a lump sum of money to try something new. So embrace it, it’s that organisation’s loss and your opportunity to shine.

Liz Jones

Co-founder, Conker

What started with a trim from a few digital platforms last year has now started to spread far and wide. Some of this is cyclical and, therefore, will start to reverse as the economy improves and confidence returns. But some of this is structural, which means that old roles and disciplines will be replaced with different requirements and experience.

Our best advice is to seek out people who have experienced the same thing because it’s only when you do that you realise that it’s not personal, it’s not uncommon and people move on very successfully. Then we recommend that you activate your network via LinkedIn and make sure that your skills are as current and future-proof as possible, based on the direction of travel in the industry.

For others, this could be the push they’ve always needed to launch their own company, or to make a move into another industry. The most important thing is to remain calm, measured and not to knee-jerk into something that could make you unhappy.

If you need to take a step back and work out what the most important parts of a job are to you, we’d suggest that you complete Conker ID, a self-completion tool that gets to the heart of what you’re really motivated by.

Amy Edmondson

Novartis professor of leadership and management, Harvard Business School, and author of The Fearless Organisation

The most important advice I can give is that people should tell themselves that all meaningful successes require failures along the way. There is simply no straight path of failure-free accomplishment. The most accomplished people in every field have failed more often, not less often, than the average person. They have taken more risks. They have learned more. They have understood the power of, what I call, the right kind of wrong. If you take risks, you will sometimes experience failure. But if you don’t take risks, you will risk a different kind of failure – of stagnation and lack of adventure in your life.

People feel emotions ranging from embarrassment to grief when they involuntarily lose a job. It is possible and desirable to reframe the experience in more productive and healthy ways.

How to do that very much depends on the situation. The most common layoff situation – at least this year – involves losing a job as part of wider-scale layoffs. The best reframe here is, roughly, “This is a setback – economically, and psychologically – and I will overcome it and move forward”. This is not a disaster – this is not career ending.

Instead of ruminating and dwelling in negative emotions, work hard to reframe the situation as quickly as possible with a learning mindset. Instead of keeping the news from friends and family – who may even be aware of other opportunities to pursue next – tell them. Get out there and network. Remind yourself that it’s tough now but you will find a new opportunity – and it may even be a better one than you had before.


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