I lost my job three times in six years. Here's how I coped
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I lost my job three times in six years. Here's how I coped

On the inside of my left pinkie finger I have a tattoo of a fast forward symbol, and on my inner left arm, a stencil of the Sydney Harbour skyline is etched in ink.

Both tattoos are reminders to myself, celebrations I suppose, that I overcame redundancy in 2013 and 2017. And now, after my most recent job loss in October 2018, I’m contemplating adding another to my collection.

Jenny Haward was made redundant three times in six years.

Jenny Haward was made redundant three times in six years.

After my third redundancy at the age of 34, I spent much of the first two weeks of unemployment either on the balcony of my apartment with a bottle of wine, or sprawled on my couch, hungover and inhaling whichever UberEATS order I’d placed (justifying McDonalds on the basis that it was a fiscally savvy choice).

Some days I woke up to a wave of nausea as I remembered I had to embark on a job hunt for the second time in less than a year. On those days, I didn’t change out of my pyjamas and often didn’t say a word out loud. In short, I didn’t really cope very well.

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Unsurprisingly, it’s common to hit an emotional roadblock after experiencing several redundancies.

Psychologist Marny Lishman explains that self-esteem and confidence in particular take a knock.

“It hits everything that is needed for moving on and getting a new job – and people can have an ‘it’s just going to happen to me again’ attitude which prevents them moving forward,” she says.

Unsurprisingly, it’s common to hit an emotional roadblock after experiencing several redundancies.

It’s a mindset that is not entirely unfounded either: between February 2017 and February 2018 more than a quarter of a million Australians reported being retrenched. And at the end of 2018, economists predicted the Reserve Bank will downgrade Australia’s economic growth forecast for 2019 in February.

Despite the somewhat gloomy prognosis, after those dark first few weeks I began applying for jobs and making calls. I smiled through interviews and reassured my friends that I was fine.

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“If you have been made redundant a few times, you will probably be quite desensitised for the future if it happens again (and you’ll know you can get through it),” Lishman says.

Such was the case for Sydney-based David McLaughlin, who has, like me, experienced redundancy three times since 2005.

“There’s plenty of work in my field so it was nice to get a financial bonus,” McLaughlin says of his second and third redundancies.

“I'm pretty proactive so immediately threw myself into finding a new job each time. I do practice meditation generally so that helps with most things in life that can lead to worry or stress.”

Lishman recommends following a routine, finding a mentor, keeping a check on your mental health and remembering not to take redundancy personally.

Often a redundancy is a chance to regroup, reset and realign yourself with what you really want to do.

What helped me more than anything was the kindness of those around me.

I will never forget the power of those short messages checking how I was feeling, or the friends who sneakily treated me to lunch or dinner, emailed job opportunities, sent advice, or dropped by with wine.

But, as I progressed through applications, the fierce determination I’d felt after my first redundancy at 28 years old was absent. Back then, I had taken to feverishly repeating the mantra "I will stay in Sydney", and, miraculously, I was re-employed with days to spare before my visa expired.

Also missing was the confidence I’d felt after redundancy number two, when I was one of around 30 employees who lost their jobs. I knew I would definitely be re-employed (I was) and that my life-path in Sydney was secured.

But strangely, despite feeling so undetermined, I didn’t feel worried.

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Instead, I sat down one day and started to write, just for myself. A few weeks later I had 10,000 words of what I hoped would be a book. It was the first time I’d felt twinges of anything close to excitement for months. I noticed myself wondering what life would be like if I could re-focus my career and become a freelance writer, something I’d been unable to do on my business visa in Australia.

“Often a redundancy is a chance to regroup, reset and realign yourself with what you really want to do,” Lishman explained. “It opens people up to new opportunities”

My future was still uncertain in December as I prepared to travel home to see family in the UK for Christmas. I had been offered a job, but my visa status had complicated matters.

I decided to move out of my apartment, and, as I packed up my belongings, the building flooded. I wondered if it was a sign.

As the job began to look less and less likely, I made a decision. It wasn’t a dramatic epiphany or a lightbulb moment: just a gut feeling that it was time for a new adventure, albeit on old ground, home in the UK. It was exciting, and sad, to tell my Australian friends. A month later I still feel both emotions in equal measure.

So maybe I’ll get a third tattoo, and maybe I won’t. I’m not sure I need another external reminder, after three redundancies I simply feel that whatever the challenge, I can tackle it head on. Meanwhile, I’ll always have Sydney on my arm, and in my heart.

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