This has been a tough few days for employees in the tech sector. The current spate of redundancies at Twitter, Stripe and Meta has left many people concerned. While there are good grounds for optimism that reports of tech’s decline may be greatly exaggerated, this is a challenging time for those who suddenly find themselves facing an uncertain professional and financial future.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a blasphemous thought:
Redundancy can be an incredibly powerful blessing in disguise.
Please note the second word in that sentence. To say that redundancy can be a blessing in disguise is not to say that it will necessarily be one. In so many cases – and this really should go without saying – it can be a curse, a disaster, an earthquake in the life of an individual and a family.
And yet, and yet… when I take in the totality of people I know (clients, friends, family) who have been hit with redundancy over the past few years, I am struck by a curious fact: for the majority of them, being let go has turned out in retrospect to be the best thing that could have happened to them.
Not that they didn’t go through a post-redundancy period of sometimes great stress and anxiety. Not that things didn’t look seriously dicey at times. Not that they were always able to avoid the unpalatable stopgap job and/or a crisis in their personal finances.
For some, such things were only too real. As of course was the sometimes acute threat to self-esteem caused by the feeling of rejection which being made redundant can arouse in us.
And yet, and yet… for the people I am talking about here, being let go has proven to be a real gift. Why? Because it has provoked change.
In an ideal world, we would all be our own agents of change. We would take the initiative and instigate career transition or career-upgrade plans ourselves. But what happens with most of us is that the temptation to play it safe and stay in our current job makes most of us fiercely resistant to change.
What redundancy can do is to overrule us by taking the decision for change out of our hands. Psychologically, this has the effect of making us feel ‘let off the hook’: we can with every justification blame the change on our employer or on the economy.
Where we would never have dreamed of quitting our job ourselves and thereby making ourselves look irresponsible, the job has quit us. We now have no option but to redraw the map of our future. If that future suddenly looks riskier than it did last week, then we cannot be blamed for this. Having had the risk taken for us, we are forced to design a new future around it for ourselves.
And that’s the keyword here: DESIGN. It’s a word I keep coming back to in working with clients. Successful management of one’s career is in so many respects a matter of creative and conscious design. What too many job paths do is to suppress our design instincts. They box us in. They shrink our world. They make us map the future in a chronically limited way.
They alienate us from our deepest career motivators. In a word, they institutionalise us.
What redundancy can do, if we can only show the imagination and resilience to meet the challenge, is to make us reframe, recontextualise, re-interpret ourselves. If you can respond to the bad news of redundancy with courage and clear thinking, then that same bad news may well be your ticket to a much more interesting future.
Jane Downes Founder Clearview Coaching Group
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