Craig Dearden-Phillips: Fired with enthusiasm? A job lost could well be an opportunity gained

Use redundancy as a chance to assess what you're actually doing with your life, says our columnist

Craig Dearden-Phillips
Craig Dearden-Phillips

One afternoon recently I received three phone calls in the space of an hour: the first was from my former PA who had lost her new job; the second was from my brother, whose council job has been put "at risk"; and the third was from a talented charity director who has been told he's not part of the organisation's future plans. Yes, the long-awaited tsunami has hit our sector. If you haven't been swept away yourself, you will know someone who has been, or is clinging on to a branch as the waters rip by.

The legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi famously said: "If you're not fired with enthusiasm, you'll be fired with enthusiasm". Until now, this has never been particularly true of the UK voluntary sector. You could survive without showing much zip. However, the tables have now turned. Indeed, the financial situation in many UK charities is now so dire that even bouncing enthusiasts may not escape the crosshairs, along with the doomed RIPs (Retired-in-Posts). Our sector has, in a year, turned from a cosy armchair to a bed of nails - a staggering turnaround in such a short time.

So what if it's you next in line for a P45? The first thing is not to waste time and energy on arguing the toss. Tussles with your employer about "Why me?" will only sap your energy and confidence. Just accept your time is up and move on. Thank your employer, ask for a cracking reference and wish the organisation the best. Hold no bitterness and leave with a smile on your face.

The second thing is to inform your network. Fact: people who have strong networks find good work quicker than those who don't. Not because their friends find them a job - far from it. A network is a web of trust and reciprocity. It gives you vital information you might otherwise miss. And, crucially, it helps to hold you together while you adjust to your new situation. In times like this, a network is also a life-support system.

The third thing is to use redundancy as an opportunity to assess what you're actually doing with your life. Were you really in the job you were born to do? The world is full of people who say that losing their job was the best thing that ever happened to them. Countless new businesses, careers and lifestyles have grown from being rejected by one's employer. This could be you.

Of course, none of this softens the blow when it happens. It's hard to avoid taking redundancy personally, and keeping your self-belief high will be the biggest challenge. Of the three jobless people who called me that afternoon, two do not worry me at all - they are glass-half-full people, ardent networkers who, I know, will be back in work very quickly. The third, however, is in a major wobble and is taking it all very personally.

So whatever happens this spring, keep the faith, use your network, see the opportunities and - yes - stay fired with enthusiasm.

Contact Craig at

Craig Dearden-Phillips is chief executive of Stepping Out and a Liberal Democrat councillor in Suffolk

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