Redundancy is horrible. Just the word can make you feel worthless. Maybe that was the point and if so, to the person who coined the phrase, thank you.

So, given the recent spate of redundancies I thought I’d give some notes on what you need to do upon finding yourself on the proverbial dumping ground. I’ll tell you a few things here that I probably shouldn’t but in the spirit of letting others learn from my mistakes, it’s cool.

I’m not a writer or pro blogger and I  can’t cover everything or know about everybodies situation so this is based on mine at the time it happened and I’m by no means unique. Married (wife works PT in an after school club), father (one son in secondary school), 2 cats, with a mortgage, car, bills, and, after house repairs and no pay for a month and a half, a very sizeable overdraft.

As the man said .. we all make mistakes .. whats important is how we learn from them.

1/ Panic.

Yes stage 1 is panic. I know you won’t find that in many how-to guides but you don’t have to think too much about the implications of redundancy on you and everyone and everything that depends on you before you want to scream. Get it out of your system. If you don’t then pretty soon your head will explode and spray the cheap seats with blackcurrent jam. Scream, shout, cry, blubber, shake, get drunk, whatever. Just have a blow out (as cheaply as possible). Make sure you only do this on the first day though, not in front of the kids and do not go on the internet at all.

2/ Stop panicking.

Ok. Stop panicking now. Regain a little dignity. Show’s over. You’ve got it out of your system and its time to sort your life out.

Keep a routine. Get up early, get showered, go for a walk. Get yourself going.

And Yes. I was the perfect example. Haha.

Take a deep breath, slow down, sit down and write a step by step plan of the things you need to do (after reading this list of course). Be organised and treat it like a job. Once you know what you’ve got to do its all quite simple.

3/ Things to do first.

  1. Go online and fill out the Jobseekers Allowance form. Now there is an option to do it on the phone but take my word for it, if you also have to claim for your SO then fill in the form online otherwise you’ll find yourself running round the house looking for P60’s, wage slips, contracts and a whole load more stuff while someone sits on the end of the phone yawning.  Its better to do it in your own time so you can make sure all the relevant information is correct. It took us two days as we had to get info from my wifes boss.
  2. Phone the mortgage protection people and get them to send out an Unemployment Claim Form. Part of this needs to be filled in by you and part by the insolvency firm or your former employer. They usually take 60 days from the day your claim form reaches them to send you any money. Its obviously not in their interest to hurry things along  so don’t expect your claim form any time soon. Mine was posted the Monday after I phoned,was sent second class and took over a week to arrive.
  3. Fill in your insolvency/redundancy forms so you can claim money back from the government. You’ll need to know how many days holiday you where entitled to, how many you had left and a whole load of other stuff that your former employer should provide you with. Do NOT rely on this money. It’ll be a fraction of what you expect.
  4. Phone your mortgage company and ask them for a mortgage holiday. You should be able to get 3 months minimum. You can fiddle another month by changing your payment date to the 28th rather than 1st plus you may be able to get another 3 months after that. But be aware that this will be affecting your premiums. ie when you come to start paying again you’ll be paying more money every month. There is a scheme for having your interest paid by the government but to date I’ve not been able to get any accurate information. No one I’ve asked knew about it and so far I’ve found the Direct Gov website to be misleading.
  5. Have a cup of tea. Its very important to give yourself a bit of time. This can be more stressful than you realise. For every one of the 30+ pages of Jobseekers Allowance form you turn over your blood will boil that little bit more.
  6. If you haven’t already got a website you really need to start one. Get yourself some webspace. If you want to set up a website quickly I can recommend WordPress. You do need a PHP enabled server with MySQL and for that I can recommend 1&1. Their simple home site gives you 5Gb of space and at the time of writing offers 6 months free. Quite handy for the temporarily skint. You may also want to look into a nice website design/template. I got mine from Theme Forest who you could use even if you didn’t go the WordPress route. They’ve loads of templates you can buy and many for free.
  7. Write your CV, a standard letter of introduction/cover letter for use as a starting point, and if you’re considering freelancing you’ll need a blank invoice, accounting sheets, records of all your contacts and prospects etc..

4/ Go to the Jobcenter Plus Interview

  1. A few days after you’ve filled in your Jobseekers form, they’ll phone you, ask a few questions and then arrange for an interview at the Jobcenter.
  2. Whenever that happens to be the first person you’ll see will go through the online form with you to confirm you weren’t a complete numpty. They’ll also want to take photocopies of your mortgage statement, your SO’s last 3 wage slips, and 2 forms of ID each. Recent bills, your birth certificates, medical cards, driver license and passports will do.
  3. The second person will go through some other forms and register you with the Jobcenters job finder list thing. That’s where you have to give three examples of the kind of work you want do so they can match you with jobs that come in. If you work in games or VFX don’t expect to find your job listed. You’ll have to put yourself down as a graphic designer or something. Look suitably aghast and insulted and request they add your job description to the database. They won’t.
  4. After being given your signing on date you can go home.

Until you get confirmation that you’re getting Jobseekers allowance you can’t do anything else financially as the housing, mortgage protection and who ever else are all waiting for this to be confirmed. Unfortunately don’t be surprised if like me, your claim gets rejected out of hand. They didn’t even bother inputting my figures, just cancelled it, which is highly irregular (if not illegal as NI contributions HAVE to be paid) yet apparently very common. The office in Belfast (who process it all) have garnered a certain reputation for it and don’t bother to inform you until you’re next due to sign on, two weeks later.

Incidentally, I got my refusal letter late Friday afternoon. They were claiming that I was working too many hours which in hindsight is doubly odd as they’d not even entered anything into their calculation forms (I was shown them by our jobcenter). When I got put through to some kid in Belfast (the head office for Benefits) he told me that it wasn’t because I was working but because my wife was working (I later found she doesn’t earn nearly enough to disqualify even herself) and that someone in the Jobcenter should of told me this before I wasted my time registering (even if I didn’t qualify I’d still need to sign on to have my NI stamp paid).

And anyway, why would my wifes earnings automatically stop mine from even being calculated? They’re two different types of Benefits, hers are Income Based, mine Contribution Based. Two different methods of assessment.

Not knowing all the facts at the time I assumed this guy knew what he was talking about so asked him for advice. What else could I do? My wifes pay barely covers food let alone the mortgage, bills, childcare, dental care, prescriptions, internet, TV, insurance, more bills etc.? I needed some breathing space to sort myself out before the world ends!  His reply?  “Sorry sir, but you’re best off asking at the Citizens Advice Bureaux. We can’t advise you on Benefits.”.

Let me just belabour that point for dramatic efect. The head benefits office weren’t in a position to advise me on benefits . . not because they didn’t do that sort of thing, but, on further clarification, because they didn’t know enough about the benefits on offer!

It took 3 days to cancel my rejected claim, couriers back and forth between Chesterfield and Belfast to transfer paper copies of my form (that was originally sent to them via their website and was all stored on a Belfast Benefits Computer), and more than a week to get it reinstated. I’m still waiting.

5/ Go to the Council Tax Offices.

Now in theory you shouldn’t have to do this. In practice, due to data protection acts and gremlins, it can get screwed up so best to go along, tell them who you are, that you don’t need the forms but that the people at the Jobcenter said you should pop in just to make sure they have all the relevant information. They might do. They might not do. Best to be safe than sorry.

6/ Sign on!

  1. If its anything like our place you’ll need to go through several layers of security guards. Its all very civil and the staff are nearly all lovely and as helpful as they can be. But its still humiliating.
  2. Once you’ve signed on ask firstly for NHS claim forms so you can claim dental and prescription charges. You’ll love this one. Almost identical to the online form you’ll of filled in for Jobseekers, except its on paper. Its all the same information. Repeated again and again. And again.
  3. Then ask for an ABI1 Insurance Claim form. You fill in the top and then you’ll need to ask them to fill in the bottom. You’ll need one of these every time you sign on and to send it to the Mortgage Protection People. It proves you’re signing on and deprives them of the chance of stopping your claim at every opportunity. They will try and delay it for as long as they can. Don’t let them.
  4. Mortgage Payment Protection 101 – Once you have your claim in progress, phone them up and say you want to reduce your premiums. Insist that since you’ve always paid your full premium, you’re still entitled to the full insurance claim for the full term of this period of unemployment, but that you want your premium dropped to the minimum starting now. This way you maintain your policy but pay much smaller monthly premiums. You’re claim would in theory drop except you’re in the middle of a valid claim that you’ve already paid for. As soon as you know you’ve got work coming in, phone them up, increase your premium back to the full amount and you’re again entitled to the full amount next time you get made redundant (give or take 60 days).

7/ OK. That’s almost it.

Last but certainly not least is getting yourself a job. Well the web, and particularly social networks can be your friend here. 80% of people who get work after redundancy get it through previous contacts. Not agencies, not adverts but through old-colleagues and friends. 80%! And what better way to contact that 80% than through the web.

But take your time. Don’t do anything until you’re ready. Don’t expect miracles and don’t beat yourself up. The first few weeks after redundancy will fly by and your head may well be cabbaged. Despite the need for work it might not be the best time for you to go to interviews. I was reading a good article that suggested that redundancy affects you in a similar way to bereavement. That we need to go through those same mental and emotional processes to get over it. No, I can see that being totally wrong for some people and some jobs, but for most of us in this field, they aren’t just jobs. Its who you are and to have a chunk of what defines you taken away is a bit of a wrench.

Maybe thats a bit OTT. Maybe there’s some truth in it. Only you’ll know that one.

So. once you’re sorted and in jobhunting mode there’s some things to remember.

Always exude the utmost confidence in yourself. This maybe a little harsh but potential employers really aren’t interested in your redundancy sob stories or financial difficulties except as a damning review of your character (DOH! ).

Never criticise former colleagues, bosses or clients. Show loyalty and respect. No ones perfect and we can all be passionate in our corner. We’re all a little odd, that’s probably why we were employed in the first place. Our individuality. And yes we all know clients can and do make the most mind boggling decisions but so can we all. We all have a lot to learn and we can’t all know everything. Let no one tell you you shouldn’t make mistakes. Mistakes are important. Mistakes are a valuable part of any creative process. Mistakes are how we eventually create the unique. They are opportunities to learn and without them we can not grow.

So keep busy. Keep positive. Keep faith in yourself and I was actually quite serious about keeping a work routine. It’ll help you focus and maintain a balance.

7.5/ Oh and theres this

But where do you find the work.

Well you all know to forget the Jobcenter.

So what about agencies? Well, again I can only go on my experience. I’ve never had a job via the three agencies I joined in the past. I’ve always applied to companies direct and again from personal experience they seem to much prefer that ( if more inclined to ignore you). I also found the agencies a tad annoying to be honest as they tried to pressure sell me jobs.  I suppose for a student they maybe a good option to get your foot in the door but then again I assume many studios have their own systems for attracting graduates. Again I must reiterate that that is just my experience as I also know people who have got work through them. They ARE good salespeople. If you have difficulty selling yourself to an employer then they may well be your best choice and to be honest, that would, and could be my main reason to use them.

Magazine adverts? Well its a bit old fashioned now. Adverts are often out of date by the time they’re printed.

Online adverts .. probably a better bet. Keep an eye out on all the relevant forums and websites. Jobs will get posted there usually before they’re seen in print. It gives you that little bit longer to research and prepare your submission.

And a little bit about the wording of adverts .. alot of it quite frankly is bollocks, often written by someone in HR or even marketing who has little understanding of what the job really entails. Take it with a big pinch of salt and don’t get all depressed wondering if the person they’re looking for can ever even exist, don’t let it put you off. Just go for it.

And if you’re considering freelancing . .well again I’d suggest direct contact. There’s loads of Freelance websites out there but almost to a one their low level advertising seems to attract the worst and lowest paying jobs. The only use they have is to see what other freelancers are charging and you’ll more often than not find you’re competing against teams in India charging $5-10/hr and clients claiming even that’s too much. Those sites are doing nothing but devaluing your skillset.

So all in all I think the best way is applying direct to the company, whether there’s vacancies or not. Companies are obliged to advertise jobs, but if they’re already got your CV and folio it may just give you the edge.  As I said before 80% of filled jobs are via friends or colleagues (or so some website told me so it must be true). If you know someone at a company, get in touch, see if they’re willing and if the company has a scheme, to refer you. Its an old cliché but so true, its not what you know, but who you know.

With regards benefits, if you do less than 15 hours you just need to phone up the Jobcenter and tell them. You should (but don’t quote me) still get your stamp paid.  But be aware that this may well stop your mortgage protection payments, NHS, Council tax and any other benefits. If you’re signing off for one £300 worth of freelance work seriously consider your options as it may actually cost you more than you gain.  If you do do more you need to sign off but in theory, the next time you need to re-register it should be a stream lined process as they’ve already got all your details on the computer. In Belfast. Guarded by monkeys.

8/ Are we nearly there yet … almost …

Save money. Here’s some tips. These may seem draconian and OTT but It’ll really help if you can make your money stretch especially as we come up to Christmas and jobs become scarce.

  1. Winter heating bills can be 25-50% more than summer. If there’s only you in the house turn it right down and wear more layers. Don’t turn it off. It can actually be more expensive to have to heat up your boiler twice a day from cold than to trickle heat into it and keep it slightly warm and you don’t want frozen pipes. You’ll find you soon get used to the cold and can work better in it. If you can, read the meter yourself and phone them with the values. Last month we saved £30 off the estimated bill. That’s half your weekly Jobseekers Allowance.
  2. Cut down on how much you eat. Simple. How you do it is up to you but in the UK most of us get far more calories than we ever need. You can cut it down to one meal a day for a while but don’t do it for long. It hurts. Better off eating sensibly, regularly and cheaply. Lard butties are not to be recommended though, no matter how great they were in the good old days.
  3. Go to the bank and get a list of all your direct debits and standing orders. Cancel everything you can. Those you can’t, try to reduce.
  4. Don’t talk to your bank about your overdraft. They’ll have no sympathy whatsoever and only insist you convert it into a loan at a higher interest rate. That happened to us the second time I got laid off and it completely screwed us over for the best part of 3 years – long after I was working full time. They tried to initiate it this time when I went in to check my direct debits but I managed to wriggle away.
  5. If you need to ward off bankruptcy then swallow your pride and take up any family offers of loans. It feels horrible and will worry you more than borrowing money from the bank or other loan sharks but your family WILL have your best interests at heart and you need to ensure the bank ignores you. You have to avoid giving them any reason to start looking at your finances because once they do they’ll exploit you. Seriously.
  6. Go through your spare room, your loft or your cupboards, anything you think you can make a profit on, sell it. Ebay it, carboot it, auction it .. where ever will get you the biggest profit. You’re allowed upto £16000 savings although you have to declare and pay tax on the interest.
  7. Diversify. By all means sell yourself as a specialist because that’s what the industries expect but if you do that in reality you’ll likely starve. The world is full of specialists. You need to have many fingers in many pies and wear many well fitting hats. Don’t neglect your core marketable skills. Set aside time for self development, training, deepening your current skills and learning new ones. Never under sell yourself or deliberately undercut others just to get a job as that will always backfire and ruin both yours and the reputation of the industry but equally never be a job snob. When you’ve no money, no job is beneath you.
  8. Its a good time to get any dental care done, particularly if you manage to join a new dentist as an NHS patient. Its quite rare but if you can they’ll do all the preparatory work, ie everything needed before Denplan will accept you, for free. That includes (eeek!) wisdom teeth removal. (wish me luck).
  9. Next thing for me to investigate will be grants for home repair (we’ve a very religious roof holy) which I believe. ie I don’t know yet, you can get when receiving a certain type of Tax Credit. I’ll post an update about this when I can get some accurate information.

So good luck and I hope some of this has been of some help.

And please, if you think this blog’s been of any use to you at all then leave a comment below. I’m still in two minds about publishing this being a wise decision at all but if its helped someone then that’s all I need to know.