In my role as a mentor I have often been asked about the almost unmentionable crisis that bestows many professionals - retrenchments. So many people face this crisis and the impact it can have on the confidence of the individual can be catastrophic. The retrenched often see it as a failing on their part - the end maybe of their careers. I suppose its akin to a marital breakup when after several years of employment security and a bevy of work friends and habits, when suddenly it all goes. In a day you can go from being on top of a wave to drowning in depression. I know this because I too have faced this crisis and came out the other side a better person and more employable.
My career started well and i quickly achieved senior executive positions after I came to Australia in my early thirties. I felt practically bullet proof. Almost everything i turned to went 'gold', even things I didn't regard as being my 'strong areas'. I became the youngest senior executive in a software company of over 100 people. I had been in the company for 3 years when it went through a merger and naively I thought my life wouldn't change. When I was given my letter of termination and a cheque. My world just fell down a hole. I was devastated. Every essence of me and what I had become went down that same hole. I felt empty, ashamed, destitute and scared by the experience. At 37 my working life appeared to be on the scrap heap. All those doubts I had on my ability became the reality of my life. That hole had stripped me bare - I felt vulnerable and desperate. In fact so desperate that I rushed ahead to try and get a job - any job. What followed was a big mistake by re-entering the work force without going through what should have been a review period; a period perhaps of mourning and reflection. That mistake could have ended my career, but it so happened that an opportunity came my way a few months later that changed my life for ever. This opportunity was so different and outside of my comfort zone but in my assessment it created new opportunities and a means to rebuild. After countless hours of deliberation with my wife I grasped this opportunity with both hands which led to a new and successful career.
Snakes and ladders. Sometimes you go up and sometimes you go down. In the children's board game, now relegated to the antique corner, there are more snakes than ladders so the chances of going down is greater than going up. Your career is a bit like Snakes and Ladders. Its progressing one square at a time along some track when suddenly you land on a snake that takes you back down the board. Although at the time its disappointing, there are several ladders that will get your career back on track. Rarely ladders take you back to where you were instead you may end up on part of the board you haven't been before. Such are opportunities. However a lot of people try to recreate what they had and instead of taking ladders to unchartered areas will continue to climb one-step at a time, but now from a lower base.
When the time comes, and it does at least once for most of us use the down time sensibly. Plan and maybe retrain; take time out to build your networks; plan your future. If you have a good payout, then invest it and dont blow it. A retrenchment can create the start of a great retirement plan or a new career.
Dont look at retrenchment as a negative but as an opportunity for change. It should never be personal. Although some people become bitter and others even breakdown many see it for what it really is - a new ladder to climb.