First Class Coach

My company is merging and I have the chance of taking voluntary redundancy.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'm nearly 50 and I'm worried about finding another job. Should I go or should I stay?

A: WHEN THOSE around you are jumping at the chance of redundancy payments, it's easy to follow the herd, take the money and run. However, moving on isn't the best route for everyone and, sadly, at your age, you have a particular reason to think carefully before making up your mind.

You are right to be concerned about your future employability. Despite the fact that the retirement age is being raised and the supply of young people entering employment is dwindling, those over 50 (and some still in their forties) are finding it difficult to find new employment. Anti-ageism legislation isn't due till the autumn, but headhunters are privately confessing that their clients are setting lower age limits for job vacancies, whatever their recruitment advertising says. Even so, taking redun- dancy could be the right decision, depending on you, your personality and your skills.

You can find out by carrying out a little self-analysis. Ask yourself how satisfied you are with your current position. Do you love your job or are you bored or frustrated? If this merger hadn't come along, would you have been thinking of leaving anyway?

If you're happy in your work, explore how your role might change in the future and whether this would improve things. Would you have a new boss, new duties, a new location? How would that suit you? If all those around you are opting for redundancy, they're likely to justify their decision by being negative about the prospects of the merged company. But it isn't automatic that things will be worse.

It's also worth considering what kind of temperament you have: do you adapt to change readily and could you be enthusiastic about the new organisation?

Or maybe you dislike any disruption of your familiar routine and would be prone to spending time mourning what's past. If the latter, it would be best to move on now.

Recently, I interviewed a middle manager whose organisation had undergone a major restructuring, where the whole staff were offered redundancy.

The principle was to 'keep the enthusiasts, release the prisoners and reduce the passengers' in the company, so that the desired changes in culture and processes would have the best possible chance of taking root. Which one of these groups would you fall into?

If, having carried out this self-audit, you decide to take redundancy, you are much more likely to get another job if you do your homework on yourself, so that you know where your main value to a new employer lies.

Consider what skills you have that are transferable. Specialist skills that are in demand can be an immediate passport to a further job, although you could find yourself in a cul-de-sac if these are highly specific. You are likely to find a new position more easily if you have general management skills, as long as you don't limit your thinking to finding an exactly parallel situation in an identical organisation.

Add to your self-knowledge by asking colleagues what they see as your qualities. What do they perceive to be the value you bring when you're performing at your best? What development suggestions for you do they have? If you do this by e-mail, you'll have a written record that will be useful in preparing your CV, and you will have provided an easy and embarrassment-free means for people to show their appreciation.

When I coach clients on career change, I encourage them to create their ideal job specifi- cation. I get them to think about what aspects of their previous jobs they loved and hated, and which of their abilities they feel have been under-exploited in their career. The process can throw up surprises - for example, high status can emerge as less important to an individual than working with a friendly team, or they may find they prefer an operational role to a strategic one.

It may seem odd suggesting to the unemployed that they create a personal template for the sort of job that will bring most satisfaction, given they have a tendency to feel they will be lucky to get any job, let alone one that they really like. But in my experience, people who have a clear idea of what they do well and enjoy doing usually convey positive energy and enthusiasm at interview, and find it easier to get a new job that suits them.

Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If you have an issue you'd like her to cover, e-mail: miranda@firstclasscoach.co.uk.

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