Got retrenched? Here’s how to bounce back after job loss

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Your rights and retrenchment. Picture: File
Your rights and retrenchment. Picture: File


One of the most devastating feelings is that following the loss of income. It puts you in an immediate spiral of fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

Retrenchment affects you emotionally and the whole process can be traumatic. Sadly, it does not only affect the laid-off employee but also those who are still employed with the company.

The secret to bouncing back after a retrenchment process is key to your survival and future independence.

South Africa is currently at a 35.2% unemployment rate, which is understandably an amplifier to all the fears and anxiety. These are devastating statistics if you have been retrenched and are forced back in line with the other hundreds of thousands of job seekers.

Here are nine tips to get back on track and stay focused to align yourself for the next best thing:

  • Involve your family immediately and strengthen your support system

You don’t have to got through retrenchment alone. For many of us it is difficult to be on the receiving end of support and is most probably the most challenging thing to address. It asks us to show our vulnerability and dependence on our support system.

If you do not have family, friends or an ex-colleague with whom you can talk to and share your fears and worries, retrenchment can get you down quickly. Most of the time all we need is a sounding board to put everything into perspective.

A support system is vital for our wellbeing and contributes to the way we will position ourselves in the future. It is in times such as retrenchment that we allow our family and friends to give back to us, whether it is financially, emotionally or spiritually, and brings us closer to humanity. It strengthens our core values of family, friends and support. Don’t tackle this alone.

  • Assess your rights and ensure that you have received all benefits allowed

There are a many resources available online regarding your rights once you have been retrenched. If this isn’t your area of speciality then make sure to connect with a financial coach or an accountability partner who can advise you on your rights from an objective point of view.

One of my clients, who worked for a company for more than 15 years, accepted his retrenchment without questioning what was due to him. He was comfortable accepting a three-month severance package. After consulting with a labour lawyer he realised that he qualified for 30 weeks of remuneration from the company. This bought him an additional four months of income.

  • Adjust your personal budget and speak to your creditors

Even if you receive a severance payout, you still need to have a plan for how you will tackle your financial commitments in the months to come.

  • Deal with the emotions then move on

Emotions are rife when we hear the devastating news that we have been retrenched and our livelihood has been taken away from us. Most of the time a process has been followed and we are aware of what might happen.

Whether we are expecting it or not, the shock is the same. Anger, disbelief, fear, disappointment and resentment follow ... and it is in these moments that we must acknowledge the emotions, understand why we are having the feelings and then park it.

“I am angry, disappointed, ashamed and anxious that I have just lost my job...”

All of these feelings are symptoms of underlying deeper core values. If job security, independence, stability and fairness are part of your core values, the emotions derive from them and this will direct you on what you should focus on as a next step.

Thus you will have to focus on new opportunities that will give you independence, stability and other driving values. If you balance these core values you will be able to move on.

  • Assess the facts for what they are

Now that you understand the emotions, you can focus on the facts and the requirements to get back into the workplace without blurred perceptions of emotions or resentment.

Yes, you have lost your immediate income and you have to get back into the marketplace sooner rather than later, but you have a back-up plan. If you are one of the lucky ones to have received a severance package, it will carry you for a certain period.

Read: From tax benefits to insurance: Your retrenchment survival guide

You could accept temporary work and adjust your cost of living, which will put you in good financial health. Turn your dead-end into a cul-de-sac, turn around and seek the opportunities that await you.

  •  Evaluate what you really want out of your career

Even though this is a difficult time, use it to determine where you want to go and what you want out of life. Reflection is normally the last thing we would like to do, but it puts things into perspective and gives you a good understanding of what were the peaks and the voids in your career.

A job is a thing you do, not a place you go to. It is a means to the things you need and want, to celebrate life and pursue your passion. If it was a paycheck, was it worth it? If it was your passion, was it giving you the life you want?

Perhaps you hated going into the office and were undervalued. Now could be the perfect time to launch your consulting business. Or perhaps you’ve always loved baking, now you can do it full-time and actually have more time to spend with your kids. Even though retrenchment may feel like a death sentence, it isn’t.

  • Broaden your network

Make sure that you update your LinkedIn profile and connect with the right people. Join free webinars and network with like-minded individuals. Ask for recommendations from previous colleagues to help you in your next job search.

Give your former colleagues a call and hear where they are career-wise. Perhaps there may even be open opportunities at their current employer.

Emotions are rife when we hear the devastating news that we have been retrenched and our livelihood has been taken away from us.
Lizette Volkwyn

Update your CV and target those companies you would like to join. Don’t just send a generic CV – make sure you stand out by tailoring each CV with a pitch of why you would be a great asset to that target company. Be sure to focus on your accomplishments and what you achieved in your previous role.

The job seekers’ market is tough, but if you maintain good spirits and do everything to stand out there will be a silver lining.

  • Embrace who you are and your core values

When you know who you are and what you stand for, you will know which opportunities to value and which to walk away from.

When you know your strengths, you will be able to pursue opportunities that will give you positive results, not just a quick fix of just having a job.

I had a client in the sales industry. She was laid off for non-performance even though she was a high performer in all her previous jobs. She was devastated.

How would she face the humiliation? Together, we retraced her steps in the last company. Besides the fact that her role was completely out of her niche, she had taken the position out of desperation for a salary. Everything about the company was wrong for her.

Her core values included trust, integrity, support, stability, respect and understanding. The company did not do all its deals above board. She was a fish out of water. Her lay-off was a blessing in disguise.

After I showed her the value of core values in the process of decision-making, she managed to focus on the right company and is now a top senior manager at a well-established firm.

  • Re-brand and position yourself for your next career move

This is probably the most exciting tip of them all. This is your opportunity to press the restart button.

Take time out and evaluate what it is you really want to present. Which industry attracts you and your core values? Which position would you like to find yourself in?

This is your time to plan your career with all the experience and know-how you have gained in the past. It is time to create the life you want. Time is of the essence and you would like to see yourself earning once again, but desperate moves could set you back rather than move you forward.

Knowing who you are and understanding how you want to position yourself does not take months, and with the right guidance you can have it figured out in less than a week.

Read: Six things to consider before changing your medical aid cover

This is always the time to enrol for short courses or certifications to improve your chances for a new role. Udemy, Teachable and LearnWorlds are great online platforms that offer courses.

Rebranding also requires to do introspection, to understand what went wrong – if anything did go wrong, perhaps was it purely an economic decision on your employer’s part? Remember, nothing in this world is personal.

This is the time to embrace your strengths and grow those areas that need development. Many successful people have been spurred on by setbacks to achieve their highest goals.

A case in point is Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, who reinvented himself at the age of 65, just before he planned to commit suicide. Going on retirement with only a $105 government subsidy, he realised how good of a cook he was.

He rebranded himself and became a billionaire at the age of 88. What is stopping you from reinventing, rebranding and position yourself as a leader in your peer group?

Whether it is retrenchment or a career setback, the power lies within you to steer your career in the right direction.

Volkwyn is a master life coach, published author and human lie detector


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