I’ve been retrenched and don’t have a job lined up – why I’m okay with it

A relaxed woman browsing through her phone at a cafe.
A relaxed woman browsing through her phone at a cafe.

Retrenchment, people will say, is one of the worst things that can happen to you. 

It’s traumatic and often leaves you in a complete state of panic because the safety net you’ve had (whether it’s been for a few months or a good number of years), has been ripped out from underneath your feet.

Often, you’re never prepared for situations where you lose your job (and some companies don’t always warn their employees that this is a possibility), and when that happens, your natural instinct is to panic.

I’ve been retrenched. My retrenchment is different in the sense that I found myself in the position of taking a voluntary severance package because I’m unable to relocate as our business has required.

So voluntary retrenchment, but still retrenchment nonetheless.

The decision to do this has certainly not been an easy one, but I’ve made the decision based on the fact that

a) I’m not in a position to afford moving when I have family priorities and,

b) I’m visually disabled and all of the doctors I see are here (I know I can find doctors in a different city, but when you find the doctors you need and who’ve been with you through your entire diagnosis and journey – well, you’re not going to want to give up that established trust that easily)

And so it’s come to my last month at my job and the journey from the first stage of going through the process up until this point has, been a rollercoaster ride of emotions. 

READ MORE:4 ways to not feel overwhelmed when you’re retrenched

You don’t realise just how emotionally tough it is until it happens to you, and unexpectedly, one of the biggest feelings I’ve been surprised by so far, is the fact that throughout this process, is that I’ve been grieving.

Grieving 11 years of being in the media industry. Grieving the wonderful people on the floor that I work with. 

Grieving my colleagues (both old and new) and grieving the joys of simply having a structured routine that allowed me to express my creativity as well as being part of a digital company that’s constantly evolving.

Totally not going to miss the admin though.  

One thing I have discovered throughout the process though is that the more I’ve been taking time to think, the more I realised that I’m not quite ready to jump into the job hunting process.

I know it’s what a lot of people have been expecting – that in my anxiety about my future prospects, the first thing I’d want to do is start panic searching for a new job.

In my time trying to deal with everything that’s been happening, I’ve come to the realisation, that for the first time, I’ve got a fresh new opportunity. 

It’s like I’ve pressed the reset button on my life and now have the opportunity to start over and explore new avenues, do things I’ve never had enough time to do and work on doing things that will encourage personal growth. 

And the thing is that I can’t do this by simply jumping into something simply for the sake of looking for a new job.

Especially if I’ll only be looking for something because I need it and not because I want it. 

We all know that the job market is a tough one, and yes, many are simply looking for something because unemployment rates are high and we’re desperate to earn an income in a tough economic climate.

READ MORE: Should you take the risk and resign when you have no options lined up?

However, I often think that in the search for getting something as soon as possible, we can lose that connection to what you feel you really want. 

I recognise that I’m privileged enough to be able to say this, and I certainly think that it is more than valid to search for something if you really need it, but if you are in a position to, and if you’ve built up enough resources over time that you find yourself in a position to be able to take a breather (which I do think I’ll be able to manage), then a timeout might be an option that you really should consider.

For the first time I can choose what I want and where to go to from here. And I can take the time needed to rethink and change my life goals. 

Most people I spoke to (at least those closest to me) have been nothing but supportive, with many understanding my reasoning and the need for much-needed rest, but I do find that random strangers like to assume they know better.

I’ve been told everything from “it will look bad if you take a break” to “what if you become lazy and sponge off someone else” and “but you won’t have a purpose in life.”

Those are things that are very frustrating because it assumes that a) I will be lazing about whole day and b) that I can’t multitask and still look for a job albeit it at my own pace.

It also doesn’t take into account that retrenchment is something you need to process and come to terms with. And sometimes the only way you can do that is to take a step back and decompress.

I spoke to Elizabeth Mamacos, former Head of Content at Careers24 turned freelancer who says that taking a break before searching for something new can actually be really good for you.

“Taking a bit of time between jobs can be rejuvenating, as well as help you to find focus and direction outside of what you were expecting or planning for within your current job situation. 
Retrenchment opens doors that you hadn't considered and can offer an opportunity to explore new avenues. 

If you're able to take a bit of time off, then it can be a chance to rest, regroup, have some fun, tick off a few bucket list items and grow yourself, before getting stuck back into the grind.”

Of course, I didn’t simply ask about the best things about taking a break, because I know that despite this there is and will still be a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around what comes next.

Three important questions to consider when you’re taking a break – Elizabeth answers:

If you’ve been taking a break does it have a negative impact on how you’re viewed as a prospective candidate?

This depends on the length of the break. If it's a month or two, it's not really necessary to even address it. If it's longer, then it's better to have a brief explanation. 

What would be a good way to answer if a potential employer asks why someone has been taking a break?

Keep it short but tell the truth. If you found yourself with the opportunity to take some time for yourself, there is nothing wrong with that. 

You can describe a few of the things that you did during your time out, that relate to work or personal development, in context, and explain how this had better prepared you for the job you’re applying to. 

How are the best ways to cope when anxiety gets the best of you in terms job prospects?  

It can be overwhelming and taking a break when you're not sure what waits on the other side of it is hardly relaxing, but if you're prepared, focused and ready to work at job hunting then a break can be good for you. 

And if the time off is spent well and includes the kind of personal development that is good for your career, then there will be no regrets.

Have you ever taken a break before searching and applying for a new job? Tell us about your experiences.

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