Should I take a break after redundancy?

by Ian Gooden, Chiumento, UK

Should I take a break after redundancy? Its a pretty frequent question asked by delegates. And one that’s pretty easy to understand.

Redundancy can be a huge emotional rollercoaster. By the time the ink is dry on all the paperwork, potentially after months of uncertainty, you can feel physically and psychologically drained. On the plus side you may also have banked a sum of money that gives you a secure breathing space before finances become a real issue. Put the two together and you can understand that taking time out before starting a job search can be really attractive.

So what should individuals think about when making a decision on taking a break after redundancy? We asked our Operations Manager, Lesley Colella, for her view.

Every individual is different

As with pretty much everything in life, individual circumstances will often dictate if an individual can even contemplate taking a break after redundancy. If you’ve received little in redundancy pay, have few savings and were already struggling with the cost of living crisis then you may have no choice but to jump straight back in to the job market.

Assuming you do have the financial strength to take a break, how should you approach it? I can see two potential strategies.

Take the time

You can jump straight in, book that flight, plan that big DIY project or take yourself on a road trip. You need time and space to process what’s happened and ponder the big question: “what’s next?” For some that will work.

For some, a break might be part of “letting go”. If you’ve worked for the organisation for a long time, the sudden loss of routine and relationships can be difficult and take time to come to terms with. Likewise, if your exit was a bruising experience, you might feel the need to take some time out of work to work through your emotions.

Choosing to take a break often hinges on your confidence in landing a new job. If your confidence is high, then taking time out is low risk. You’ll still have the financial strength to plug the gap between landing back in the real world and starting a new job.

However the mind can play games with you. You get an immediate adrenalin rush from booking that dream break. The first few days on the beach or by the pool gets the happiness level soaring. And then around day 5 or 6 the nagging doubts can kick in. Have you done the right thing? Will a job be easy to find when you get back? Should you be surfing websites and making applications? Guilt can follow – in the “why aren’t I doing something?” form.

As the break progresses the reality of landing back in the real world can start to take over. The break itself has now added, rather than eased, your stress levels. And when you get home it can be a hard bump of reality.

Of course the opposite could be true. You switch off, relax and re-set. And then come back bounding with energy and ready to go. Batteries re-charged and really focused on landing your next role.

An alternate strategy

Taking a break could well be part of your post-redundancy strategy – but that doesn’t mean it has to be the first thing you do. For some, especially those anxious about the future, it could be the wrong thing to do.

For them the solution could be to get the new job sorted first and then take the break. So how might that look?

Let’s just imagine for a minute you haven’t been made redundant. If you were in employment and applying for jobs you wouldn’t be able to take an offer and start the next day. You’d have to work out your notice period. Which could be anything from a few weeks to several months. Employers are used to waiting for people to start.

So why not, when offered a job agree a start date a few weeks into the future? You can use your last notice period as the starting point for negotiations.  The chances are that (a) you’ll still be able to start quicker than an employed candidate and (b) if the employer really wants you they’ll be prepared to wait a reasonable amount of time. After all, you can tell them you need a bit of time to re-charge after everything you’ve been through.

The psychology is different

Job landed. Start date agreed. Financial security assured. You can now head off on your break with a clear conscience. Sitting on your sun lounger or trekking up that mountain the world will look very different. You can truly relax and switch – and reward yourself for a job well done. Spending that bit extra, or going for that bit longer, is justifiable if you know that you’ve a job and a salary to come back to.

Your career coach can help

Should I take a break after redundancy? It depends on so many things there’s no “silver bullet” answer. Even if you have the financial strength to do it, it may not be the right choice if all you are going to do is worry or feel guilty while you are taking time out.

If you’ve been lucky enough to get outplacement as part of your redundancy package you have the support to help you make the right choice. Talk to your coach and they can help you think through the options and the potential risks and benefits.

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