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How to cope with sudden redundancy

Losing your job without any notice can be one of the most stressful things you will ever experience in your working life. The thought of waking up in the morning without a job, without any money coming in at the end of the month and without anything to do can fill people with horror and cause serious damage to anyone's mental health.

So what are the best ways of coping with the unexpected?

1)      Check your finances

This may seem like common sense but so many people just panic without actually looking to see how much money they have in the bank, how much they are owed (there are various statutory obligations on the government to support you if you suddenly lose your job and have wages owing) and any likely future expenditure in the next couple of months. Work out how much you are going to need to spend to survive over a period of say three months, and calculate whether you have the money in the bank to cover these overheads.

Look at any money you plan to spend in the next 3 to 6 months but are not yet obliged to spend it. For example, if you have thought about booking a holiday or planned to purchase a new car it is important to look at these costs carefully and decide whether or not you still feel able to afford them in the worst case scenario.

2)      Think of the worst case scenario

Some people put their heads in the sand and do not consider what could happen in the short-term and long-term future if they do not find another job quickly. If you are highly experienced with lots of skills that other employers are going to want to see, then it shouldn't be too much of a problem finding another job even if the pay is less. However, if you are in your late 50s, early 60s with skills and experience etc, you may find it a bit harder because of the subconscious age discrimination that will no doubt follow you around as you make job applications. Think of what would happen in 6 months if you haven't been able to find a job and you have calculated what expenditure you are going to need to find in the meantime.

3)      Falling into a new job by mistake.

Quite a few people take roles quickly in the same way that people have relationships after ending a previous relationship and regret it after a few weeks because they have jumped into it too quickly without thinking of the consequences.

Do not panic!  

Think carefully about a job move and having calculated the financial position and thought about the worst case scenario, do you still need to jump into the first job that comes along or have you got some time to think about it first?  

If at all possible try to think about it first.

4)      Don't panic!

Do not panic. This has to be the best advice to give you. People lose their jobs all the time and it is quite common. Do not think you have done anything wrong - sudden redundancy is often caused by a system failure rather than a personal failure. Try to concentrate on the positives that are going on in your life and do not think about the negatives.  Although there is stigma attached to not having a job, it is so common these days for people to move jobs every few years rather than stay in them for long periods of time, that no one is going to particularly hold it against you.

Don't forget to contact your ex-employer to ask one of the managers or anyone at the business if they will write a "to whom it may concern" reference for you. If you are still in work consider drafting this yourself and getting someone to print it out on letterhead.  This reference should confirm the dates you worked for the business, the opinion of the manager or writer as to your experience & skills and whether they would be of benefit to another employer, and confirmation that they would most certainly employ you again given the opportunity. The letter should finish by explaining why the employment has been terminated suddenly and to apportion no blame to you.

This one piece of advice will be very useful for you in applying for other roles as you can send the reference with the CV to anyone you are making a job application to so that they could see the circumstances surrounding your sudden departure.

Finally, don't panic.

Have I said this before?

Jonathan Fagan is a director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and commentates regularly on the state of the legal profession and also legal careers. You can contact Jonathan at or email


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