I read a well written blog by Sharon McQueen-Taylor aka SharonGooner the other day about the impending demise of her job after 20 odd years in the public sector organisation she works for. Now I know Sharon through social media platforms, originally through Tim Lovejoy’s old online entertainment site, ChannelBee – and since through continued banter about football and otherwise on Twitter. Sharon, as far as I can see – is a gutsy individual, full of spark, and I reminded her she would be alright. (though being an Arsenal fan will of course create some barriers!)
You see, I believe in making your own fate. Not `just fate`, but playing the cards that ensure fate works on your side.
Sharon’s plight reminded me of a similar feeling of being lost without work when I was just 23, and the story around it, and the cruelest form of dismissal goes as follows:
I was working for Nedan Confectionary as a Sales Rep, I moved there as a career move and they seemed like an exciting company to work for. OK, selling Fisherman’s Friends wasn’t exactly selling the sexiest of products – but I was 22 years old, on a good salary with a 4×4 company car, a laptop, and a mobile phone (brick!) and I was loving it. It was tough work – 16 appointments a day targeted – and only achievable by the discipline and efficiency ingrained within you from the Dutch company’s training and methodology.
I was doing well – 7 months in I completed the calendar year as one of the country’s top 3 sales reps, and in my end of year review was promised a promotion; dependent on continued performance; that year to Regional Sales Manager for the Midlands, which was their next area of growth. I was over the moon. They were hard taskmasters, but in many ways – to please the toughest people is the most satisfying reward.
That January, I picked up a back injury from trying to haul a box of Fisherman’s Friends from my back seat – and the doctor ordered rest. Nedan didn’t do rest, and we agreed to compromise that I would do half days for the 2 weeks the doctor had prescribed. They were never comfortable with this, but they wanted to appear supportive and I continued to receive encouragement. The injury lasted longer than 2 weeks, but I carried on as normal – I had tough targets to achieve.
At the end of that month, on a wintery cold Thursday evening, I got a call from Edwin the UK MD asking me to go to the head office in Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire the next morning. They had recruited a new rep for the Midlands area, and I was to train him and manage him. The instructions were to ensure my company car was 100% clean, and set up with laptop and printer in place in the car, and my fresh stock.
I was elated. I had also had an offer accepted on a great house that day too. At 9pm that evening, I drove the car down my parents’ driveway under the side light of the house, and cleaned my car and set it up as requested. It was freezing outside, but the inner glow of career recognition and progression kept me toasty! At 6.30am the next morning, I set off from Nottingham especially early so as not to be affected by the A1 traffic, and drove the 110 mile journey to Hertfordshire. I was there early, I wasn’t needed until 9.30am – but I was there well before 9am and chatted enthusiastically to the admin staff over coffee and waited for my boss and the new recruit to arrive.
9.30am passed, and still no-one there.
It reached about 9.45am, and Edwin eventually arrived. I asked when are we meeting, and his response was “meeting’s cancelled”, and he disappeared into his office without explanation or a `hello`. 5 minutes later he appeared from his office, with my regional manager and we went into his office. I think I was still on a high, but confused.
The meeting started without pleasantries. I was handed a letter, and told to read it. It basically read, that the company had pulled out of the midlands and south, and were focussing on the north. My role covering Notts/Derbys no longer existed, and I was entitled to apply for a role in Middlesborough. Attached to the letter, was an envelope with £35 cash in it, and a timetable of trains to get me back to Nottingham. If I left quick enough. Bishops Stortford to London, across the tube, to London St Pancras, then a train to Nottingham.
I was furious. Apaplectic in fact. The emotional drop from elation of promotion, to being discarded without preparation was greatest emotion shift I have ever experienced. I threw my cup of coffee at the wall in blind anger – that scared them! And despite my arguments, the cold Dutch frost from their expressions, mannerisms and lack of encouragement was eerily numbing. Within 30 minutes I was on a train. Back to Nottingham. Jobless. In a recession.
It was the cruelest dismissal I have ever known. How could a company be so callous? I have no issue naming Nedan, they were heartless. In many ways I didn’t handle it well. The house was gone now, and I took a few days away to re-evaluate life.
Has anyone known a crueler dismissal/redundancy?
However this re-evaluation led to a life change which I will always say has served me well. I needed change ands release. I left my fiancee of the time, and I left Nottingham. I landed in London, because I figured there would be more jobs there. I knew no-one, and stumbled into a job as a Recruitment Consultant. I didn’t know what one was, but I knew what I was good at, and the person-spec asked for these things.
16 years on, recruitment is still my career, and was always the career that best served me. An old mentor always said of me when I was young and had 3 redundancies in a year – “Steve Ward never stays down, you can knock him down but he always gets back up and betters himself”.
My message to people facing redundancy, or losing your job in a way you never expect – is to remember your core strengths, the skills that you possess – and tell the world about them. Make good contacts, be brave and be positive and people will be drawn towards you. You won’t get every job you apply for. No-one does. But make your fate happen, play the right cards, and you’ll probably come out the other side a better person.