Nothing prepares you for the news that you may lose your job. Even if you hate your job and were thinking of leaving anyway, it still hits you in the gut.
When I got my redundancy notice I was in shock. I loved my job, my career was gaining momentum, and I was finally financially stable. Then, with one sentence, everything turned upside down.
The prospect of being unemployed is terrifying. Trading Economics puts the latest unemployment rate in South Africa at 26.5%. That is an insanely high figure. A figure that you may be a part of.
I was given the option of waiting a month to see if I could stay on or accept a voluntary retrenchment that would take effect in four days. I had tough choices to make, but all I wanted to do was laugh, scream and cry - all at the same time.
I settled on drinking. A lot.
I crawled into a hole where people couldn’t ask me questions, sympathise or encourage me. This was partly because none of it worked and partly because I felt ashamed. My dad is one year away from retirement, making this the time I should have my life together. Instead it was falling apart.
Job hunting is daunting. Being in my twenties means I do not have that many years’ experience. Even though retrenchments mean that the dismissal is not your fault, I couldn’t help but feel a blow to my ego. But drinking and hiding does not help. Understanding your options and good advice does.
I read through my notice carefully, weighed up my options and took them to my trusted council of advisors. It was generally agreed that it would be best for me to take the retrenchment package.
That meant actively choosing to be unemployed. My first thought was "Great. I can take my package and go eat, pray, love across Asia." Then I thought "Cool. I’ll sleep in late, watch series, eat junk and live in my underwear."
As tempting as these choices were, they were not practical. It is important to take some time out and maybe spoil yourself a little, but don’t make rash decisions.
In fact, it’s time to start planning. Do you stay on medical aid? Where do you invest your pension? (You should really keep your pension. Seriously. Don’t cash it) What are your expenses? Do you have people to support? How long can your package last? Once I figured these points out, I began to feel calmer.
Eventually, I saw the retrenchment as an opportunity rather than a loss. I proactively began looking for work, broadening my search to new things that I never thought of doing before. I’m young enough to start again.
The fear is constantly there, but it’s overpowered by the drive to push myself out of that 26.5%. Losing my job was a huge blow, but it’s not the end of world. Who knows? It may be the start of something incredible.