Being told you’re being made redundant can be a devastating feeling that hopefully not too many of us will face in our careers. However, imagine being told that you’re to be made redundant whilst still on maternity leave.
Zoé started her career as a HTML Developer, but she quickly found her feet in digital production and project management, whilst working in web companies in both Sydney and London. The majority of her career has been spent self-employed, running her own web company for seven years which she sold in an employee buy-out. From there she made the move into “agency-land” in Melbourne, and held senior leadership positions such as Business Director, Digital Director and Head of Digital.
Three years ago Zoé’s role was made redundant half way through her twelve month maternity leave and we spoke to her on the lessons learned from the experience and how she can help others who have been retrenched from their role.
What are 5 tips you can give to people to help them overcome being made redundant whilst on maternity leave?
1. Don’t settle (unless you choose to)
When I first started freelancing after maternity leave and the redundancy I could find work that was easy, convenient and well paid. But I wasn’t being challenged and could see myself shifting backwards. So I made the decision after a few months that I wouldn’t settle for work that wasn’t inspiring me. It took time to turn around, but twelve months after the redundancy I could honestly look back and say that I was in a better place career-wise than if I hadn’t been made redundant. Arguably, I was in an even better place, career wise, prior to taking maternity leave.
2. Keep your friends close
There’s no question that a redundancy hits your confidence, so does having a baby. So in this case, it was a doubling down. Back when I was first considering even having a child, I LinkedIn stalked this fantastic woman that I had heard speak at a conference, who I knew had worked in AdLand and had children. I reached out to her for coffee, we became friends and she continues to be amazing as a confidant and mentor. She inspired my career moves on how to have a successful career whilst having children at the same time. Yes, it can be done!
I think you need to “fake it til you make it” when your confidence is shot, but identifying a few fantastic, trustworthy industry friends to lay it bare to was just critical in allowing me to get past the motions of first being made redundant.
3. Network Network Network
As soon as the redundancy happened I started connecting with people whenever possible (I had one day a week of childcare at the time, so made the most of it!) I attended industry events and started thinking and talking about what I wanted in my career with my mothers group.
Once I started freelancing in digital again I got in touch with pretty much everyone I knew and liked in the industry. Then started reaching out to people I didn’t know, but had “heard of”. I connected with and organised to have so many coffee catch ups to the point that I drank so much coffee it was ridiculous! But it worked and it was instrumental in turning my options around.
I actually ended up getting a great piece of work from one of my mother’s group friends and we regularly talk shop with another.
4. Change how you talk about it
My husband works in HR and he corrects me when I say “I was made redundant”. My role was made redundant – the role ceased to exist. He also jokes about sacking people and telling them the organisation isn’t firing them, it’s “freeing up their future”. But ever a true word spoken in jest. I really do feel that the redundancy did free up my future. For the first time in a long time during my career, I felt like I was able to work on projects of my own choosing, I worked on developing my skills and I actually had time to spend with my family.
5. Enjoy the time (and money) as best you can
My redundancy payout was only two months salary – but in the middle of a year where I was earning next to nothing it was a major cash injection. It meant I could take an extended maternity leave, so didn’t need to start working again until my daughter was 15 months old. I’d weaned her, she was sleeping through the night and it meant we had another summer off together.
I would have enjoyed that extra time much more if I’d have known that I’d land on my feet as soon as I returned to work and started freelancing! But at least in hindsight I look back on it with fondness.
Being made redundant can often be met with anxiety or an unsettling fear of the unknown, and especially on mat leave, it can be an even harder hit but if you don’t settle into just any role, leverage the free time that you have and open yourself up to opportunities, making the most of what you have could mean you find yourself in a better position than before you went on mat leave.
Connect with Zoé on LinkedIn here.
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