As someone who loves Christmas movies and TV specials, I’ve seen plenty of stories where characters are plunged into crisis just before The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year because they lose their jobs or their businesses or they have a car crash that leaves them stranded in a picturesque snowy small town where they meet the love of their lives and discover the true meaning of Christmas.
The best of these, of course, is It’s A Wonderful Life, where George Bailey’s Savings And Loan company gets thrown into chaos when his dopey uncle loses all the money on Christmas Eve. This leaves him feeling suicidal and wishing he’d never been born, but thankfully his guardian angel Clarence helps him realise that he really has had a Wonderful Life.
But just as importantly, his Wonderful Wife Mary calls upon his friends and neighbours to get together to help raise the money needed to save George from ruin, leading to the tear-jerkingly lovely finale. Every year as I’ve watched it, I’ve wondered what would happen if I found myself facing disaster at Christmas? Would people help me out?
And then I was made redundant two months ago.
Bad news & social helpers
I got the news that I was being made redundant in early October after just over four years in my role, and two weeks’ later it was confirmed and I was immediately put on gardening leave. To be honest that was more of a shock than the redundancy itself had been, and meant that I had an afternoon to try and help my soon-to-be-ex colleagues get ready to be able to do all my work without a regular handover.
Then the search really began.
I had six weeks of gardening leave to find a new job, so I immediately started firing out applications, going to interviews and trying to find more freelance writing work to build up a supply of extra income. And this was the point at which I found that people out there really did want to help me, a lot more than I would have guessed.
No-one showed up at my house with baskets full of money, because life isn’t a Frank Capra movie, but when I put out a call for anyone who is looking for someone with my skills and experience or knows of anyone who is looking, the number of people who got in touch or shared it really shocked me. Not everything panned out, but I appreciated everything.
A false dawn
One of the people who got in touch was the boss of an agency who was looking for someone to head up their content team and after two interviews I was offered the job. It was a £3k pay-cut from what I had been on in my previous job, but seemed like a good opportunity. Best of all, it was a job, and came just two weeks after I had left my last role for the final time.
But it very quickly became obvious that it was not the right role for me. I’d done agency work before and hadn’t really enjoyed it and the responsibilities were much closer to account management than I was comfortable with. By lunchtime on day two, I was already talking to recruiters about other opportunities and after day three I knew for certain that I needed to get back to the job hunt.
Quitting a job after three days to go back to the countdown to unemployment was a big leap of faith in my own ability to actually get another job in time, but it made sense while I was on gardening leave to use that time to find the right job rather than struggle along in the wrong one.
Interviews and interviews and interviews
In the weeks that followed, I managed to get interviews, again helped by former colleagues and connections on LinkedIn. And, of course, recruiters. Love them or hate them, I spent many hours talking to them, going through my work history, what I’m looking for, where I can get to and getting interviews through them. I’ve still never in my life been offered a job that’s come through a recruiter, but I do appreciate the help I got from (some of) them in what’s been a difficult time.
Someone else I should mention here is my former bosses Stephen O’Malley, Lindsey Poole and Deborah Holmwood, who all gave me lovely personal references that I took into all of my interviews. Stephen has been a good friend for many years having been my first boss and he still throws work (and advice) my way whenever he can, which is always appreciated.
After a while, I had received plenty of warm rejections from companies who really liked me but felt I was lacking in one key area or another, feedback that was at least better than ‘never darken our doors again’ but was still very frustrating, especially once my gardening leave was over and I was no longer earning a salary.
One of the huge benefits (ok, the only benefit) of having all this time off work has been the chance to spend so much time with my family. I was lucky in my last role that it had pretty steady and flexible working hours, so I rarely needed to be away from my wife and sons more than necessary, but that doesn’t make me miss them any less.
Of course, I’ve been really busy with interviews and freelance work, particularly in the last month, but I’ve generally been at home to do it all. I’ve been able to pick my oldest son up from school most days and I’ve watched Walking With Dinosaurs: The Ballad Of Big Al, Shrek and We’re Going On A Bear Hunt about 100 times each with my youngest snuggled up to me on the sofa (with a laptop on top of my lap).
And it’s been a huge comfort as well as a reminder of what has been at stake. My wife has been really supportive throughout, as have our two sets of parents, and my kids, without understanding what’s going on, have made me laugh and smile so much. But the feeling of responsibility as the sole earner in the family is huge, and has definitely weighed heavily on my mind at times.
Light at the end of the tunnel
I think I’ve generally managed to stay quite positive though. There’s always been a steady enough flow of potential jobs out there for me to feel like there was hope, and in the last few weeks I got through to two second stage interviews, both with great companies and both roles that were actually a step up from where I had been before.
Last Thursday, the first of them came back with the usual negative feedback, which was a real blow. Maybe I was going to need a Christmas miracle, George Bailey style, after all.
And then on the Friday I got the call. MPP Global wanted to hire me to be their Content Marketing Manager. A great job at a a fantastic company, which I’ll be starting in January. It’s not quite a Christmas miracle because I earned it, dammit, but like an Oscar winner, I couldn’t have done it without the help of my family, friends, ex-colleagues and random people on the internet.
So I’ll be going into the festivities with a job to look forward to and my family’s financial stability secured, which is an enormous relief. And, more than that, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out on LinkedIn for people who find themselves in this position and do whatever I can to help them.
Being made redundant is scary and a lonely and bruising experience at any time of the year. Anything anyone can do to remind you that you’re not alone and you do have hope means so much to people in that position. And of course, there’s people in much worse situations going into this Christmas. They won’t have people arriving with baskets of money either, but we as a community need to help them.
Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings. Be someone’s angel this Christmas. Thank you so much to everyone who was for me.