Why Covid-19 redundancy could be the key to unlocking your potential

Tim Harris shares his advice on how to use redundancy as a result of Covid-19 as an opportunity to become self-employed or join a franchise

The global economy has suffered a recession approximately every 10 years for the past seven decades. Though some have had more long-term effects than others, this is the first in our lifetime that has been triggered by something completely out of our control. But while redundancy dates back as far as the first recession in 1430 – there are ways to use it to your advantage.

The aftermath of Brexit and the general election left many sectors struggling before COVID-19 was in existence, and we were given little respite to recover before the pandemic took hold. There is now a significant decline in consumer confidence; certain industries – such as travel and hospitality – are struggling to implement drastic changes in operations. Many businesses are able to open their doors but do so with the knowledge that they will be hard pressed to break even. A drop in general spending means businesses are looking for other ways to make cost savings. Redundancy is the next step, and it’s already leaving its mark. Since lockdown began on 23 March, some of the UK’s largest companies have announced plans to cut a total of 60,000 jobs globally.

The true scale of redundancies to be made off the back of the coronavirus is yet to become clear. But if you find yourself in this situation, use this time as an opportunity to think about what it actually is that you want from your career. Switch your mindset from ‘recession’ to ‘reset’.

If you’ve only just started in the world of work, perhaps this might be a lucky escape from something you were just doing for easy cash. If you’re nearing retirement, see this as a chance to put your last few years of work to better use, in a career you’re proud of and which you enjoy every day. Maybe you’ve always hated your commute; maybe you’re continually ignored for promotion. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of working in a different industry, but thought you lacked the skills.

Many people who become self-employed do so off the back of redundancy; they were awarded the time to start thinking like an entrepreneur, and it was the push they needed to venture into a role they always thought was out of reach. For those who contact us seeking our advice on what to do after redundancy, we offer three key pieces of advice.

1Take control of the uncontrollable

What’s the first thing someone new asks when you meet for the first time? Usually, it’s ‘what do you do for a living?’. If you’re redundant, how do you answer?

Because of the coronavirus, hearing that people have been made redundant is going to become normal. You certainly won’t be on your own, and there should be no shame around this. But losing your job can cause a loss of identity and a low sense of self value. While redundancy in a pandemic is completely out of your control, to admit you’re out of work can be demoralising.

Instead, focus on what you can control and think carefully about your next steps. Would you prefer to make a kneejerk reaction and take a job that simply provides easy money, but makes you feel even less valued; or would you rather put all your energies into a new venture which will make you happier in the long term, and simultaneously gives your family what they need?

Most of our ChipsAway and Ovenclean franchisees are aged over 40. They used redundancy as an opportunity to enter recession-proof industries, and are reaping the benefits of having more control over their working life.

2Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Look at yourself from the outside in; be honest and upfront. What are your practical and emotional strengths, and which are the areas you could improve?

You might be great with numbers or love working outside, be a natural leader and born-problem solver. In the same vein, you might struggle with admin or find IT a big challenge. Maybe you’ve never led a team before, or don’t know where to start with accounting.

If there are gaps in your CV which you think can’t be filled, consider launching a franchise. We offer our branches marketing, accounting, IT support and training from our head office function, and provide one on one coaching to develop people into what they feel is the full package.

Usually, this is what gives them the confidence to step out of their comfort zone and change industry from what they’ve been used to. As a result of Covid-19, many senior roles in troubled sectors are being made redundant – not just in single organisations, but across the whole industry.

At ChipsAway, we’ve taken on people who have experience in automobile through to experienced vets, and everything in between. Personality and interchangeable skills are more important than the sector you come from; ultimately, passion and motivation are all it takes to make a business work.

3Put mental health before money

Money worries can cause major anxiety, and anyone made redundant – during the pandemic or not – will be concerned about where their next pay packet is coming from. COVID-19 has already placed additional burden on our mental health, as the threat of an invisible risk to our wellbeing is causing employers to be cautious about taking on new, full time staff. This will drive a surge in self-employment.  

Starting a new business will test you like nothing else before; there are pitfalls and learnings you won’t have even considered until you experience them. While you take this leap, it’s important to prioritise your mental health. If your mental wellbeing is compromised, so too will be the potential success of your business as you won’t be able to give it 100%.

Over half of our ChipsAway and Ovenclean teams are mental health first trained and look out for the signals and triggers that indicate our franchisees might be struggling to cope. They provide them with mechanisms to realign, refocus and get through the fog. For those who turn to self-employment or franchising after redundancy, there is often a strong fight to feel worthy and confident again.

Without any doubt, the best thing you can do for your mental health is to look beyond money and annual income. Your career should be a choice – something that makes you happy every day. If you’re working difficult hours in a role you don’t enjoy, no amount of money will make up for that. On the other hand, a positive mental wellbeing and desire to be happy above all else will exude throughout your business, making you more appealing to customers.  

There are several different routes to employment after redundancy, and none is wrong or right – it comes down to the individual. But when Covid-19 is inflicting additional challenges in the employment market, there are ways to take control and step into a career you know you can excel in. Those who fit the self-employment model tend to approach it with trepidation but develop to become highly motivated owner operators who deliver for their customers. Many say they will never consider full time employment again. For them, redundancy was the liberation they never knew they needed.

Tim Harris is Managing Director of the ChipsAway, Ovenclean and Barking Mad brands, owned by Franchise Brands since their acquisition in 2008.

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