‘Clear your desk’.

Few accountants will go through their working lives without ever suffering a redundancy, whether from company changes, restructuring or, as might be around the corner, recession-driven contractions.

If and when it happens, the first thing to do is check your legal rights.

These are getting ever more complex, so expert advice may be useful:

– Redundancy. To qualify you need at least two years’ service. But with statutory rights of one or one and a half week’s pay for each year’s service (and a week’s pay maximum of #240) and an overall payment cap of #7,200, even after many years service this is no lottery win!

– Unfair dismissal. To initiate such a claim you need to have been employed for a maximum continuous period of one year. No qualifying period is required for maternity-related reasons, sex and race discrimination claims (and there is no maximum award cap).

– Wrongful dismissal, ie breach of contract, has no employment period limitations.

In today’s ‘lean and mean’ business climate, people are increasingly encouraged to question their redundancy by awareness of compensation levels of up to #51,700. But, in reality, average employment tribunal settlements are #5,000-#10,000. It is therefore worth considering whether you can negotiate a settlement, agree a good reference and close the matter promptly so you can focus on the future.

Whatever the circumstances an often under-estimated impact of any job loss is the personal effect on the individual. Ranking highly as a personal stress experience, feelings of shock, anger, loss, diminished self-esteem, rejection and fear of change are common. Don’t feel guilty about these emotions; work them through with support from family, friends and, if possible, professional help with your job search.

These days redundancy or termination for other reasons are regular occurrences and most future employers will not raise an eyebrow. But, whilst the adverse effects on morale are quite natural, it can be a problem if they affect the job search process. Employers and recruitment agents/consultants are not overly sympathetic and the reality is that if you fail to make the right impression the attitude is usually ‘next candidate please’.

So, how do you deal with this? By undertaking the thorough approach any job seeker should. Only now you have an advantage: you have more time to focus on the all-important steps of preparation and application.

Step 1 – Self assessment: build your self confidence

Work thoroughly through your career history (also the preparation for your cv) but, as well as sorting dates of employment, job titles and responsibilities etc, think hard about your achievements and successes. You will now be starting to restore your self-belief, reminding yourself what a worthwhile contribution you can make and overcoming negative feelings.

Step 2 – A good cv: your marketing document

Looking at and reading your own well-presented cv, reflecting those achievements is another step in boosting your self-confidence: ‘I am, and look, a good product’. Cvs win interviews; if yours is ‘above average’ you will gain meetings that others miss out on.

Step 3a – Interviews: selling your abilities

Having got yourself an interview you now need to be able sell what you can do. Prepare for the typical opening question: ‘run me through your career’. Keep this succinct; emphasise your strengths, use positive words, and make it interesting eg ‘four really enjoyable years with the xyz company, here I had particular success educating non-financial managers on cost control, initiated significant IT developments …’.

Get advice and training if possible, or read a good book or guide on interview technique, including dealing with typically difficult questions (most of which won’t be if you’ve done steps one and two above thoroughly) and you will relish answering such questions as:

‘What have been you major achievements with your last company?’

‘Describe your management style’

‘How can you contribute to our company?’

If you are confident addressing these and present your experience in an upbeat manner this is how you will come across and your demeanour will carry you through a one hour interview even if on the inside you are going through the recovery process.

Step 3b – Interview question: ‘reason for leaving?’

Volunteering this is often a natural conclusion to answering the ‘run me through your career’ question; if not, it will be specifically asked.

Maintain your self-confidence (you are a good employee and good at what you do). Maintain eye contact, say it as it is, briefly: ‘The company has gone through a restructuring and a number of positions were made redundant, mine included. I arranged a quick, efficient handover to my immediate FD and left on 30 June’ or ‘a week after the new finance director was appointed he advised me that he wanted the financial controller from his previous company to join him. I was offered a good termination package which, after some negotiation, I accepted’. End of story.

Most interviewers will be searching for confirmation that you are ‘good at your job’ by interviewing you in-depth about what you have done and what you have achieved.

If they have concerns about you they may probe further at the reasons for leaving. Because you are confident of your abilities you can provide brief, straightforward, honest replies, can’t you? Prepare yourself well and you can tackle the job market with confidence, even if you have been hit hard by a job loss.

For more careers advice go to new/careers.jsp

The institute’s website is at

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