In late 1996, I had just completed my third year of university studies and was about to embark on 1-year of industrial training. The bachelor’s degree I was undertaking required 1-year industrial training as part of qualifying for a degree in Computing Science; I had specifically selected this degree and university due to their strong focus on graduates coming out with real-world experience. As I walked through the doors of Nestlé Australia Ltd in December 1996 little did I know that my 1-year would in fact turn into twenty-five amazing years. Working initially with a local or domestic IT focus, it would grow into highly technical and later architectural roles that had global impact. But sadly, after chalking up twenty-five years just a few months ago my role along with many others at Nestlé will soon be made redundant.
Hearing the R-word circulate throughout an office, or any operation can bring out a lot of anxiety for people—the dark cloud of uncertainty and not knowing if you are at risk—often leading to a great deal of stress for you and your family too. Navigating this and riding the waves of emotions that may be attached to learning of your own predicament can take its toll too. It can also be character building and enhance your soft-skills—experiencing redundancy can build or test your resiliency—your ability to bounce back from adversity. Of course, everyone walks their own path and experiences a range of valid and relatable emotions. As for me and my path, I see this as an opportunity—one that allows me to take my skills, knowledge, experience and find a new challenge and importantly continue learning.
The messages of support and appreciation of my work that I have received from colleagues and partners alike have been extremely humbling. However, in one of those calls there was one question that came up that left me thinking long after the call ended—Are you worried about the stigma associated with being made redundant?
Is there a stigma attached to being made redundant?
There is a natural tendency to see redundancy as something personal or inward-looking—I am lacking skills or inferior in some way—but in my experience the issues are business driven and have little to do with the individual. These could be financially driven or change in business model perhaps—which calls for change and result in redundancies. Despite this, many who have faced redundancies in the past have struggled to bounce back—there is an emotional toll attached to losing a job—some even going through the full stages of grief. But, with the substantial number of redundancies observed during the past two years because of the pandemic—are our opinions or views changing?
Are we seeing a change – a greater amount of empathy for those impacted by job loss?
According to research conducted by LinkedIn just over a year ago–“almost 7 in 10 respondents feel there is now less stigma attached to redundancy as a result of Covid-19’s impact on the jobs market“. Despite this shift in mindset, a third of the 2,000 survey respondents indicated that they “have lied about being out of work, with one in ten hiding the news from their family and friends, citing embarrassment as the main reason“.
This finding is not surprising when you consider that a quarter of those surveyed also admitted to previously “judge or look down on people out of work“. This was much higher than I expected. But if there were a change from within indicator, it would be that—“3 in 5 agree they have more empathy for those unemployed, after going through the same thing too“. This is an encouraging sign and as we are now more than two years into this pandemic, and millions globally having lost their jobs—I’m hoping that Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for us all—recruiters, hiring managers and companies alike—to approach recruitment differently. That said, it is sad that it has taken a pandemic for society to find more empathy and understanding for those impacted by redundancy.
As I consider my own situation, and prepare to sit opposite a recruiter and/or hiring manager in the coming weeks—how receptive will they be to a candidate who was recently made redundant? What response will I give when asked—Why? For me, it is very straight forward—a need to reshape the Nestlé IT organization. This business decision is resulting in several roles being made redundant—including mine. What is out of my control is how this is received—-will they show empathy and understanding? While redundancy can happen to anyone—what is on the rise is the likelihood of meeting and potentially interviewing someone that may have been made redundant; driven primarily by the pandemic. Empathy does not have to come from personal experience but simply being a decent person.
So, when I now reflect on that question posed to me earlier this week—I am optimistic of my prospects of finding a new job and confident that there is a change in how redundancies are viewed.
Looking back at my time at Nestlé—I am incredibly grateful for the countless amazing experiences and opportunities that I’ve had during my twenty-five years. I have been part of some of the biggest IT projects in the industry and in many instances at the forefront of shaping this change. To all those sharp people, managers, and teammates who elevated my daily work and became lifelong friends—thank you for challenging me, opening doors, and being part of my time at Nestlé.
I will be sad to leave but I am not down and most certainly not done—I am however excited for a new chapter to begin.