Made redundant in IT at 45yo. Career change advice?
February 12, 2008 3:28 AM   Subscribe

TERROR! After 25 years in the IT industry in Ireland I feel like the 21st century equivalent of an expendable 19th century coal miner. I'm about to be made redundant (again) this afternoon and am gripped by terror. I don't even know now what I want. Any career counseling advice?

OK, I'll be 45 in a few weeks. I've been working in the IT sector for 25 years, (though I wasted the first 10) but a series of changes outside my control meant there's been no clear carer progression though I've gone from an electronics tech to recently a business development manager. I've been in my most recent company for 8 years. I don't feel I have any actual detailed expertise any more.

I live almost literally in the middle of nowhere in Ireland and have worked from home for the last 8 years (pure luck originally). I don't really want to move, I've spent my life doing that. I just completed a MSc in Environmental Negotiation as a potential aid to escape the IT sector but no idea how to apply it. I'm not particularly entrepreneurial so Consultancy seems inappropriate for my personality.
The fear of change is overwhelming me as I'm highly introverted (but always rated highly by those I work with due to intelligence & drive) so the whole job-finding process is more suited to extroverts.
PS I doubt my redundancy payment will be much (after all the CEO had to be paid a $1m bonus for the same project that actually failed) but I have mortgage payment insurance that'll protect me for a while and any payment I get will have to provide a car and living moey for a few months.
posted by lndl to Work & Money (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Got any pets? I know it's a weird question, but it sounds like you're stressed to the point where you're barely functioning. You need some down-time before you start thinking "what's next", and something as simple as stroking a dog or a cat can be great for that.

On a practical level, is this a group redundancy? Throw up a Yahoo group, collect email addresses, that kind of thing, "so everyone can keep in touch". Then work them for job leads. But I stress again, today isn't the day to be panicking. Give yourself a few days to regroup, at least.
posted by Leon at 3:45 AM on February 12, 2008

With that kind of experience, seems like a head hunter might be a good start. Have someone ELSE do the initial job search for you.

Good luck!
posted by tigerjade at 4:28 AM on February 12, 2008

Having watched my dad go through three redundancies in a decade and my friend from high school go through one at the bank he had worked at for seven years, the first thing to say is don't panic.

If you are good at what you do, and have colleagues who will say so if asked, and have significant experience, you will find work again. There's an unquestioned truism in business that companies always lose people that aren't very good in redundancies, whereas anyone who has been on the business end of one knows that there are always a few good people lost in any redundancy, whether because it's first in, first out, or simply because company management aren't always rational and will slash whole teams. Often, good people will up and quit, or offer to take redundancy. So don't take it as a comment on your ability, even if it feels like it right now. You're not a redundant person, your role has been made redundant by the failings or difficulties that your company is experiencing. You are not your job title.

As said above, the first thing to do is to sit down and try to chill out a bit. Or go for long walks, or climb your nearest large hill. Whatever will get you out of your own head and put things in perspective for a little while. Don't sit and brood and work yourself up into a panic (surprisingly easy to do).

After this, check your savings balances and get a number out of your company for your redundancy payment, then make a budget that will allow you to live and jobhunt reasonably comfortably for, say, three months, then on an even more reduced budget for a further three months. 'Comfortably' doesn't mean eating out or getting a pizza in twice a week to cheer yourself up. It means having the essentials.

Get a big pad of blank, unlined paper, and write every single job that you've ever considered doing, done, or imagined was even slightly in your grasp, from your childhood onward, even including astronaut, fireman and spy. Write pros and cons against each one, then barriers to entry, relevant experience, costs (i.e. further education, professional qualifications) and next steps. Do it for every single one. Research them all in detail.

Take that list and go through it and find the one that is the best balance between what would make you happy and that you find interesting, the salary and benefits that you need to live a comfortable, happy life and the barriers and costs to entry. Then start going after it. I did precisely this when I was working a dead-end invoice-processing temp job for a bank in my hometown with precisely no experience, and it got me into a consulting firm in London, and several years later, into my current job, which I love.

Good luck, and don't panic.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:34 AM on February 12, 2008 [9 favorites]

Recruiter? Surely 25 years of work and contacts would go along way to help you hit the ground running?
posted by thilmony at 4:40 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

This might help.
posted by watercarrier at 5:23 AM on February 12, 2008

I'm sorry for what you're going through.

In response to some other suggestions: Headhunters (recruiters) do not find jobs for people. They find people for jobs. They are client driven; unless you are a superstar they are not going to go out beating the bushes on your behalf. That said, it wouldn't hurt to pass your CV on to a couple who specialize in your field. Just don't think that doing so frees you from jobhunting on your own.

I am also flummoxed by people who choose to live in the middle of nowhere and then talk about how difficult it is to find work. Yes, it sucks to move, but you need to go where the jobs are.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:46 AM on February 12, 2008

Network, network, network. Perhaps join LinkedIn. Email everyone you know in the business and tell them you're looking for new opportunities. Quite a few will ask for your CV. Contact friends -- even those not in the business -- and ask them if they know anyone who knows anyone who might be a good contact.

I'm not as introverted as you, but if you are task- and/or goal-oriented, you can look on this as a problem to solve rather than a horrendous life-change. Break it down into chunks and tackle the chunks one at a time. I think job-hunting is actually kind of fun, in a way. It's very much a job in and of itself, I have found.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:17 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, thanks so far. I'm trying hard not to panic, I just got the call in the last hour. It's not easy. It's not a group redundancy, I'm the only company employee in the country. I don't know the redundancy package yet but expect it to be poor, but I've saved hard against the jobless eventuality so I know I can survive 6 months on my savings with my mortgage covered for up to 11 months.

As for "choosing" to live in the middle of nowhere, it's Ireland, that describes most of the country if you don't live in one of the 4 main cities. I live near what is the 5th largest city in Ireland, grand population of about 45,000. My mother is very unwell and I live near her so I can help out. It's not just laziness that has me here.
posted by lndl at 7:03 AM on February 12, 2008

I can't speak to Ireland, but I know that in America we think of being sacked as a personal failing. People are individually not responsible for the success or failure of the company. They often don't have any control over whether a company does well or not. Being fired, especially being fired in a group after a big economic downturn, is just what happens to companies - especially companies which are not creatively managed.

Let me give you an example. My wife was a manager of an engineering department once. When her boss, the VP of engineering, came to her and ordered her to fire one of her reports she said "Take me." Her thinking was that all her reports were the sole support of their families, except for the one that was the sole support of his wife, children and non-english speaking parents. She, on the other hand, had a highly paid engineer (me) for a husband, and could take the short period of unemployment. Even though she had all the control over the firing, and the VP argued with her that she was needed and should stay, she still felt like the layoff was her personal fault, and she went into a funk for several weeks. It took a lot of breakfasts in bed to get her out of it, let me tell you.

So, the advice to "Don't Panic" is really really good advice. The other advice is "Don't Take it Personally". The last advice might be "Try consulting, even though it doesn't seem natural to you." You might find you can develop a skill for it, the same way you might develop a skill for a new language, or the skill to play the violin. You never know, and how much can it hurt?
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 7:08 AM on February 12, 2008

What are your fellow Environmental Negotiation students doing? Perhaps either they or whoever taught you on your course could help you out with some leads or advice.

"What colour is your parachute?" is, perhaps, the classic book to be advised for people who are at a career crisis of one sort or another. It has a lot of the same sage advice that Happy Dave mentions above but delivers it in the form of some structured exercises which you might find useful. (the book has been reprinted frequently since 1970 and will be in any careers library).

I found one of the most useful bits of the book was his review of all the different methods which people use to look for new jobs together with an assessment of how effective each one is. If you are trying to work out whether you would be better off spending time polishing an online CV or wearing out shoe leather by knocking on potential employers doors then this is a useful guide.
posted by rongorongo at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2008

I assume that you have already posted a resume on the usual online job boards? (Dice, etc.)

Every time I did that, I received about a million phone calls from recruiters, sometimes even calls from recruiters with jobs that actually met my skills/needs.

This can be nice because 1) they might just have the job for you 2) it sure builds your confidence 3) you can practice your "pitch" on those jerks instead of on someplace you really want to work.
posted by mrbugsentry at 7:26 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I want to second the recommendation of LinkedIn. My friend the career coach says that this is the ONLY social networking site she recommends to her clients, as it's strictly business - no "lookie me, I just drank a bottle of peppermint schnapps!" pictures here. Many people have found it very useful.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:32 AM on February 12, 2008

Hi from one of those four cities.

With a job history like yours, I think a skills-based CV, or at least listing out all your skills for your own benefit, could really help you get some perspective on this. There are probably a lot of jobs for which you are well-qualified and would make an attractive candidate, but you've never put all your various skills and experiences from various jobs together to see it.

45 is not old, by the way, but if you're doing that revolting European thing of putting your date of birth on your CV, cease and desist immediately.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:18 PM on February 12, 2008

Ask if your company is giving any outplacement assistance. That can be hugely helpful in reviewing your resume and helping you set your goals. If they say that outplacement isn't offered, then request that they retain some for you.

Give yourself some time to get over the shock. Then you'll be ready to make a fresh start.
posted by 26.2 at 9:49 PM on February 12, 2008

What about Green IT? With the EU directives about energy efficiency, people and businesses are looking at everything that can help them manage their energy - reduce usage and cut their energy bills - including IT functions. With our growing world-wide problem with e-waste as well, Green IT may be a bigger future industry. (Noted that you said consultancy might not be the path for you, however...)
posted by trixie_bee at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2008

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