Managing change: Moving on up
Redundancy can be the catalyst for taking on a more senior role, reports Sarah Houlton
In a world where mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and 'right-sizing' are becoming increasingly prevalent in the chemistry-using industries, the spectre of redundancy is looming in many organisations. In the pharma research sector alone, several companies have announced closures and cuts in UK sites in the past few months, with many chemists facing the prospect of redundancy.
If you're being made redundant, the first thing to do is not panic. The RSC's advice and guidance services manager Caroline Tolond says that sometimes redeployment elsewhere in the company can be an option, perhaps outside the UK. But if it's not, then you have to get on with the process of finding yourself another job, whether it's in the same sector; using your transferable skills to move into a different field; or even using this as an opportunity to change career entirely.
'It's important not to make any instant decisions when you're told you're being made redundant,' says Linda Whittern, director at Careers Partnership UK. 'Make sure you get everything in writing as you are likely to be shell-shocked and unlikely to take anything in immediately. Take 24 hours to calm down and take stock.' Even if redundancy has been foreseen as a possibility, she says there will still likely be a feeling that all your security has been taken away, the impact of which shouldn't be underestimated.
The next step is to think very clearly about what job you want. 'The typical response is to go for a 'scattergun' approach to job applications - applying for anything and everything because of the need to get a job, any job,' she says. But the result is often that employers are not interested. 'The application they get will be fuzzy and unfocused, and a good recruiter will pick out that this person isn't that interested in the job, and will be moving on as soon as they can.'
Instead, you should be very targeted. Perhaps surprisingly, Whittern says it's often easier to get a more senior job than one below the level of the job you've been doing. 'There's not so much competition in terms of numbers for more senior roles - it's a different sort of competition. You have to raise your game. But as it's likely to be a more attractive job, you're more likely to put the effort in to making a really good application.'
Networking is essential. 'Typically, about 70 per cent of people get new jobs either wholly or partly through networking,' she claims. 'Without networking, people often don't get to hear about many jobs, even if they have been advertised, because they can't possibly keep track of every single job that's going. But your friends and their friends might see something you don't, and they'll help you if they can.'
Speculate to accumulate
Tolond adds that for chemists, particularly those working in SMEs, it's useful to know that speculative applications do seem to work. 'Other companies will know that organisations are laying off staff,' she says. 'Their ears will be pricked up to picking up staff they might be interested in, so it's definitely worthwhile sending your CV to relevant companies.'
Be analytical, says Whittern. 'Be prepared to put a lot of hard thinking into what you do next,' she concludes. 'Ask for help from your own contacts and, if appropriate, from redundancy counsellors. Most of the people I have spoken to have said it has helped them tremendously - and most go away realising what a huge amount of work they have to put in to upgrading their performance. It's interesting how much we coast through our ordinary working lives, and suddenly we've got to put on a song-and-dance act to help us get on to the next stage of our career.'
Careers Partnership UK
RSC Careers Gateway
ACS Careers service
American Chemical Society
Careers Partnership (UK)
Careers Partnership (UK) is one of the few UK organisations providing a full range of career management
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