Out Of Office – Becoming Redundant

One of the things I’ve loved about restrictions being lifted is the ability to fill up my calendar again, by booking shows, comedians, exhibitions, travel, etc. It’s been wonderful to have concrete plans to look forward to at last.

However, there is now a major aspect of the months ahead for which I have complete uncertainty.

For the first time in my life, I’m being made redundant.

The Story So Far

I don’t write about my job much in here, as it’s not an exciting topic to blog about, even though I enjoy doing it, and a lot of it’s confidential. But I’ll give an overview for people who don’t know, as it’s been 6 years since I previously wrote about it. The key points are also outlined on my LinkedIn page of course.

I’ve been working for the print department of Torbay Council, mainly dealing with transactional and variable output – which in layman’s terms means things like bills, invoices, purchase orders, election materials, mailshots, surveys, and so on. Basically anything that has to be personalised or have unique numbering added to it, some of which are very complicated mail-merges. So this isn’t just a case of knocking things up in Microsoft Word, I often use much more specialised software. I also help to prepare other documents for printing, and work on things like spreadsheets and PDFs too. It’s given me a good variety of work to do.

I’ve been doing that job for over 17 years, through which I’ve built up a solid reputation for my efficiency, accuracy and approachability, and I’ve got a great rapport with colleagues in my department, across the organisation and with our external customers – to the point where people were panicking a bit when I initially moved to London, hence I was offered homeworking, and one or two colleagues have recently been trying to find a way to keep me on given this latest development, which is kind of them.

I’m very proud of all that, it’s lovely to be respected and wanted and to have so many friends there. And it’s all the more impressive that I’ve been there so long and made such a name for myself, when you consider it wasn’t a job I was aiming for originally, and I had no knowledge of printing work whatsoever when I started!

I graduated from university in 2004 with a degree in accounting and finance, so that was the field I was aiming for and assumed I would end up in. But a lady I was in touch with at a local employment agency knew somebody within my local council, and was able to get me some work experience with the team who were installing a new financial management system. So I worked with them for a couple of months, doing data entry, spreadsheet work, that kind of thing.

But they needed to print documents like invoices and bills from the system too, which involved sending text data from the system to the Print department, which could be converted into proper templates using the software they had (which they were already doing for other departments). But there were a lot of documents to produce, which was going to be a lot of work for the Print team, and they said they needed an extra pair of hands – and so I was offered the opportunity to go down there to see if I could be of any help.

So I went down there and was shown the software. And, while it was all a bit overwhelming at first, I managed to pick up the basics, and it grew from there. I was given a temporary contract for a few months to ease their workload, during which time I was able to get the hang of things, get to know my new colleagues, and learn more about printing in general. That contract got extended for another few months, and then again, at which point they decided they really wanted to keep hold of me.

So they created a brand new position within the department. That didn’t mean I would get it automatically, because everything had to be done fairly and by the book. I still had to attend an official interview, and there were other candidates who also applied for the position. But ultimately I did get the job, and I’ve been able to do it thanks to the technology and travel support I’ve had from Access To Work, as well as the support of my colleagues. And so that’s the position I’ve been in ever since. How time flies!

It’s now coming to an end though, nearly 18 years on from my initial work experience placement, and I’m not the only one affected. With documents increasingly being distributed in digital formats, there’s been an inevitable decline in requests for print work, and it’s been increasingly hard for us to make revenue that way. So the Print department is no longer deemed cost-effective, and is being closed down in its entirety, with all of the work being outsourced. Which means we’re all losing our jobs in September (apart from our manager, who has been offered a commissioning role to arrange print work with the new supplier).

It’s been a possibility for some time, so it wasn’t altogether a shock when we were told it was finally happening a couple of months ago. But it was still a surprise to some extent, and not a nice one of course . It’s also going to be a very challenging and risky transition for the organisation, which we’ve warned them about, and they acknowledge it will be a nightmare to begin with. So my workmates and I do have misgiving about it, as it’ll undoubtedly be a case of not knowing what you’ve got till it’s gone. And outsourcing has its inherent risks, it certainly doesn’t guarantee that money will be saved. But they know how we feel, and it’s their gamble to take. It is possible to make it work, so I hope they’ve planned it well and it works out the way they hope.

I genuinely feel no ill-will towards them, I’ve got nothing to gain by doing so. At the end of the day they’ve decided they don’t want to make use of my skills and expertise any more, so I just need to move on to someone who does. I will greatly miss my colleagues, but several already follow me online, and I hope that plenty of people will continue to stay in touch, plus I will still visit the area sometimes as well. Indeed, I’ll be going down there at some point in August for our last hurrah and to say my goodbyes. That might be when it properly hits home, because even now, with work continuing as normal for the time being, it still doesn’t feel fully real.

The Future

So, what’s next? I don’t know yet, but I have far more options now than I did when I started my job, that’s for sure.

The confidence and skills I’ve gained over my years in that role, combined with the socialising, blogging and exploring I’ve done since moving to London, has led to all sorts of adventures, opportunities and connections. I’ve made a variety of media appearances and public speeches that I had never imagined doing when I relocated, I’ve produced several guest posts for disability charities and other organisations, I’ve been to lots of museums and theatres now that they’ve become a lot more accessible, and in general I’ve advocated for the use of assistive technology and the need for greater accessibility for all.

So there are lots of possibilities as to where things could go next.

I could of course continue in the same line of work I do now (transactional and variable data printing), and would certainly consider such a role if it sounded right and the offer was good. In fact, to reveal another secret, I was headhunted on LinkedIn by a multinational firm during one of the lockdowns, and offered an interview for a job somewhat similar to my current role. And I did very well. I had a lovely chat with a couple of guys from the company, and the role was very tempting. But it became apparent from our discussion that certain aspects of the job weren’t right for me, so I respectfully stepped away from any further consideration. It was really good experience though, having not done an interview for 16 years.

But I could also embark on a completely different career path. And I am very tempted to do so, as it’s the perfect time to make a fresh start. After all, I’ve shown myself to be very capable of adapting to, and making a success of, things that are completely new to me, whether it’s printing, blogging, public speaking, media appearances, or whatever. So that opens all sorts of doors for me.

Given my interests, for example, I could work for a disability organisation or another type of charity, get a job in the realm of accessibility, engage my cultural side with a position in museums or theatre, develop a career in information technology, or some combination of those. They’re all very wide fields in themselves, and are all appealing in their own way, and there are no doubt other types of job I haven’t considered yet. It’s great to have so much choice, but also a bit overwhelming as well!

It would also be ideal if any new role allows me to continue working from home, or be a hybrid role mixing home and office work. I’m used to working that way and am very happy and productive doing so, plus it would allow me to avoid rush hour on public transport. And it would also enable me to continue supporting my mother, as she’s elderly and blind, and takes comfort from me being around. But, if it would help me to fulfil a role I was keen on, we are also open to the idea of moving to another part of London if need be. We’re only in our current house because we inherited it, which is why we transferred to the city in the first place, so we’re not tied down where we are. So that’s another way in which my options are somewhat open as well.

I have naturally started having a bit of a look around for possible vacancies, and have also put the feelers out to one or two people I have close contact with, who are going to keep an eye out in their networks, and have given me some good initial suggestions to look into.

But fortunately, I don’t feel I need to panic or rush into anything, as I’m in a comfortable financial position – which I am very well aware is far from the case for many, given the current cost of living crisis and soaring bills, and the lack of support that people feel they are receiving. My situation is nothing compared to what a lot of folk are dealing with, I absolutely recognise that.

But, as far as my personal circumstances go, my redundancy pay will cover me through Christmas, and beyond that my mother and I will still be receiving both of our disability benefits and Mum’s pensions income, plus we’ve built up quite a bit in savings over the years. We also don’t have a mortgage, a car, children, credit cards or any other debts, and we’re not smokers or drinkers, so we don’t have huge outlays compared to many people.

So I can take my time considering my options, and having a bit of a career break from September wouldn’t be a bad thing. I can always do a bit of voluntary work to keep active and learn new skills, do some kind of collaborations with other bloggers and Youtubers, grasp the opportunity to explore London or travel even more, and so on. We’ll see what happens!

To Be Continued…

So that’s where I’m at right now. I feel fine, I’m not depressed or anything like that. In all other respects life is just carrying on as normal, so I still feel quite calm. I’ll still be getting out and about like I usually do, and updating this blog as often as I usually do. I just need to figure out the next direction to take on my career journey, which is a daunting but exciting prospect.

If anyone has any suggestions or advice with regards to looking for work, or knows of any potential opportunities that may be of interest, then please do feel free to get in touch, whether it’s via email, FacebookTwitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. All help will be welcomed and greatly appreciated. And I will of course keep you all posted with how things go!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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