URTU member, Thomas, shares his experience of redundancy

I joined URTU because of my dyslexia. I knew I would need support in case of any disciplinary action against me and union membership offered me that protection.

When I was recently made redundant, my URTU Regional Officer directed me to speak to the URTU Learning Project Worker in my area. Agnieszka provided me with advice and support on the learning resources available through the project and sent me to the National Career Service and other organisations for further help. Without her assistance I probably would not have got in touch with them.

Seek advice and information as soon as possible

My very first experience of career advice was not very positive. I was 14 and struggled at school. I did not enjoy the classroom environment and got easily distracted. Nobody was aware that I was dyslexic.

I did not get diagnosed until I was 33. I was classed as unemployable for a long time.

For years my education was chaotic until I was told I was dyslexic. But once diagnosed, my thought pattern changed. At first, I did not want to accept the diagnosis. I got angry, but then it suddenly all made sense: my  problems at school, difficulties with picking up new skills, the anger I felt when others would laugh at me. I wish I knew at the time that my dyslexia was the problem. I am now very open and curious to learn.

This is why this time round things were different. I waited two weeks for my career advice appointment and did bits of training in the meantime. I also had to fix my bike to be able to get to appointments.

Had I not been supported to get help from the National Careers Service, I would have probably gone for some temporary agency work. Instead, I got my CSCS card and two weeks later a new job with prospects and development opportunities.

Improve your computer/digital skills

If you have to look for a new job or claim benefits, you will need at least basic computer skills. The sooner you start learning, the better. Everything is done on a computer or by phone nowadays. I still rely on pen and paper.

I got signposted to computer training, but all the training has been moved online, so it was a catch 22 situation for me.

I did not have much knowledge of the benefits system. All the stuff you are expected to do online I was not able to cope with. That was another hurdle I encountered when looking for work.

I know I have a lot to learn, but I’m not scared. We learn every day and actually learn lots without even realizing that we do.

We learn how to operate smartphones, vehicles, computers, technology at work, learn with our kids and grandkids. There are so many things you learn every day and adapt. What we often lack is the awareness that all this learning is taking place.

Look after your wellbeing

We often focus on our physical health, but forget about our mental health. If you have been made redundant and have not found a job straight away, you need to look after your wellbeing, too. I had days when I missed having a crack with the lads at work, but that was in the past and I needed to move on. Losing your job can be soul crashing and mentally devastating. All your anxieties suddenly come out and it is important to know where to go to look for help. I spoke with my GP and just plodded on. And then I had a meltdown. I had a week when I could not get out of bed. It was a backlash of furlough, Covid, financial pressures and stresses. Now I’m ok. I make sure that I create a daily routine and structure my days.

Redundancy may feel very grey at first, but it now has splashes of colour. Maintaining positive mental attitude will keep you going. Every cloud has a silver lining and there is always something good happening every day. Enjoy the little things.

Accept the change and be kind to yourself

I used to worry about being perceived as vulnerable. I often thought: “People are going to think that I’m stupid. I cannot get a decent job”. Now I know that there are bad and good sides to human nature. It is ok to feel vulnerable, come forward and ask for help. There will always be someone better and someone worse than you. You are in the middle.