Monday, 27 April 2009

Recession and redundancy - disaster or opportunity?

My mate Steven's 26th birthday party was on Saturday night, so my boyfriend and I had the perfect excuse to spend the day - well, the whole weekend, really - wandering round in the glorious sunshine before heading over to Covent Garden where the party was. Despite a spate of redundancies at the City law firm he works for, Steven confided cheerfully that he wasn't worried.

"I've decided to take voluntary redundancy," he confessed over his pint of beer. "There's so many people losing their jobs, I'm not going to sit around and wait to see if I'm next."
"You're doing what?!?" I gasped. "I thought you liked your job?"
"Oh, I do like my job," he answered airily, "but I work such long hours all the time, I haven't had a break for years. So the opportunity's come up, and I've decided to take it. Besides which," he added, grinning, "I get a much bigger payoff this way."
"But, mate," I continued to protest. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Well, yeah," he said. "I mean, come on, this is an opportunity, innit? I can sit at home, have a rest, do nothing for a year, maybe I'll even travel a bit, then go back to work somewhere else..."

Now that's a response I haven't often heard this recession: "It's an opportunity". Open any newspaper or turn on any TV, and you'll hear a thousand and one doom-and-gloom articles about the failing economy and the ever-increasing queues outside jobcentres up and down the UK. In the past 18 months the BBC news website has featured stories of despair from people who have either been made redundant, or are under threat of being made redundant. People are worried sick, taking on more work, taking pay cuts, working longer hours, being nice to the boss, all in a desperate scramble to hold onto their jobs as tightly as possible, yet here's my mate Steven jumping at the chance to lose his job - hell, he's even asking his firm to let him go.

While the next few weeks will show if Steven actually meant it (or whether he'd simply drunk too much beer), I couldn't help wondering about both points of view. Clearly the media have painted the credit crunch as an unmitigated disaster, the worst financial crisis for a century; but there is a small crowd who feel that the recession has thrown up plenty of opportunity. In Steven's case, he's 26, single and has no domestic or financial commitments. He went straight into practising law after university, so unlike myself, he didn't have the chance to travel or try something else before embarking on a career. It's easy to see how he'd view this recession as a big opportunity for himself.

But it's not just him, though. Some businesses are taking that view as well. Budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl in the UK are apparently having a great time, as is any business marketed for "the credit crunch". Foyles Bookstore in London's Charing Cross Road put up posters listing their examples of businesses that had started in recessions:
  • Burger King
  • Disney
  • FedEx
  • Microsoft
  • CNN
  • General Electric
  • MTV
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Hewlett Packard
among others.
While I am not going to be one of those dismissive or unrealistically "optimistic" people who bray that this recession is nothing to worry about, or who belittle the hardship and distress of many going through tough circumstances, I do feel it's probably worth remembering that there are two sides to every story as with everything else.

Now I just have to sit down with a cup of tea and consider what opportunity my own redundancy has given me!
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  1. Thanks again for the award--and for your visits and great comments! Hope you approve of our post.

  2. Interesting post! I hope he does what he say's and much success on his future.

    I think it would be good for him to travel and see a different perceptive on life.

    I would like to post a quote from a traveling partner of the famous poet Goethe, before his trip to Italy.

    "Man must have many things, a great confusion, in his head. One must allow contradictory tendencies to proliferate, one must not fret over the imperfections of life on earth. One must carry on. The pleasure of Italy comes from living in a world made by man, for man, on man's measurements."

  3. Good morning guys! I quite like waking up and finding comments left through the night so keep 'em coming!

    Prodigal Tourist:
    Glad you liked the award! I shall pop along to your blog in a minute :-)

    Thanks for your comment. I agree with you - I will be so disappointed in him if it all turns out to be a drunken ramble that he doesn't remember :-) Thank you for the quote - very thoughtful words :-)

  4. Hi,
    I’m working on behalf of Check4Jobs, a specialist recruitment website offering daily job opportunities in all industries, both nationally and internationally. I was wondering if you would be interested in some content for your blog written by our experts?

  5. As usual, you're always making us think...I love it. Thanks ATB for posting such thought provoking ideas. We need them now more than ever!

  6. Afternoon Tea Break,
    You have been tagged, the details are on my blog.

  7. Hey guys, thanks again for your comments and sorry I didn't reply earlier - deliberately stayed away from the computer yesterday to do some much-needed housework :-)

    Anonymous - thanks for the offer. I shall check out the site and email if we are to discuss this further.

    Laura - thanks, and my pleasure as always :-)

    Squirrel Queen - OK, now I'm curious. I shall mosey along to your site to find out ASAP! :-)

  8. Interesting story. I am feeling the same way across the ocean in the US with the recession. I work for a large bank based out of the UK and wonder everyday if I need to evaluate my career path.

  9. Hi David!

    Thanks for stopping by. I worked for a global bank too until February, when I was released from my temporary contract due to staff cuts being made across the bank (as everyone knows, the banking sector is - rightly or wrongly, it doesn't matter - going through a really tough time at the moment). I know exactly what you mean about wondering every day if you need to evaluate your career path, and while I can't answer that question for you, there are some good resources out there.

    One book that you may find useful is the famous "What Colour Is Your Parachute" by Richard Nelson Bolles, especially as it's written mainly for a US-based audience. I quite liked "Do What You Are" by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger, which seeks to identify your ideal career through compiling a detailed personality profile for you. I shall have to compile a full list of decent career-related books soon, but you could try giving those two a flick-through.