Lost your job? It could just make you hap­pier

Thou­sands of work­ers are wor­ried about be­ing laid off. But as th­ese three peo­ple dis­cov­ered, there is life af­ter re­dun­dancy. By Alex Kas­riel

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

PETER MARKS ran his fam­ily bak­ery busi­ness in north Lon­don for 22 years. But the com­bined com­pe­ti­tion from in­ter­net shop­ping and a new Tesco Metro forced him to sell up in June 2008. He con­tin­ued to man­age the store but ear­lier this year, it closed for good and the 51-year-old be­came job­less for the first time in his work­ing life.

Marks is not alone. Jewish work­ers have been vic­tims of “op­er­a­tions stream­lin­ing” or “of­fice down­siz­ing” since the re­ces­sion hit, just like every­one else.

In­de­pen­dent char­ity the Em­ploy­ment Re­source Cen­tre (ERC) — which seeks to help un­em­ployed Jews from all over the coun­try find work — has seen an in­crease in ap­pli­cants since the credit crunch hit last year. Its chair­man Tr­isha Ward says mem­ber­ship of the north Lon­don fa­cil­ity has nearly dou­bled in two years, with 500 new ap­pli­cants this year alone.

“The num­ber of peo­ple who are be­ing made re­dun­dant has shot up,” says Ward. “Our con­cern is that the re­ces­sion is not over yet. While peo­ple are talk­ing about green shoots we could be head­ing for a dou­ble bounce. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

With its free ser­vices in­clud­ing cour­ses on CV writ­ing, in­ter­view tech­niques, net­work­ing and one-to-one men­tor­ing, it has helped 8,000 peo­ple back into em­ploy­ment since 1992. Ward says that the char­ity has re­cently been “work­ing smarter” — im­prov­ing its tech­niques and cour­ses. And she agrees that the Jewish com­mu­nity as a whole is an ex­em­plary sup­port net­work for the un­em­ployed.

Since us­ing the ERC, Peter Marks now has a job — as man­ager of a gro­cery and in-store bak­ery) at a Lon­don Uni­ver­sity. The JC spoke to him, and two oth­ers, who are hap­pier than ever, fol­low­ing re­dun­dancy.


Peter Marks, 51, of Bore­ham­wood, landed his job at a Lon­don Uni­ver­sity cam­pus gro­cery shop af­ter at­tend­ing ses­sions at the ERC. He is mar­ried to Deborah, a part-time book­keeper, and has two chil­dren, aged 19 and 21.

He says: “I had two days’ no­tice to fin­ish my job and had to look for new work. I was the main bread win­ner at the time. Ini­tially, there was no money to be had. Now I’m get­ting some re­dun­dancy sev­er­ance pay.

“Not hav­ing work to go to was an un­usual sit­u­a­tion for me. I have never had to claim un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit be­fore. Ob­vi­ously we had to make quite dra­matic cut­backs in our life­style. We bought fewer lux­ury items, go­ing out to eat was out of the ques­tion and our hol­i­day plans were scup­pered.

“I dis­cov­ered the ERC be­cause some­body had told my wife about it. They had sem­i­nars on things like in­ter­view tech­nique. It meant I went along to my in­ter­views in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. Early on I had an in­ter­view with Greggs, the baker’s, be­fore I had been to the ERC and I knew it hadn’t gone well. What I found out from the sem­i­nar was to bring out pos­i­tives and not neg­a­tives. It made me feel like I had quite a lot to of­fer. They also rec­om­mend writ­ing a func­tional CV rather than a chrono­log­i­cal one, which means em­ploy­ers can look at your skills with rel­e­vant ex­am­ples. As a re­sult of that ad­vice, I found my new job. “I had to take a pay cut but this job does have a cou­ple of ad­van­tages. It’s a safer em­ployer and there’s a gen­er­ous pen­sion scheme. It’s stress­ful now be­cause it’s a new en­vi­ron­ment and a new sys­tem, but maybe in three months’ time it will be eas­ier.

“I now re­alise there’s no job for life. Be­ing out of work makes you ap­pre­ci­ate what you have got. We ob­vi­ously be­came more re­source­ful to cope with not hav­ing mon-


ey com­ing in. It’s amaz­ing re­ally how lit­tle you can live on.

“It did bring the fam­ily closer to­gether. Be­ing part of the Jewish com­mu­nity helps a lot. Peo­ple al­ways know peo­ple who they can in­tro­duce you to. It’s car­ing, and gen­er­ally peo­ple are very help­ful to­wards one an­other. That is the way it should be.”


Joanna Mor­ri­son, 31, had been work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing for nine years as an ac­count di­rec­tor when she was made re­dun­dant in Fe­bru­ary, af­ter re­turn­ing from ma­ter­nity leave. She is now the reg­is­trar and mar­ket­ing man­ager at Hen­don Prepara­tory School. She lives in north Lon­don with her hus­band, Ben, who works in fundrais­ing. They have a two-year-old son called Louis.

She says: “When I went back to work af­ter hav­ing my baby, I found it quite dif­fi­cult. Ad­ver­tis­ing is not a good in­dus­try for work­ing mums. You have to be avail­able 24 hours a day and I was work­ing four days a week but even on my day off I was still be­ing called up. I just wasn’t happy.

“The com­pany wasn’t do­ing par­tic­u­larly well and they had to make cuts. It was a real shame that I was one of the vic­tims but in the end they did me a mas­sive favour. I’m like a changed per­son now. They han­dled the whole thing very well but ob­vi­ously it knocked my con­fi­dence. But I needed to do some­thing. I couldn’t be a ‘stay-at-home’ mum.

“My hus­band was very sup­port­ive and fi­nan­cially

Be­ing made re­dun­dant was a bless­ing for Joanna Mor­ri­son, who swapped a high-pres­sure ad­ver­tis­ing role for a job in Jewish ed­u­ca­tion

Happy in his new role: baker Peter Marks

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