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
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-
‘IN THE END THEY DID ME A MASSIVE FAVOUR. I’M LIKE A CHANGED PERSON NOW’
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