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Survival Kit

Global recession may have handed you the pink slip. Here’s how not to stay down for long. Colleen Braganza gives valuable tips.

business Updated: Dec 15, 2008 17:35 IST
Colleen Braganza

Global recession may have handed you the pink slip. Here’s how not to stay down for long, writes Colleen Braganza.

These are not particularly cheerful times, especially for those directly affected by the economic downturn. Because as much as we’d like to deny it, there is evidence of retrenchment everywhere. “If companies used to first put people on the bench, they are plain letting go of them now. Most people are taken on contract so it is easy to do,” says Rithamba Butail, director of the Delhi-based Transition HRD Consultants.

The sectors affected the most are the financial, IT and ITES (BPO operations). “Manufacturing and pharma haven’t taken that big a hit so far,” says Rithamba.

So it’s time to accept that things have changed. That from an employee’s market less than a year ago, India is an employer’s market now. This has led to a lot of anxiety, with lifestyle management expert Dr Rachna Singh seeing a 50 per cent rise in people coming to her with recession related anxiety as compared to last month. “There is insecurity about losing jobs, about losing the luxuries in life, about changing one’s lifestyle, about losing the ability to spend liberally,” she says.

But anxiety won’t get you anywhere. Here’s what to do if you have been handed a pink slip.

Balance sheet

It is important to first take stock of your finances. Do you have other sources of income? Do you have enough liquidity to last you three months at least? What are your debts? How are you going to pay them? These are some questions that should cross your mind.

While Indian companies are not legally bound to provide sacked employees with a severance package unless it is mentioned in the contract, employees usually get some kind of a lump-sum settlement. If possible, use this settlement to pay off any outstanding high interest loans.

“Pay off all unsecured debts like personal loans and credit card payments on a priority basis as interest rates for these funds are very high; as much as 40-50 per cent per year in the case of credit cards,’ says financial adviser Hussain Shaikh.

Shaikh says 20 per cent of the package can be parked into a fund for emergencies like medical emergencies. “Put this amount into a fixed deposit that will earn you 9-10 per cent interest per year. Use the rest of the money for your monthly expenses till you land a new job. If possible, use a portion of that to learn a new skill so you are ready to take off when new opportunities strike,” he adds.

It will not be possible to pay off big outstanding loan amounts like ones taken for a house or a car with your final settlement. So what does one do?

Financial advisor Hussain says lending firms don’t usually offer breaks to defaulters but they can take a decision to work out a solution on a case-by-case basis.

“But if you are neck deep in debt and see no solution in sight, it is better to seek help from a professional debt counselling organisation like Bank of India’s debt counselling centre Abhay. This is a free service where they negotiate with the bank on behalf of the client for a speedy resolution,” says Hussain.

Get cracking

“The challenge is not to get depressed. Give yourself a break, reorient yourself, network, do your homework, study organizations that are doing well and target them,” advises Rithamba.

Networking you have done in the past will be of help now. Contact people you have worked with, like ex-bosses and peers, about possible openings. “Use your time to fine tune your resume, prepare for interviews. Pick up hobbies that may help you meet new people. You can simultaneously also network online with the help of Linkedin and Ryze,” says Hussain.

Experts say do not fall victim of the ‘multinational syndrome.’ Don’t get hung up with multinationals, be open to working with smaller companies. “There are a lot of small, good Indian companies that you can look at,” says Rithamba.

Since jobs are scarce and there are more people in the unemployed market, this is also the time to decide what is more important: retaining your profile or your old salary. While your focus will be to get a job, you may perceive yourself to be at a disadvantage because you don’t have a job in hand and may be tempted to take what you get. But don’t give up on negotiating. “Don’t give up so easily. Negotiate for skills you bring to the table and the value you bring to a company,” says Rithamba.

See if you can get a reference from your former workplace. Firms that retrench staff because of an organizational decision are usually open to giving their staff references.

Patience is key

So you have sent out your resume, tapped former employers and colleagues and trawled job sites. But there is no response. What do you do?

Rithamba says that is nothing to worry about. “Keep in mind that December 15 to January 15 is a time when many people tend to take their annual leave. So if you have sent your resumes out, don’t be disheartened if no one gets back to you,” she says.

But while waiting for someone to get back to, use your spare time to upgrade existing skills or develop new ones. “You can also try temp positions in the meanwhile. Sites like Jobsontemp.com, Monsterindia and Naukri.com will be of help,” says Hussain.

Also, take the opportunity to revaluate your goals. Was this what you really, really wanted to do? Did you start out wanting to design shoes and end up marketing shoes instead? What better chance to correct your flight plan now? “I know someone working with a major multinational who was laid off. He took the opportunity to go to Ireland and do a course in making cocktails, something he always wanted to do,” says Rithamba.

“Last but not the least, keep physically fit, exercise or practice yoga. That will keep you positive,” says Rachna. And remember, as someone once said: tough times don’t last, tough people do.

Take control

* Take stock of your finances. Pay off any outstanding high interest loans if possible
* Park 20 per cent of any settlement you get in a fixed deposit to be used as a fund for emergencies, like a medical emergency
* Negotiate with bank/s for relief on home or car loan/s
* Study organisations that are doing well and target them
* Be open to working with smaller companies
* Network online with the help of Linkedin and Ryze
* Look for temporary positions at sites like Jobsontemp.com. Surf job sites like monsterindia, naukri.com, shine.com too
* Upgrade old skills, learn new ones
* Revaluate your goals. Was this what you really wanted to do in the first place?

Tell all

In a country obsessed with social standing, being sacked is a big blow to one’s pride. The questions of concerned relatives and curious neighbours, jealous of the time you have at home, make it worse. But while your first instinct is to keep the bad news to yourself, that’s the worst thing to do.

“It’s not wise to hide what has happened to you from family and friends. A problem shared is a problem halved. Venting helps. A close friend, parent or spouse must be taken into confidence,” says lifestyle management expert Rachna Singh.

Don’t feel queasy telling your children either. “Sit your family down and explain what has happened and how you are going to take charge of it. Even to children. The child will see the parent at home and wonder what’s wrong. Children have their fears. Settle those fears,” adds Rachna.