Retrenchment is a scary reality that thousands of South Africans are currently facing. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the closure of hundreds of businesses, and those who have lost their jobs are trying to figure out the next step…

That dreaded word ‘retrenchment’ – a tragic consequence of tough economic times, and a painful reality to face if it’s happened to you.

“But you can – and you will – move past this,” says Colleen Taljaard, HR manager at Glacier by Sanlam and Sherwin Govender, Business Development Manager at Glacier by Sanlam.

The two experts identify 9 tips to help you (financially) survive this stressful time.

1.     Talk to your family

Some of the hardest conversations you’ll have during this time include talking to your family about your retrenchment. You may feel like you’ve let them down, or perhaps feel embarrassed or ashamed. South Africa has reached an unemployment rate of 30,1%, which translates to more than seven million people seeking employment and struggling to find work. Remember: being retrenched is not your fault, and it’s a reality being faced by thousands of other hard-working South Africans, just like you.

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Trust your family, be truthful, talk openly. Allow them to walk this journey with you, and to support you. If you’re feeling low, reach out to independent, free counselling services like LifeLine and FAMSA or the many local charities that offer these services.

2.     Don’t overlook deployment

During the retrenchment consultation process, you may be offered various options like redeployment. This is when a company, if they are able to, could offer you a position in another department. Speak to the HR practitioner handling your retrenchment process to see a list of other roles that may be available within the business. Be open-minded about a new role or even a pay-cut if it allows you to retain employment during this challenging time.

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3.     Prepare your CV

Bring your CV up to date, leading with your most recent experience. Keep it short: ideally to one or two pages, maximum. Be sure to update your digital CV as you will be amazed how many sites exist that advertise new jobs. LinkedIn is an important platform in today’s recruitment world. Not only are many vacancies now advertised here, but recruiters and head-hunters search for talent here too. Be careful of scams though, especially for jobs being offered abroad. Don’t hand over any information like bank accounts and copies of your ID until you are absolutely sure that the job is real and the opportunity has been presented to you in the form of a signed contract from a real person working in a real company.

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4.     Keep busy and catch up on your admin

Finding a job that’s right for you, in the current labour market, is not a quick process. Sharpen your current skills or learn some new ones. Short online courses offered in your field are something to consider. It would also be an ideal time to catch up on your admin. As soon as you can, sign up with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) if your employer contributed to the Fund. Speak to your insurance provider, banker or creditor if you foresee that meeting your payment obligations is going to be difficult. Whatever you do, speak up.

5.     Create your own work

While you’re looking for something permanent, freelance work is definitely something to consider. Freelance or temporary work proves to a prospective employer that you didn’t spend an extended period doing nothing, and that you were prepared to do whatever was necessary to stay working and stay relevant.

6.     Research, Research, Research

Write your own dream job spec in the company that you wish to work for. Now research what it will take to make this a reality. Before an interview, get to know the company that’s interviewing you. Do your homework. Arrive prepared. Your level of preparedness for the job interview or the aptitude assessment is directly proportionate to how badly you want the job. Your future, largely, really is in your hands.

Above all, believe in yourself, your purpose and stay connected – to your family, friends and community, in your personal and professional capacity. Attach yourself (digitally speaking) to companies you’d like to work for. Often these companies post their vacancies online or offer an opportunity for their followers to register as prospective candidates and receive job alerts.

7.     Cut your household budget

Bills will continue to reach you, while the salary that you have been receiving monthly, won’t. With our economy expected to contract by 7.2% in 2020, perhaps now’s the time to pursue a zero-based budgeting principles approach of your own. This means starting from base zero when it comes to household expenses and commitments and aligning these with the income that is available. Now is the time to go through your monthly household budget with a fine-tooth comb.  You need to be strict and clinical about the expenses that are unavoidable (e.g. your bond repayment or kids’ school fees) and those that are luxuries and can be suspended until you are have a regular income again.

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8.     Appoint a financial planner

This truly is the best time to get a financial planner. There are some big, important financial decisions to be made, and a qualified financial planner can help you make them with confidence. For example, if you have been working for the same company for a number of years, you probably have built up a sizeable pension fund. There are some investment decisions that you need to make about the future of this money. You don’t want to make any mistakes. Getting advice from a financial planner experienced in retrenchments becomes invaluable.  Also, if you have medical aid through your company, you need to decide what to do when this benefit comes to an end.

9.     Step away from your retirement fund

Cashing in 100% of your retirement fund can be the most financially damaging decision you can make. Your retirement savings is your money, but not today. It may be tempting to cash it all in and treat your retirement fund like you’ve just won the Lotto, but don’t forget why you have this money saved up in the first place. If you cash in the entire pot, you’re robbing yourself at age 60 – it’s that simple. Before you cash in even a portion of the fund, find out how much tax you’ll have to pay on that money That should be reason enough for you to keep your retirement fund invested.

“During this incredibly stressful time it is imperative that you keep yourself busy and looking to the future. Consider upskilling yourself through a short online course, many of which are free. Finding a new permanent position may take some time so consider working on a freelance or temporary basis. It shows prospective employers that you are willing to do whatever is necessary to stay working and stay relevant,” concludes Govender.