Freelance Journalist

February 6, 2024 (Updated )

In the wake of recent redundancies at publications and media companies including Business Insider, The LA Times, National Geographic, Pitchfork, Sports Illustrated, Reach. Plc, and TIME, freelance journalist Lauren Potts reflects on her own redundancy in 2020 — and how it surprisingly changed her career for the better.

My job was made redundant on a staff-wide Zoom call during the first wave of Covid lockdowns in 2020. The news came as a total shock and I was initially devastated. But, in the 18 months that followed, I used the time to develop my skills and confidence, identify my career priorities, and land jobs I’d never have previously put myself forward for. I turned the situation to my advantage — and you can too.

It’s Not The End Of The World (Though It Feels Like It)

Redundancy can be a truly horrible experience that can leave you shocked, depressed, angry, and panicked — all of which are normal and valid reactions.

Since I’d moved cities for the job six months before (and bought a house), fury was top of my list. But it quickly made way for crippling self-doubt and anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, had panic attacks, and ended up taking medication and speaking to a counsellor.

I genuinely did believe that redundancy was the end of the world, and the instability and isolation of the pandemic probably didn’t help. If you currently feel this way, know that it isn’t. You might find, as I did, that it’s the catalyst you didn’t know you needed to progress your career.

Journo Resources
"I genuinely believed redundancy was the end of the world. If you currently feel this way, know that it isn’t; you might find that it’s the catalyst you didn’t know you needed."
Lauren Potts, Freelance Journalist

We’ve all stayed in jobs long past their sell-by date simply because we don’t have the energy or safety net to jump ship. The (admittedly, wafer-thin) silver lining to redundancy is that you suddenly have time to debate such existential questions as: “Was I even happy in the job I lost?”

More pragmatically, you could honestly review your previous employment situation: was it the best use of your skills, was it what you actually wanted to do, did it give you a good work-life balance? When I asked myself these questions, I realised the answer was largely no.

I had been unceremoniously turfed from the hamster wheel — but it turned out I needed it. Had I not been forced into evaluating my circumstances, I’d probably still be in the same job, neither progressing nor challenging myself.

Make Your Work Actually Work For You

You’ll never hear me say redundancy is easy, but there are some things you can do to make it work for you. If you are in the relatively luxurious position of not immediately being shoved out the door, use the time to figure out your next move. If you are getting a payout, sketch out how many weeks or months that might afford you in your job search — this alone can be grounding and stop you spiralling.

If your employer offers redundancy support, take it. Mine offered coaching from an outside recruitment consultancy and though the workshops had cringey names like “realise your potential” and “values and anchors”, they were the most valuable part of the process.

Quick Tips For Dealing With Redundancy

• The present is temporary. While the emotional shock of redundancy is valid, it will ease over time.

• Redundancy is an opportunity to reassess your career needs and goals — and prioritise them going forward.

• Don’t take it personally — even though it feels like it. Much of the time, redundancy is to do with money as opposed to the validity of a team or individual.

• There will always be work — the task is finding it! Brush yourself off and make yourself known to prospective employers.

• Always remember — your job does not define your worth or validate your skillset. You are worthy without your job and your skills will always be yours to tap into.

I had never previously considered what I valued in an employer, where my boundaries were, or what I wanted from an ideal role. Thinking about these things stopped me from leaping at the first job I was offered. Instead, I identified what I wanted in the future and what roles would give me the skills to get there — it helped shift my focus and plan my career in a way I hadn’t before.

If employer support isn’t offered, consider booking a one-to-one with a careers coach. Having someone independently evaluate your CV can be invaluable because, while you can’t control redundancy, you can control how you look on paper to get your next role. My coach not only gave me advice about the job market but also some much-needed perspective on my abilities, which was the confidence boost I needed.

Journo Resources
"The old adage is true: if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and redundancy is no time to be shy. Learning how to market yourself is crucial – pitch yourself and make sure your online profiles are up-to-date."
Lauren Potts, Freelance Journalist

The adage is true: if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and redundancy is no time to be shy. Learning how to market yourself is crucial since most roles are filled before they make it to job boards, so I not only told people in my network I was looking for work but also ‘cold-called’ editors by email and asked for a meeting to pitch myself. I secured several jobs this way — roles I wouldn’t have even put an application in for previously.

I also approached someone I found inspiring and asked her to mentor me. She helped identify my transferable skills so I could apply for different jobs and her general support helped build my self-confidence. Finally, make sure your social media profiles are up-to-date and sell your skills; almost all of my freelance work has come from either LinkedIn, word of mouth, or direct connections in my network.

Redundancy feels very personal and it certainly felt that way to me. In the end, it’s often a business decision and has very little to do with you specifically. By all means, feel each stage of the grief that losing your job can bring. But then process them and let them go. Ultimately, stewing won’t help, it will only hinder your ability to move on.

Lauren Potts
Lauren Potts

Lauren Potts is a freelance journalist specialising in writing, editing and creating digital content. She has an award-winning background in regional newspapers and spent eight years at the BBC in various roles across the News website and World Service. Since going freelance, she has returned to the thing she loves most – features – and has secured bylines at the BBC, Stylist, Refinery29, Time Out, BBC Food, Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, and the i.

Header image courtesy of Ben White via Unsplash