Victoria Doxat, Freelance Copywriter
It’s not just those who are made redundant who get affected by redundancy. Victoria shares her story of how redundancy motivated her to think differently about her career.
Victoria shares how you can start to make changes while you are still working full time, and to start to move towards a new goal.
I qualified as a college lecturer in 2006, and started teaching A Level Philosophy, A Level English and A Level Classical Civilisation at a Further Education college in Hampshire. I really enjoyed teaching and although it could be stressful at times, I loved being in the classroom and had a real passion for the subjects that I taught.
In 2013, my son was born and I took a year’s maternity leave. During my maternity leave there was a change of Principal at the college and this, coupled with the severe funding crisis in FE at the time, resulted in a restructure and the first of several rounds of redundancy.
When I returned to work part-time after my maternity leave, I found a very different climate and there had been a lot of changes. I became very active within my branch of the University and College Union, eventually ending up as Branch Secretary. It was a really difficult time for my colleagues and morale was very low. Lots of people left with no jobs to go to.
Over the next couple of years there were further restructures and redundancies, and another change of Principal, and it was at this point that I realised for certain that teaching was not going to be the ‘job for life’ that I had always thought of it as being.
I left to have my twins in 2016 and during my maternity leave I became seriously unwell with a flesh eating bacterial infection called Necrotising Fasciitis (you can read my blog about it at www.jellynightmares.com). I was in intensive care for a month and was very lucky not to die. It was a very long recovery, and in fact nearly 4 years later I am still undergoing reconstructive operations.
I think it was this, plus the continual uncertainty over my teaching career that was the catalyst for me to start thinking about what other options were out there.
The moment that made you think about a change
Fortunately I wasn’t made redundant, but many people in my department were, and the A Level courses that I taught (Philosophy and Classics) were both axed in one of the mergers. This meant that I was moved into teaching Religious Studies (which I really didn’t enjoy) and I became very, very disillusioned with teaching as a career. If I wasn’t teaching my specialisms then I didn’t want to teach at all.
It was a really difficult time, I had three very young children, was completely disillusioned with my career and was also recovering from a life-threatening illness.
I couldn’t afford to leave teaching without something else to go to, but I was desperate to get out. I started looking around for something else to do.
Whist I was weighing up my options, a good friend who worked in communications, suggested that I might be a good fit for internal communications. I helped her out on a project that she was working on and really, really enjoyed the work. This lead to some copywriting work with a communications consultancy and was the catalyst for me to set up as a freelance copywriter, whilst still working part-time at the college.
How did you decide what to do next?
I stayed in teaching because I needed the security of the income but I reduced my teaching contract as much as I could, and worked really, really hard to build up my copywriting business. I took quite a few low paying briefs in order to build my portfolio and then I began finding higher paying clients.
I’ve now reduced my teaching hours again as the business has grown, but I’m not sure whether I will leave teaching completely. Fortunately Classics and Philosophy were reinstated last year, and I’m now back teaching the subjects I love. The college has now come out the other side of the merger and so for the time being I think I’m going to continue as I am.
In two years’ time, once all the kids are at school, I’ll have more time to dedicate to the business and it may be that I leave teaching at this point.
What would be your advice to anyone who has just been made redundant?
It sucks! I know it does. And I know that you might be feeling undervalued, demoralised and thoroughly beaten up by the experience. I have seen so many people go through redundancy and my work with the union meant that I was often in the meetings where colleagues and close friends were made redundant.
It’s important to take some time to reflect on what’s happened and to come to terms with it. In the majority of cases it’s not a personal decision but a business decision, and it really helps if you can start to distance yourself from feeling inadequate or unworthy. It’s not you, it’s them.
Think about the skills that you have, the connections that you’ve made and try to identify what it is that you really want to do with your life. It may be that there is a course that you want to complete or a new skill that you want to master. Or maybe you’ve always fancied doing something that one of your friends does? Try and get some work experience in the areas you’re interested in and see if this leads to anything. You can also work for a charity to keep you in ‘work mode’ and to build some new skills.
Redundancy should be the catalyst for moving on with your life and it really doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
You can find Victoria here…