I could see it in my client’s eyes and also in his body language.
My client was definitely experiencing what I have seen happen time and time again. Panic over what happens next.
Here was a man who had dedicated 30 plus years to his employer, only to be abruptly told (and without proper consultation) that his position was ‘no longer required.’ These 3 little words would change the course of not only his professional career but also his personal life. He was looking down the barrel at unemployment at 60 years old with limited job prospects. For the past 30 years his skills had been tied to one employer. It never crossed his mind that he might one day become a job applicant having to prove his worth and value.
I had assisted him with securing a reasonable settlement of his employment dispute but the simple fact remained, he was about to step out into the unknown. Without saying so I knew his fears – “what do I do now?” “how do I get a job?” “who will hire me?” “what do I tell my family?”
As an employment lawyer, my job typically ends at the point where the legal dispute is resolved. History shows us that employment law is very transactional in nature. In the case of a redundancy, the transaction goes as follows:
Employee looses job. Employee seeks legal advice. Employment dispute is resolved. Lawyer issues bill. Lawyer waves to employee (i.e. client) as the employee nervously trembles off completely in the dark as to what to do next.
This scenario isn’t limited to redundancies. In any situation where an employment relationship comes to an end (whether wrongly or rightly), the inevitable question becomes – what on earth am I going to do now? But when employment law is viewed as a transaction, there isn’t really any solution to be offered to these questions. You’re on your own mate.
After witnessing these scenarios unfold time and time again, I started to think – there must be a better approach. In my view, employment law shouldn’t be a transaction, it should be a valuable point of connection. A bridge from what was to what come next.
So, you lost your job? Okay, let’s make sure you know how to go about securing a new job.
- How’s your resume looking?
- Do you need help with interview preparation?
- Do you know a recruiter?
- Do you need to upskill?
- Do you need counselling?
- A mentor?
- Do you need to invest in building your personal brand?
- Should you consult a career coach?
- A wealth management guru?
How can I assist you to transition from where you were to where you want to go, so you can get on to enjoy work again and more importantly, pursue your dreams.
Now, I am not suggesting that employment lawyers should put on multiple hats and pretend to be experts in all these areas. What I am suggesting is that if employment law is viewed as a valuable point of connection, how much better could the professional careers of our clients become. A simple introduction to the right person can go such a long way. This of course also has a direct benefit for employers, because prospective employees will be better prepared, sufficiently skilled and motivated to excel in whatever the new role may be.
And so, I’ve determined to shift my approach to employment law. I’m putting the people back into the employment law equation. I don’t want my clients to nervously tremble off into the dark as I wave them off at the end of a matter. I want to equip and empower them to succeed so they can find their voice in the workplace again.
In the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe:
“When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”Harriet Beecher Stowe
I’d add to this that in the case of employment law, a gentle nudge from an employment lawyer who cares what the tide will bring is something really worthwhile.