Losing your job is a gruelling experience. More often than not, there’s little warning that it’s going to happen. One moment you’re sitting at your desk, working on your everyday tasks and the next called into a meeting room to be told you no longer require to come in to work.
Since the price of Brent oil crashed last year, energy firms have been continually cutting staff numbers in an attempt to safeguard future business. But with no sign of immediate recovery, other industries are feeling the pinch and qualified employees are left fighting tooth and nail for work.
With little employment opportunities in the north-east, some of those who have been handed lemons are making lemonade, using their strengths and out-of-work hobbies to make a living.
Working as a recruiter in the oil and gas industry, Fiona Welsh had already witnessed a number of redundancies before she was told she was no longer needed.
The 28-year-old had worked for the same firm for five years, and during the last 12 months she spent in her role she saw first-hand a decline in client positions. This decrease in revenue inevitably led to Fiona losing her job in the run-up to Christmas last year.
“I wouldn’t say it came as a shock because you were sitting there, anticipating that it was going to happen at some point,” she said.
“I spent the first week not really knowing what to do with myself. It was over Christmas and New Year so I thought I would just take some time out and be with my family and partner.
“It didn’t really hit me until January when everyone went back to work.”
Fiona, however, who owns a house in Aberdeen with her partner Steven Archibald, had been playing with the idea in her head of turning one of her hobbies into a business.
Being the go-to girl for handmade gifts and hampers, she has recently found herself creating bespoke nappy cakes among other quirky gifts for mothers-to-be.
“Last year most of my friends became pregnant, along with some work colleagues, and I wanted to put in some effort and give them something with the wow factor. I decided to start making nappy cakes and it was really well received, and after all the positive feedback it gave me confidence that when I was made redundant it was time to start something new and set up a business venture of my own.”
Now, from one of the bedrooms in her house, Fiona is conjuring up more of these fantastic presents under the moniker of Beloved with a website where people can order goods due to launch in the coming weeks.
The business plan kicked off in January and Fiona has certainly kept herself busy. However, she’s unsure whether the venture can sustain itself as a full-time company just yet.
“I see it being something I could run full-time in the future but it might take time to get the word out there. I’d like to get another job to start with. It would give me the security of an immediate income and I would still have time to develop the business.”
Reflecting on her experience, Fiona suggests that those at risk of redundancy explore any other skills they may have and grab any opportunity that comes their way.
“Look at your prior skills and see if there’s another area or industry you can go into.
“Or if you’ve been sitting in your job and you’re thinking ‘gosh, this isn’t for me’ or you’re made redundant, look at it as a positive.”
As the north-east continues to face challenges amid the decline in oil price, she reminds us that it is important to look after small businesses.
“Having relied heavily on the oil for so long, everything’s been plain sailing, but we need to remember the travel and tourism side of things and it’s important to support small businesses.
“Larger businesses are surviving but it’s the smaller ones that will be affected.”