Comment: Losing your job is a terrible feeling, but you can emerge stronger CEO Richard Singer shares his experience and offers advice for those impacted by the collapse of Thomas Cook

Like many others in our industry, I was extremely saddened by the news that the UK’s most iconic and longest-established travel brand Thomas Cook ceased operating on Monday.

My thoughts are with all the customers of course, but my heart goes out to the many thousands of employees in the UK and around the world affected.

Losing your job through no fault of your own is a terrible feeling – one I know only too well.

The news hits you in stages – denial, shock, anger, acceptance.  It’s a rollercoaster and not an enjoyable one.

MoreThomas Cook staff: Job resource and advice portal

One minute you have a job. You have a cohort of colleagues and friends, you have targets, you have goals and you have a salary to pay for all the things you want or can afford. Life is good.

For so many of us, work defines who you are, what you do and what you can buy. The more you earn, the more you can buy the things that are important to you. Those can range from bigger cars and larger houses to the latest gadget, a new TV or just living a life to your means when a salary comes in – you have the freedom to make those decisions.

When you are told that you no longer have a salary, and your outgoings remain the same, it puts a very different slant on life. It’s horrendous.

The same happened to me 18 months ago. I was moving on to an even better job than the one I had before for a brand that had always had a big place in my heart – Monarch. Two weeks before I was due to start the job my son, at Gatwick, said how excited he was that I would be ‘running the planes’ that stood proudly in the terminal. I shared that excitement and pride.

I never got to work at that company. It went into administration before I had the chance to start. I’d never been unemployed before. Reality set in quickly.

That day I was inundated with emails, calls and messages of support. It was appreciated but it didn’t fix my situation. Whether you’re operating at a senior level, where you get approached for jobs sporadically, or as someone on the front line of a company that is no more, job opportunities can be few and far between – and when they do come along, some are good, some are not good and many have some form of compromise. It’s rarely straightforward.

Some of the messages ranged from ‘sorry, mate’ to ‘you’ll be fine’. The ones that meant the most were ‘let’s hook up for a coffee, I can help you’ (I’ve seen a lot of similar goodwill messages from members of the travel family on social media since Thomas Cook’s collapse…). I met more people and drank more coffee than ever before

For those who are today in the same position I was then, I have some small pieces of advice.

Don’t take time out.
Work as hard as you have ever worked before. In my case, I knew what I wanted to do, which was to work in a Private Equity backed company, and I focussed my time there. I met with all of them. I was relentless.

• A job won’t come to you.
You need to go and get it. If there are companies in your area go and see them.

• Get your CV looking slick.
There are lots of people who can help you. Speak to your HR manager, a friend who has just landed a job or to a recruiter who can advise.

• Don’t panic.
The fact you are available is a huge plus. Panicking won’t find you your next job.

• Meet all the recruiters you can
Send your CV but don’t waste time calling or following up every week. They know you and if they have a suitable role they will call you. Focus on your network. Take control of your career and don’t wait for others to do it for you.

• Stay open minded.
While it may be attractive to go into the same role with a different company, the reality is travel, leisure and tourism is a huge industry. Think about what skills you have. Most are transferable. A cabin crew member, with front line customer service could work in a similar role on a cruise ship, hotel, resort. Don’t narrow your options.

• Decide which companies or sectors you want to work in.
Use your time to hunt them down, don’t be shy! As a CEO, I love it if I get a direct CV. It removes the question as to whether they are keen to work for you.

• Get used to having good days and bad days.
That’s normal. One moment you have positive conversations, the next no replies to your many emails and calls. Your priorities are not theirs. If they don’t reply then it isn’t the right person, company or any roles available for you. Their loss. Move on.

One of the best things anyone ever told me was ‘Richard, you have a great CV. Now you have a scar on your back. Most of the best people have that’.

I learned that there are some amazing people in the travel industry who genuinely care. Most have been through similar ‘scars’ during their career. It isn’t a negative; it’s a blip that makes you stronger, and more employable.  Stay positive and the next job is just around the corner. But you have to work hard to find it.

MoreThomas Cook: Job search advice

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