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Coping with redundancy: Housing consultant

Published on: 30 Jan 2009

In 1988, Nicholas Fowler (pictured, right) was working for Chase Manhattan in the capital markets, earning a salary of £40,000 plus bonuses and a company car. One day, he was called to a meeting and told he was to be made redundant.

"I felt relieved. I was making lots of money, but I wasn’t doing anything useful. I felt I was missing out on real life.

I decided to retrain as a bricklayer. I’d wanted to be an architect at school, before I got interested in economics, and I had worked on building sites during holidays from school and university, so I knew I liked the environment.

I soon wondered if I had made the right decision. I was attending a useless bricklaying course under a cold, damp railway arch in east London. There was no electricity, the generator kept breaking down and the workshop got broken into and our tools stolen.

But I persevered and became a bricklayer – briefly. After five weeks of bricklaying I realised I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life and managed to get a job with John Lelliot as a trainee, working my way up to development manager in the property division.

Then I lost my job again. And this time it was a bit more scary. In 1994, Lelliot lost a lot of money on one project and went bust. It was sad that such a strong company could go under because of one bad project.

I intended to go into consultancy after that, but I was offered a job with United Housing and thought it would be madness not to take it. After a couple of years I moved to Sanctuary Housing Association for three years and then to my current role as business improvement manager at Denne Construction.

And I’ve been able to do other things alongside my main role there: I’ve been seconded to Constructing Excellence, I lecture and have my own small consultancy. I’ve been involved in training – we’ve just set up the first National Skills Academy for Construction for housing. I suppose my experiences as a trainee in economics help.

I'm really pleased I got out of the City. What I do now is all about being optimistic, energetic and interested in people.

I think everyone should go through at least three changes in their lives. Professional people need to draw on their resources: all their training, experience and networks. If necessary, switch careers. Your training should allow you to cope with change."


Read the full article and learn more about coping with redundancy Working life: Life after redundancy.