How to handle being fired

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But it is worth noting that there is a depressing pattern in the City of divesting people of their jobs, and it often has little to do with the individuals concerned. You need to recognise first that you are not unique in being fired, that it is not the final judgment and that you need, at once, to start looking after your own interests.

People lose their jobs every day and it can become something of an epidemic in the run-up to Christmas. Organisations, having decided they no longer need your services, are often insensitive in the way they handle the process. While you are still the same individual they hired, the relationship between you is over, and it is important to realise that as fast as possible.

Emotional turmoil can make it very difficult to see this clearly and act upon it. One of the most difficult things to handle in the process of being made redundant is uncertainty over your future. A confused firing process often adds to that.

One victim of the Deutsche-Bankers Trust merger says the hardest thing was living through a period of four months when he did not know whether or not he had a job.

Informal discussions and the agreement of a redundancy package were followed by an offer of a job that he did not feel able to accept. At that point, he was fired, but there was now no money on offer and it took a legal battle to get it.

Sources suggest the reason for this was that the merger resulted in questions about having the right numbers in the global markets and equities divisions, and it amounted to no more than that. For the individual concerned, however, the drawn-out process meant that he felt he was on 'an emotional roller-coaster'.

It was only when he went into his exit interview expecting his redundancy package that he was told he was being held back. He had not sought legal advice up to that point, as 'everything was on hearsay, and nothing was concrete'.

In hindsight he stresses the importance of trying to get as much documentation as possible. 'You need to create a paper trail. Have managers attend meetings with you and document the minutes afterwards,' he says.

In his case the redundancy package was eventually agreed through lawyers, but it took several months, during which he could not seek alternative employment. The involvement of lawyers can also add to stress as for legal reasons you have to keep your head down while everyone keeps asking you what is happening and where you are going.

The problem of what you tell people may be more easily addressed if you lose your job as a result of a merger rather than downsizing, and your age and seniority obviously plays a relevant role. If you respect your employer you are likely to feel far worse than if you don't. Again a merger often implies a new employer whom you did not pick in the first place.

A senior manager recently made redundant with a large pay-off after 17 years with an organisation involved in a merger, says that he worried about the people he was leaving behind. 'I felt sad that I was not going to be able to build and be part of something that was now being dismantled,' he says. 'The very karma of the place was going to be changed, and there was personal disappointment that we hadn't been able to sell them the story.'

Large pay-offs do help many of those who are made redundant in the City, not least because they give them the opportunity to explore other entrepreneurial opportunities that they may not have had time to think of in the past. Your level of seniority is clearly of substantial financial importance in any firing, although as you get older, you may also find it harder to bounce back.

For those who have spent almost 20 years taking the 6am train into London, there is often a gut feeling that they just can't do that any more. As one former convertibles trader puts it: 'If you've been closeted in a big firm for years, it's very hard. It's a different world out there. There are no jobs locally, but your family is settled. Time passes and it is difficult, if you have had a big pay-off, to get motivated.'

Whatever your age, it is extremely important to deal with the sense of isolation that descends upon you until you get yourself back into the system.

Robert Bruce of BG Careers, the outplacement agency, says: 'All people need someone who is a third party, someone who is not emotionally involved, to turn to. This person needs to hold up a mirror so you can see yourself in it quite clearly.'

In the first few weeks after losing your job, it is essential to keep up morale, manage your time and cope with the situation. Some banks offer outplacement counselling, but many individuals who are being made redundant reject it out of bitterness.

BG Careers only deals with individuals who are sponsored in this way. Others, such as Career Vitality or Quantum, will take on, for a fee, any individual who walks through their doors. There are even specific ones for dealers such as Mark to Market. Whether you choose an outplacement agency or a colleague, you need a mentor.

For married people it is very important to get out of the house,. Counsellors suggest that for men this can be particularly essential to morale as the house - particularly for those who live outside London - is often the woman's preserve.

Above all, you must realise that if you lose your job, you are not alone. If you take a 10.02am train into London and think everyone is looking at you because it is the first one at the cheap rate, recognise that paranoia is setting in and that you need help to get your perspective back.