Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Laid off, Now what?

You never think it will happen to you until you get called into a meeting with your boss and the HR person on a Friday afternoon. They close the door and sit across from you and say the dreaded words that mean you no longer have a job. Then comes the escorted trek back to your cubicle to gather up your stuff and out you go - suddenly unemployed - to cope with it the best way you can.

On your drive home you may be feeling a lot of emotions - fear, anger, confusion, or you may just be numb because it hasn't fully hit you yet ... you no longer have to be at the office from Monday morning! On the bright side you can look forward to no longer getting the Monday morning blues, no more deciding what to wear for the rest of the week, what to eat for lunch or how to avoid that annoying co-worker who keeps dumping their unfinished jobs on you. On the other hand you may be worrying about how you are going to pay the bills, especialy if you are the primary breadwinner.

There is tons of helpful information on the web about things to do when you are laid off, a lot of it focused on advice to get you back into the saddle as quickly as possible. That is not the intent of what you are reading however. What this little article is about is how you can take this opportunity to completely change the direction of you life towards a better, more satisfying future whether that means getting back into the corporate world, becoming an entrepreneur or choosing to stay at home.

So here goes ...
Don't do anything at all for the first few days
The temptation to jump on the computer, redo your resume and start applying for every job that is open can be quite overwhelming. It gives the feeling of being back in control of your own destiny besides filling up the 8+ hours that you would normally have spent at work for the last so many years. Resist it! You've been given a golden opportunity to take time for yourself and re-think and re-evaluate your life, career, aspirations, talent and a whole host of other things that you normally never had the time to stop and think about. Questions that you may have buried in the back of your mind can now resurface and be given a fair hearing - is my life turning out the way I envisioned it would? Do I really want to be a widget maker for the rest of my life or a HR manager or a software quality assurance analyst or a ..... If I don't want to do this anymore, what do I want to do? Is there something in my life that I am passionate enough about to want to try my hand at turning into a money-making venture? There is of course a key assumption here about your particular situation and that is that you have some sort of cushioning that will allow you to do the above. This might be a supportive partner with a stable job, savings that amount to six- to eight-months of living expenses, a rich aunt who is willing to foot your bills, etc.

Remove all the negativity before starting something new
Even though you may have handled the actual news of your lay-off with class and poise in that awful Friday meeting, you are more than likely going to find that you are upset, angry and a little depressed when it finaly sinks in that someone evaluated what you do and decided they could do without. Give yourself a day or two (no more!) to wallow in your misery. Curse as much as you want to, think the nastiest thoughts about your boss/her boss/the whole company even, have a good cry, vent to a supportive partner/friends/parents, do whatever works for you so you can get rid of the negativity. Then take a deep breath and move on. Your goal is to create a clean slate by letting go of your frustration, disappointment, anger and whatever strong negative emotions are associated with being laid off. But remember, if you find yourself even remotely tempted to put any of your crazier thoughts into action, seek counseling immediately!

Learn something new
Budget some money towards a "new life fund" and use it to learn something new. Remember that interesting ad you read on your 50-minute train ride into work about learning how to be a pastry chef? Or maybe it was about a woodworking class or golf lessons or just something that you have wondered if you would like to do. This would be a great time to take the plunge and learn something new. Spending $500.00 to learn Italian might not seem to be the smartest thing to do when you know you don't have any income coming in, but who knows, it might even lead into a more successful career choice.

Attitude really does matter
Lastly, keep thinking positive thoughts. Sure there will be days when you will feel realy down in the dumps and feel like giving up. Don't let those days become the norm though. Surround yourself with positive energy ... and if that means cutting connections with people, things or places that bring you down, do it ruthlessly! Train yourself to look for the silver lining behind that dark cloud, while keeping on working at your goals, whether they are finding a new job or making your newly minted cookie business successful.

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