What You Should be Doing During a Layoff

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So you’ve been handed a ticket to Axeville – population: you. Suddenly, you have all kinds of time on your hands and you’re freaked out, stressed, and possibly a tad angry. Common sense says that your full-time job is now looking for work, but studies show that focusing only on job-hunting tends to a sense of hopelessness and depression, so why not use this time to prepare for the next phase in your life? Quite frankly, when you’re in an interview, the last thing the interviewer wants to hear is that you haven’t done anything with your life since you left your last position, so what’s a job-seeker to do?

  1. Learn something. Take a class, start a blog, whatever. Learn to do something that will differentiate you from others in your field, like mastering social media, learning a new software package, or perfecting your presentation skills. A great example of this is Erik, who was laid off last year from his job as a copywriter, despite receiving rave reviews from his boss after consistently delivering on national ad campaigns. Was he bitter that he lost his job? Sure, who wouldn’t be? But he also started a new blog that allows other ad-types to kvetch and share info, as well as job leads.
  2. Do something. Ever thought about starting a company or changing fields? What’s stopping you from doing that now? While you’re looking for a new position, this is a perfect time to try something new or even do volunteer work for an organization in your community. Maybe you’ll find your dream job in the process, but you could also find your life’s dream, and, if nothing else, you’ll have one more thing you can talk about in an interview.
  3. Try something, especially if it intimidates you. I’m a firm believer that nothing builds character like experience. With that said, who’s to say that this isn’t just as good a time as any to try something – whether it’s freelancing, zip lining, or contacting a lost love? The point is that we can’t grow – as professionals or as human beings – if we don’t expand our horizons beyond the familiar.
  4. Talk about something. I admit it – my favorite topic of conversation is me, hence my teenage nickname of “Miss Microphone,” and I can talk about it for hours on end, which isn’t quite what interviewers want to hear. In a nutshell, they want to know who you are, why you’re taking up valuable real estate in their office, and what you can do for them now and in the future – hence, the art of the “elevator pitch.” Figure out what your potential employer needs to hear and edit it down to 30 seconds or less of compelling, hire-me-now rhetoric. Practice it on anyone who is willing to listen, be it the mailman, your child, or an unwitting cashier at the supermarket.
  5. Meet someone. Getting a job is no longer about pounding the proverbial pavement and assailing every possible inbox with your resume, though persistence doesn’t hurt. Get off of your couch and out into the world. Meet everyone you can – not everyone will lead to a job, but you’ll also make some great friends along the way.

    The experience of being laid off is what you make of it – it can either be a time of self-flagellation and shame or it can be a period of reinvention and renewal. When else will you get this opportunity?

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