Laid Off and Laid Back
How to make the most of your time off
A good friend of mine once said, when life gives you lemons, add vodka. I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I’m kind of thankful for my recent influx of free time. I’m determined to make my layoff a positive step in my career and, ultimately, my life. Coming off a ten-year career, this is the first time since high school that I’ve been unemployed. Though my change of job status was a bit of an adjustment (and a blow to the ego), I’ve come to embrace my laid-off status and bask in the light of free time. Yes, cash is tight and I’m looking for a new job. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the time off work by evaluating my life—and so should you.
Step One: Take Stock
After the initial shock of being laid off (or fired), ask yourself, did you like what you were doing? If the answer is yes, that’s a bummer. But you can work on a plan to get a position that better suits you. If the answer is no, then try to think of this move as a good one: you’re on your way to becoming a happier, better you!
Try to assess your career goals and, while you’re at it, think about your life plans in general. Would it suit you to move to another city? Perhaps your field boasts better positions in a different area. Is this really the career you want? Maybe it’s a good idea to look at furthering your education or training if you’re looking for a change. Make a list of life goals and see if this job loss isn’t a hidden opportunity to overhaul your life in a positive way.
Step Two: Get Your Money Right
Though it might be a drag, before you do anything else, you should realistically evaluate your money sitch. If you were able to save a nest egg for times like these, good for you, you can dip into that now. If not, you’ll have to make a contingency plan in case you’re not able to find work once your severance pay runs out. Make sure your company has paid out everything you’re entitled to, including outstanding expenses and vacation pay.
At this point, you want to look into your employment insurance options. If you’ve been laid off, you’re eligible to receive EI. Be sure to file your claim as soon as you’re out of work; there will be a delay in receiving your money, so check out the Canada EI site for details on what you need to do.
Step Three: Structure Your Days
One of my favourite scenes in Reality Bites is the one where Winona Ryder is camped out on the couch, smoking cigarettes and watching fake MTV while drowning her sorrows in calls to a psychic helpline. Depression following a layoff is not uncommon, but avoiding the inevitable boredom with newfound free time is essential if you want to avoid gloominess and make this a positive point.
When I got laid off, I decided that I wanted to develop as a whole person. Not just to improve my resume, but because the free time that comes along with not having a job is an opportunity. I started going to the gym daily, structuring my day around morning classes. That gave me a reason to get out of bed and kept me on a 9-5er schedule. Then I thought about all those things I said I would get around to if I ever had the time—reading the classics, visiting local museums, seeing films, cooking real meals—it was the time to take advantage of the library and daytime admission around the city. This part is always a little more fun if you have a friend who’s looking for work, too.
It’s always a good idea to give yourself a job search time every day, where you dedicate an hour or so to looking through all the new job postings online. When looking for a job, I always make a point to apply for at least three positions a day. After looking online, consider doing a few hours of work for free every week. A volunteer position looks great on the resume, provides new skills, gives you a sense of purpose, and will instill you with the great feeling of helping others. Sites like charityvillage.org provide great non-profit volunteer searches.
All of this self-development will not only keep you sane, it will also sound great when you go to interviews and the person sitting across from you wants to know what you’ve been doing with yourself. Investigating the local culture and learning how to cook fine cuisine sounds a lot better than orienting yourself with Dr. Phil reruns.
Step Four: Enjoy!
Instead of panicking or working yourself into a funk, take these tips and evaluate where you are in your career and, ultimately, your life. A little time off could be just the kick in the pants you’ve needed to get yourself back into the game and propel your career back to where you want it to be.
Written by: Nicolle Weeks