Why Being Laid Off Might Be the Best Opportunity Life Ever Gave You

While considering it "semi-retirement" may sound cute, being laid off can suck. Ironically, it can also be the best thing to happen to you since you got that worthless Liberal Arts degree.

It happened just like in the movies, and I found that surprising.

Fifteen minutes before an office party on a Friday evening, I got called in to the conference room. Before this point, I had ordered pizza for the party and was eying up the cupcakes and beer spread on the lunch table. My stomach growled as I checked Customer Service tickets and responded to emails.

“This is going to be difficult,” the boss started in with. He then discussed in one breath how the new hires will affect the company, specifically my job which was moved to a different location and given to a different person. While the company I worked for had made over a million dollars in the month of December, sales at the clothing store had dropped off after Christmas, leaving the company cutting anything expendable. “We no longer have room for you here, and we ask you to pack up your belongings and leave.”

For some unknown reason, instead of my mind shooting to the thought of “Hey! You've been let go,” I immediately thought about the party, my pizza which was coming directly out of my next and final paycheck. “Now?” I said.

“Yes, unfortunately,” he said. “That's how it works. I encourage you to file for unemployment.”

Just like the film Office Space had taught me, bosses will typically let go employees at the end of the day before a weekend, as not to cause a commotion. And just like in any movie where someone is fired, I, too, carried out a brown, cardboard box with my office life in it, which consisted of nothing more than an It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia coffee mug, a big notebook of customer phone numbers and notes, some Tazo tea, and earrings from the Returns and Exchanges I had processed just hours before (my final revenge).

While being laid off feels like the end of the world, it actually could be the start of an entirely new life. If you are able to file for unemployment, this gives you some money and time to look for new and perhaps improved career opportunities. Plus, the time off allows you to get in touch with yourself again, allowing you to explore hobbies, passions, and perhaps some more devoted attention to a significant other. Unemployment can be the reboot to get your life back into gear.

Here are the benefits of unemployment:

1. Try things you never had time for before.

Unemployment is a great opportunity to finally take that photography class at the Community College you were dying to take, but didn't have time for. Audition for that play, coach that soccer team, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

In fact, volunteering is especially a good thing to do, since it sharpens your skills and also adds substance to your resume. Anything you've been putting off is a good idea. Without a job, you no longer have an excuse. But you definitely will have the time.

2. Get back into shape.

Think of it as the summer vacation you always looked forward to when you were a kid. When you were younger, during the summer you were in the best physical shape, whether you played little league, had a summer job, or hung out with your friends.  You were lean, tan, and energetic because all you were doing were physical activities. Since you're out of “school” (i.e. work), this allows you the time to get into the physical condition you've been dying to regain.

3. Rejuvenate your love life.

With time at home now, you can spoil your significant other while he or she's at work. Make them a romantic dinner to come home to. Clean their apartment. Send them roses at work. In fact, unemployment gives a couple a good excuse to move in together (combined incomes paying for one lease).

Or even if you're single, surprisingly being unemployed is a good time to start dating. It gives you a chance to really get to know someone and not have the 9 to 5 grind getting in the way of romance.  On the other hand, being laid off might also allow you to reevaluate a current relationship you're in. If you are dreading seeing someone more frequently because of your new free time, losing your job might be the kick in the ass to make you end a lagging courtship.

4. Find a better job.

If you weren't all that upset when you realized you wouldn't ever have to see your office or computer again, then maybe it's time to reassess your career. Maybe there's something else you've always wanted to do. Take a career test to find out (you can take these online or at your local Unemployment office). Probably the last time you took this test was in high school or college. Since you've grown and matured, your life experience might have changed your interests.

5. Take a trip.

Your relatives around the country are always bugging you to fly in for a visit. Now you can take them up on that offer. While it still will cost some money, you'll save on hotel expenses by being able to stay with your relatives (Remember, it's not “mooching” if you've been invited). Plus, you may like the new area you're in and your relatives might be able to set you up with some new contacts for networking.

Throughout the whole unemployment stage, it's good to remember that layoffs are often viewed as failures on management's part, not yours. Unfortunately, the adage “Everything happens for a reason,” also applies to being laid off.

Unemployment is just a blip in life, with most people encountering joblessness at some point. However, being laid off is almost like taking your car in for a tune-up, only the car is your life. Take advantage of this time and make the most of it. Besides, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and in due time a better, brighter opportunity awaiting on your neighborhood craigslist.

Office Space images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

Megan McLachlan currently resides in the Pittsburgh area where she freelance writes, drinks coffee, and obsesses over popular culture. She was an English major, but doesn't think she wasted her life. Yet. Her blog is megoblog.com.