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.

  • S

    couldn’t agree more. i’m loving my time right now.

  • Mary

    As a person who’s been laid off multiple times, I can never get used to articles like this. I love the IDEA behind them– turn lemons into lemonade. But if you don’t have the “sugar” of a hefty sum of savings already banked, you’re going to be making some seriously sour lemonade.

    I can’t afford my apartment, much less food and transportation, without applying for unemployment checks. And even with unemployment, I can only just barely cover those three costs. Take a trip? Take a class? Volunteer? Even if I HAD the money, you do realize that technically all of these things make one ineligible for unemployment. Not that you HAVE to fess up to the unemployment folks, but technically you will have to commit fraud by claiming that you were ready and available to work– ie, not busy volunteering, learning, or out of your hometown on vacation– each week you call in to get your check. Not that I think this unemployment policy is fair, or right, or good. But I can’t seem to wrap my head around articles that suggest pursuing these things while you’re on unemployment as if they’re not fraudulent, and with no warning that if you were to get caught somehow, you might have to pay back ALL of your unemployment, plus a fine.

    I may be more jaded than the average person– being laid off four times in six years can do that to a gal! But I’m a little tired of being told to swallow this all-too-sour lemonade.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    @ Mary,

    I’m really sorry to here you have such an extensive experience with being laid off, that surely must be tough. I appreciate your honest contribution to the discussion. I’m actually surprised it isn’t said more often, when we published I had some of the same thoughts you did, though like you said, the point of the piece is to try to make the best out of what’s happened.

    I wish you the best of luck, and thank you for reading and commenting.

  • peter

    i dont think you understand that everything you mentioned above can not be done without one thing…MONEY! Yes, its great to think positive and make the best of things but the dumbest idea once you lose your job is to go take vacations, relax and do whatever you are doing that is wasting your savings away or go into deeper debt. IF you come from a family with money or have cash saved up that you can live off for a really long time, then go ahead and relax. But the majority of Americans are not in that situation so this article in my opinion is BAD ADVICE. Thanks.

    • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

      So then why the thanks, peter? 😉

  • marie

    I am techically not laid off yet. My job laid off 20 people last month. I have been reduced down to 4 hours a week (UGH). I can apply for unemployment until things pick back up again in the fall. To be honest, I really want to try something different. This job is great because of the flexibility and location. As a single mother,those are 2 major benefits . However, my current job offers no advancement, benefits or promotions. It really is just a job of convience. I am really going to use this time to try something new. What do I have to lose. I am going to take the state exam for my real estate lic and find a real estate brokerage to join. Ihave already taken the required courses. I am also going to lose the 20 pounds that I gained this winter. I also plan to take some cheap day trips with my daughter. O well, please wish me luck.

  • Debra

    I am closing in on the third month of being unemployed. I was let go so that my company could take my salary and split it to have 2 workers instead of 1. They actually think I was stupid enough to not figure it out. Saying that I wasn’t the right fit was the BS line they fed me. Ironically, they were the ones who recruited me to join their team.

    Staying positive while feeling like a failure is not as easy as Miss Sunnypants describes, especially when you need every penny to just survive. Vacations, trips, you have to be kidding. That won’t get you a job. Sitting in the dark to save on electricity while spending 14 hours a day scanning website after website desperately looking for positions, knowing that there are 500 other people applying. It would be nice if all of the people who already have a job would stop looking so that those of us looking for work don’t have to compete with as many candidates. That may sound selfish but I am fighting for my integrity, my reputation, and my home so I don’t have to live in my car. I have spent my career doing for everyone else and putting myself last. I get to be selfish for once.

    It would be great if when the unemployed do find jobs, then they focus on hiring from the unemployed as much as possible.

    Marie I wish you luck in the real estate thing but there are seasoned agents who can’t make it in the current market so you may want to consider a backup.

  • Joni Gates Banks

    I with you on that too. yes I am enjoying this time off, but my bills are looming…and I can only enjoy this for about two weeks, then I have to get a JOB. ugh