Laid Off? Here Are Nine Ways to Make the Most of It

Some Advice That Goes Beyond 'Stay Positive'

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Mansi Trivedi Mansi Trivedi
The experience of getting laid off is kind of, well, amazing. There, I said it. When I lost my job, people sent me articles on how to get your confidence back, how not to slip into depression and how to manage your finances, and I thought to myself, "Am I supposed to feel that way?" Because I didn't. I stared at the big red panic button that everyone was offering me, refusing to set it off.

That's because I saw getting laid off as an opportunity.

If you're anything like me, you need advice that goes beyond "Stay positive!" So here are nine (why does it always have to be 10?) ways to make the most of your time off.

1. Move out. Move into a new city or a new neighborhood. I packed my bags and moved to New York. I sold all of my furniture in three weeks, visited The Salvation Army, bid my farewells and drove on. "Eye of the Tiger" played loudly on my car radio, and I paid my first toll to New York at 1 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009. It all happened so fast. But New York has always been a dream of mine, and I realized attaining it required only courage and a ten-hour drive.

If your lease isn't up yet, then at least move out of your comfort zone. Look up Facebook events, Meetups and Tweetups in your area and participate in them. If there's nothing interesting to do, organize it and initiate a meeting. If you've already been doing it, do it some more. Take a tour of the city you live in, go window-shopping, watch the movies you've been meaning to catch up on, look up new recipes and make something. And if it turns out good, invite me.

2. Become an outsider. So what if you are not working on a particular brand or within a particular industry anymore? This is the best time to take a step back and look at strategies. If you worked in the automotive industry, write a paper on what has been done and what should be done. If you were an art director designing communications for the cosmetics industry, take a look at the strategies adopted by international brands and recreate some magic. You can add it to your portfolio, or revisit the brand you've been staring at from 9 to 5 for the last few years from a completely fresh perspective.

3. Approach those who inspire you. Write to an alumnus who is doing great work. Write to a blogger you want to learn from. Approach a leader you've always wished to have as a mentor.

4. Start something. If you have an idea, bring it to life. Or discover an amazing idea each day from around the world and write about it. Doing so will inspire you to invent more and give you something to talk about as you're networking.

5. Visit your family. A visit to the family can be very therapeutic. If your mom's been talking about needing help with her business, put your master's degree to good use and pitch in. If your dad's always complaining about missing you, now's the time to stop by. If you can't visit, write -- actual letters.

6. Volunteer. Make the world a better place. You know how you complained about never being able to donate time but only money? Now you have a chance to change that. Look up the nearest non-profit organizations. Most of them need help with marketing and designing their materials.

7. Travel. I understand if you have bills to pay and your severance package is a wee bit lower than your expectation but I can bet there's a town just a hundred miles south waiting to be discovered by you. If you're done with exploring, visit your local library and read up on cultures, lifestyles or interesting people. Travel, via bridges or books.

8. Learn a new skill. Sketching is fun. Writing is, too. Knitting is nice. Web designing is cool. Landscaping is, too. Pick up something you've been curious about and learn how to do it. And after you're done with one, try something else. The next thing you know, you've got your hands full with really interesting projects.

9. Have fun. Don't avoid your friends, don't shut yourself off and don't drown in self-pity. Turn it into a long vacation or fulfilling self-employment. Have fun with whatever you take up or whatever you make. Have fun writing movie reviews, starting a blog on cupcakes or cool graffiti, meeting interesting people, learning about art, traveling abroad, visiting a friend and realizing your dream.

It was tough. And I thought it happened only to other people. But the experience led me to learn new things about myself, push boundaries and become a better me. Besides looking for a home for my planning skills, I am working on three really interesting projects that I'm proud to be a part of.

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