When I was the victim of a layoff, I couldn’t imagine that in a matter of months, I’d view my unemployment as the best thing that ever happened to my career. At the time, I felt a frantic urge to seek immediate reemployment. I pictured myself lazing around on my couch, contributing nothing to society. But while I did struggle with the aimlessness of the ensuing weeks, I ultimately used my free time and unemployment benefits to transition into a job as a writer that fulfilled me far more than my previous one in marketing. I owe my success in my dream profession to being laid off.
I wasn’t alone, and neither are people who have been fired. Almost a quarter of Americans were fired between 2009 and 2013. Losing your job in any manner can take a toll on both your bank account and your self-esteem, plus it can bring up some scary questions: When will you find a new job? What kind of job do you want? Have you been on the wrong path this whole time?
I know from my own experience, however, that being in a position to ask these questions can present new opportunities. Here are some upsides to unemployment and how you can use them to your advantage.
1. Severance pay and/or unemployment benefits
To start with the obvious, you can make money just by filling out a few forms and proving that you’ve done a bit of job-searching. These perks are unavailable to people who quit their jobs but usually accessible to those who were laid off or fired.
2. An exit from a less-than-ideal situation
Whether it was you, your coworkers, or the company, something was going wrong that led to your dismissal. Now, you don’t have to work in a role that doesn’t suit you, for a boss who doesn’t appreciate you, or at a company that’s going under.
3. A new perspective
Sometimes, we get too caught up in our daily routines to reflect on whether we actually like them. We convince ourselves we’re happy at our jobs even when we could be much happier. Losing your job frees you of that cognitive dissonance so you can take an honest look at your life.
4. Relaxation time
Though applications constitute a job in their own right, it’s one performed largely on your own schedule, presenting the chance to catch up on sleep, spend more time at home, and pursue all those side projects work was getting in the way of. This opportunity may not come again for a while once you’re employed.
5. The ability to strengthen relationships with former coworkers
Without workplace politics in the way, you can form more genuine relationships with the people you worked with. Especially if your company underwent a large downsizing, former employees can rely on one another for support.
6. The chance to overcome adversity
It’s a cliché that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but getting knocked down really can give you the confidence to surmount future hardships. At least the world’s oldest man thought so.
7. The imperative to find new sources of self-esteem
Many of us gain self-esteem from the approval of others, especially our bosses. When we lose that affirmation, we’re forced to look to ourselves, our loved ones, and our passions for different sources of self-worth that will last well beyond any job.
8. Sympathy from other people
It can be embarrassing to tell people you’ve been fired or laid off, but many will take this opportunity to reach out and help you get your spirits up or even connect you to new opportunities.
9. The chance to explore different facets of yourself
Your job is usually one of the first things you reveal when you introduce yourself, but there’s so much more to a person. When you can’t define yourself by your job, you remember that. This realization can provide the impetus to dust off old hobbies, uncover new interests, or devote more attention to your relationships.
10. A fresh start
You now have the opportunity to pursue a new job or even a new field entirely, and once you’re there, none of the difficulties plaguing your old job will be present. You can completely reinvent yourself and strive toward whatever career goals you set. Your world may appear to be closing in on you, but as I learned, it’s actually opening up infinitely.