Getting laid off can be devastating and the uncertainty of an unknown future is frightening, especially if the job lost was your family's primary source of income. While things seem pretty bleak when a layoff notice arrives, this dark cloud may have a silver lining if you look in the right places. 

If you are receptive to the idea of testing the proverbial waters and trying new things, you may discover the misfortune of being laid off may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to your career. As the old saying goes, when one door closes another opens.

What to Do First

Getting laid off is a terrible shock. As notes, it’s important to take the time to grieve, a great loss has just occurred. 1 While it’s OK to take some time, be proactive about it. Don’t plan to sleep in every day or spend hours surfing the web after you get the news. Instead, get up, go for a walk or run, get showered and then start your day. If you still have time at your job, go into work, resist the temptation to call in sick. While the job may have ended, you still have a lot of work ahead of you.

If your severance package is negotiable, be sure to do so and don’t be afraid to ask questions, recommends Caroline Ceniza-Levine in an article published by Forbes. 2 She notes you should check your end date because it will determine the length of your insurance, retirement vests or how much paid time off you accrue.

Susan P. Joyce, in an article on, recommends immediately asking for a “laid-off (not fired) employee letter” from human resources. She notes this letter is valuable when you do go on interviews and/or are asked for references. 3

Credit: Geralt/Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

After getting a notice of layoff, it's important to negotiate and get things in order.

It’s important to take care of your immediate needs. If you qualify for unemployment, file as soon as possible too. Once this is done you can start looking to what steps to take next. The next phase you enter is a good time to self-reflect and decide where your next opportunities lie.

What are Your Job Options?

Sure, you can jump online and start dropping your resume everywhere, but is this going to get you to where you want to be? (Or will it potentially bring you back to the same place? This is especially true in industries that are consistently downsizing.)

What are your options? Were you happy with what you were previously doing or was it just bringing in a paycheck?  If it was the latter, this is where your window of opportunity opens. By throwing open the curtains to draw them back, you get an instant chance to look outside beyond your immediate vision and see what possibilities lie in your future. Try to view a bigger scope than what is immediately is in front of you.

When you are laid off, an advantage is you have more time to look at your career options and search for a new position in a company which looks appealing. You can do this through visits to career counselors (though these might be costly), Internet job database searches or to talk to a counselor at the local Labor Department or One-Stop Career Center. These outlets are all terrific resources to help link connect people with jobs which match both skills and interests to help find the ideal job. Many of the latter services are free.

Skills and training.laptop
Credit: Geralt via Pixabay/CC0 Public Domai

Explore Paths You Haven’t Considered

As you envision your future, you may want to consider exploring career paths you had not considered before. In this respect, the unexpected time off from work may be a blessing in disguise. This time can be used to pursue a college degree, a certificate or any other additional training to build the skills and knowledge needed to land your dream job. Not to mention you’ll get the ability to buff up that old resume with some shining new credentials.

If you get the opportunity to take an aptitude test through a career center or other job counseling, these can be lots of fun and offer you a lot of insight about yourself. The things you learn through an aptitude test can also be used to help pave your future and you may find yourself on a path you previously never considered; one that never would have thought about if not for that unexpected layoff. Years ago when I was between jobs and took the test when it was offered, I learned a lot about myself and found possibilities I hadn’t previously given a thought.

You might find you are high-skilled in areas you didn't realize. And, even better, in an area of expertise you enjoy. See what areas are high in demand and ones you have talent in. Then, if you don't have the education or training, go for it.

Credit: Geralt via Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Be Proactive

Bouncing back from the sting of a layoff notice can be tough, but a positive attitude and a proactive approach can help get you past this hurdle. When you reach the point where you can move past the fear of being laid off and have things in order financially, there is potential for you to be greeted with a whole world of endless possibilities.

The climb may be a little steep and, while it is difficult to recover from losing your job, you can get through this and perhaps discover the termination notice may have lead you to your best career move ever.

When faced with uncertainty after losing a job, viewing that slammed door as a window of opportunity can make a difference. Use this time to self-reflect, the potential career opportunities that await you can guide you to an even more dynamic future. 

By opening the door and letting some fresh air in, you never know what good things may come to you.  As you check out the view and imagine the possibilities, you may discover a new direction for your career that will lead to success, happiness and fulfillment.