[First of two parts.]

Throughout the fluctuating trends, mixed indicators and false starts of this agonizingly slow—and often euphemistically termed “jobless”—economic recovery, one reality remains clear: layoffs are not going away. If they’re down one month, they seem to roar back in full force the next.

That’s why over the last couple of years, some of the ways of thinking about the workplace that once seemed like a luxury are now a necessity. For instance, it used to be considered daring to seriously consider a career change, but in the wake of mass layoffs in industries across the board, millions of people suddenly have that opportunity.

And indeed, it still is an opportunity. Though no one wants to go through a layoff, a slew of books and articles are examining the potential of “life after layoff”—and career transition is one of the challenges reported again and again to produce the most fulfilling rewards.

Perhaps this is because so many career-minded individuals are not entirely sure they’re in the right field to begin with. Others have ambitions in more than one career.

Whatever the case, because there are so many reasons not to question one’s career when it seems to be developing smoothly—to do so could mean starting over on the pay scale, for instance, and a loss of seniority—more and more workers must first be put at an employment crossroads to fully consider their other options.

That’s how the layoff has become a moment of truth for many workers.

But where to start? First, there’s the matter of determining your new career. And before that can happen, most job experts say it’s important to come to terms with the layoff itself, as Philosophy.com says:

Take time to think. While many people might want to rush right back into the work force—and some have to because of financial emergencies—job counselors recommend that people take a brief period to realize that their firing is not the end of the world. “Privately, you need to be able to acknowledge the range of feelings,” says Barbara Frankel, a career counselor with the Strickland Group, in New York. “You may be excited at the new opportunities you have ahead, you may be relieved. On the other side, you may be angry, you may be shocked, depressed, scared, or feel a sense of guilt.

Keeping your own momentum and morale up after a layoff can be tough, which is why this list of suggestions from Lisa Bowie is useful for staying out of what she calls the career transition “pit of despair.” Her top tips: Get up and dressed every morning like you were still going to your job, exercise regularly, establish weekly goals and then complete them, and then, of course, figure out what you would like to do next.

Then comes the crucial step: figuring out what you really want to do with the rest of your life. For some, this will be easy, as there may have always been a career path waiting to be taken, a secret (or not so secret) dream unfulfilled. For others, it will mean starting from scratch.

If you’re one of those, many job experts recommend starting with a good old-fashioned list:

When planning a new career it is a good idea to write down what you want. Similar to a business plan a strong career plan can help create exactly what you want. It is something you can go back to, update and rearrange as necessary. Sit down with a pad of paper and begin to take notes. Start brainstorming about what you think you might want to do. Make a list of your skills and then circle those that are the most interesting to you.

Got it? Congratulations, you’ve just taken the first important step in a post-layoff career transition: you know what job you want. But how to get it? That’s what we’ll look at in part two.

08 August 2011

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