They say opportunity knocks, right? Well, what happens when your boss knocks on your office door and gives you the news that you're being let go? First of all, take a deep breath and relish in the fact that you now have a unique opportunity to create a new life for yourself. Analyze what was working well and what was holding you back. Ask yourself what you'd like to be doing in five, 10 or even 20 years.

Getting laid off can actually be an exciting time in your life as you reinvent yourself and gain renewed focus on who you are and what you have to offer the world. Make a list of your talents, skills and accomplishments.

Below are some tips to help you weather the storm and get your bearings again.

1. Conquer your emotions

You'll have mixed feelings and that's normal. Just remember that your job doesn't define you. Job loss can trigger health problems caused by depression, problems with sleep, weight loss or gain and lethargy. Men, in particular, may feel anger rather than sadness. Untreated depression is likely to sabotage your job search with feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem and procrastination. Getting daily exercise will protect your health and your attitude.

2. Don't burn bridges

If you run out of your boss's office yelling obscenities, it'll be pretty awkward asking for a letter of recommendation. Remember, potential employers might call previous companies to learn more about you. Be kind to everyone; your client or co-worker could be your next employer. Nothing good comes out of arguing - the company has already decided to let you go.

3. Begin communicating with human resources right away

They can help you fill out unemployment paperwork, understand what options you have for health insurance, and possibly set you up with services for outplacement. They might even pay for assistance from a career coaching organization like Five O'Clock Club. There are government agencies, such as "One Stop" whose goal is to help you with your résumé, brush up your marketable skills and help you find a job.

Don't be too proud to accept monetary help from unemployment benefits. It can be a welcome relief if you need a safety net while you regroup and find new employment. Companies pay for unemployment insurance during good times so people can survive during lean times.

Your human resources department should also help you navigate the rough waters of health insurance. COBRA is confusing and expensive, but don't let your family go without health insurance before finding your next job. Raising your deductible will help lower monthly costs and prevent financial catastrophe if you or a family member has a serious illness or injury.

4. Collect what the company owes you

You don't have to accept the severance package immediately. You have the right to ask for time to think about it. You may even want an attorney to look at it before you sign. Make sure to file any last expense reports. Make sure you receive any remaining vacation or personal time-off pay. Compare your time-off records with those of the HR department and iron out any discrepancies. If you have stocks or options, the company may vest more of your shares because of a layoff. Read the fine print on exercising options. There could be a window of time when you must exercise the options or lose them altogether.

5. Figure out your finances

It's extremely scary to realize your income is going to stop. You need to have a clear picture of your savings. Decide what expenses you can drop. Easy bills to lower are cable and satellite TV, dining out, entertainment and those $5 coffees. Figure out how long you can live on your severance package and at what point you'll need to take ANY job to survive.

Prioritize your bills. Getting your utilities cut off will cost you more money in hook-up fees than if you just paid the bill to begin with. Don't put your house in jeopardy by skipping payments. Instead, talk to your landlord or bank to make new arrangements for payments. Try to avoid raiding your investments. Pulling money out of your 401(k) will cost you dearly in penalties. Do NOT live on credit cards.

6. Network

Use social network sites to update your status and let others know you're looking for a new job opportunity. LinkedIn is especially helpful because you can connect directly with other professionals in your field. Fewer than 10 percent of job-seekers find work through ads. We live in a relationship economy, so you're more likely to get your next job through a connection you have with someone you already know.

7. Take action

Sign up for a community class to brush up your skills. Find out if your church or community offers employment services. You can find tons of resources online that can help you build a better resume.

Here are a few to start:

8. Think outside the box

Not all jobs are advertised. One way to find your dream job is to go to the websites of companies where you'd like to work. Then look for a 'Careers' or 'Jobs' link. You could send the hiring manager or human resources your résumé with a note explaining that you'd really like to work for them and to keep you in mind when a job opening becomes available.

Connectivity is the new currency. Until you find a permanent job, you may want to consider freelancing in your area of expertise. A consulting gig is a foot in the door and can often turn into a full-time job once the company gets to know you. You can find niche opportunities at some of these sites:

Finally, losing your job is not the end of the world. It's actually the beginning of your new life. Your life is a canvas that YOU create.

This article was originally published on Check out these other related articles: Surviving unemployment with class, How to support your spouse through unemployment and


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