laid_off_0224What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt all have in common?  Aside from the obvious characteristics that all three are extremely successful and wealthy, they were also all born in 1955.  Around the time of the personal computer revolution, they were all young and deciding their long-term career paths.  It was the time in one’s life that involves big risks and major decisions.

In some cases, getting laid off, can put you on the path you actually want to be on, rather than the one you originally thought might have been best. Your 20s is a crucial time to determine your career and ultimate success, so think of this as the most critical time to put yourself on the track to reaching your highest potential.  Think of getting laid off as the opportunity to do something you are truly passionate about that you otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance to do.

Put Things into Perspective

Still young? Chances are you don’t have to worry about a pile of mortgage payments, child expenses, and credit card bills as you search through the mail for your first unemployment check.  Getting laid off might mean you have to move back in with the ‘rents, or maybe you have enough savings to last awhile on your own.  Either way, don’t be discouraged.  Remember, in most countries, it’s actually uncommon to leave your parent’s house until marriage.  Getting laid off is stressful and will cause anxiety, however you will most likely look back on the time period as a phase which ultimately strengthened your abilities to adapt to change and cope with stress

Reach out to Every Contact

This doesn’t mean scrolling through your LinkedIN account and trying to find someone who sounds important.  Email your former professors or employers and ask for advice. Give them an idea of both what you have done since you you saw them last and where you want to go.  You might be surprised how much valuable information they can provide to help steer you in the right direction.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Contact an experienced alumnus and ask to meet just for an informational interview. After all, most people love talking about themselves and what they do.  Plus, you never know when your old college classmate’s friend’s uncle’s ex-wife’s sister-in-law has an opening at that start-up for a position that is a perfect match for you or will give you that next big business idea.

Work as a Temp

You probably won’t dive into your next career path the day after you were laid off and why settle for something you hate?  Working as a temp can keep you busy, potentially lead to future opportunities, and bring in income in the interim while you figure out your next move.  From day assignments to several weeks, or even nine months, temp agencies are a great way to get exposure to all types of industries from major fortune 500 companies to small firms.

One secret to getting assignments is persistence, even if that means pestering the agencies. Once you submit your resume, call them the next day to ask if you can meet with someone from the agency for an interview and register with them.  Chances are, they will respect you for being proactive and have you come in and do a few basic computer skills tests.  Once you’re registered, you should call them once a day (yes, daily) to check-in and see if there are any assignments for which you would be a good fit.  The more your staffing agency hears from you, the higher chances you have of getting assignments.

Also, don’t be afraid to tell them the types of assignments that really interest you.  From their perspective, they’d much rather send you to a certain industry you’ve expressed interest in.  And if you’re going to be working, you might as well be somewhere you want to be.

Live the Dream!

Maybe you are realizing that your old job or industry wasn’t keeping you happy.  Figure out what you truly want to do and write down a step-by-step realistic plan of how you will get there.  If the opportunity you are seeking isn’t out there, it may mean going into business yourself and creating your own opportunity.  When looking for ideas remember the basic principle of every great business is one that satisfies a need.  What do you think you could use more or better of in your own life?  Even if entrepreneurship isn’t for you right now and you would rather find the perfect job, still write down your plan.  A goal not written down is merely a wish.

Uptin Saiidi graduated from The George Washington University in May, 2008, and was laid off in January 2009, after working as a consultant for a consulting firm in New York City.  He is currently working as an analyst at a TV Network.  He is also actively working on launching his various projects.  Email him at upstairs@gmail.com.

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