I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.

Find your passion after a layoff


If employers said what they really think, a few would admit they see some upside to the economic downturn. Bad times give companies an opportunity to clean house, to lay off—no questions asked—not only workers who aren’t pulling their weight, but also those who have seniority or fall into protected classes. “I understand you’re nearing retirement and about to start drawing your pension, but—so sorry—we’ve eliminated your position. Recession, you know. Ta-ta!”

But whether you’re a random victim of a declining economy or the target of diabolical executives, all you can do is wave good-bye as security escorts you to the door … then try to figure out how to make the best of your sudden unemployment. Fortunately, one good thing may come from losing your job: Now you have the chance to rethink what you want to do with the rest of your life.

Usually we’re so busy making a living that we can’t or don’t take time to think about whether we’re making a happy life. To make sure you’re fulfilling your destiny, ask yourself these questions:

• Have you done it all? If you died today, would you feel you’d accomplished everything you wanted in life? We’re not talking about getting married, having kids, climbing Mount Everest, or diving along the Great Barrier Reef. For this exercise, think solely about your work life. If work plays an important role in your identity and feelings of self-worth, then you must have career-related goals. Have you met them? Would you have met them if you’d continued in your previous position? If the answer is no, losing your job may turn out to be a blessing. Now maybe you’ll be motivated to find a job—or start a business—that fits your long-range ambitions.

• What was best and worst about your previous jobs? Think back on your work history. Jot down the tasks you loved and those you hated in each position you’ve held. Look for patterns. What types of challenges seem to capture your attention and keep you most engaged? Which tasks do you seem to find most boring and unpleasant? Do the engaging tasks fit a particular job title or category? Do you have the appropriate training and experience to pursue jobs in that field? If not, what would it take for you to get enough training to qualify for those positions?

• What nonwork activities make you happiest? Consider your hobbies, your extracurricular activities, the games you play, the social activities you pursue, the television programs you watch. Do they bring to mind any special skills you’d like to incorporate into your career? Taking a closer look at your nonwork activities can provide insight into your hidden passions—the kind of activities that would make you feel more excited and fulfilled. Do some research. You may find your hobbies and volunteer activities already have provided enough informal experience to give you a leg up on a career shift.

Instead of immediately sending out résumés trying to find a job similar to the one you just lost, take your misfortune as a sign that you can do better. Like the employers who’ve used a bad economy as an excuse to get rid of workers they don’t really want, try to view your job loss as an opportunity to break free of something that’s been holding you back from finding your true destiny.

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