Navigating Job Transitions

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As the US economy struggles to regain its footing, the unemployment rate continues to rise. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate reached 9.5% in September and made the fear of being left without a job a reality for many Americans.

But for some, losing a job can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Nancy Jean, a Los Angeles area resident was laid off earlier this year. But it wasn't all bad news. As Jean explains, she didn't feel fulfilled in her Administrative Assistant position.

Like Jean, finding yourself without work can be an opportunity for productivity and reflection. If you're one of the many impacted but this economy, here are some ideas for turning lemons into lemonade.

1. Start Your Own Business

You've dreamt about it for years, mentioned it to friends and pined about it while watching late-night infomercials. This might just be the perfect time to launch your business. Start by learning more about the particular industry, researching your potential competitors and looking through your network to see who can help develop your ideas. Putting together a well-researched business plan will help prepare you for starting that business you've always wanted. Figure out what type of business filing is right for you, whether its an LLC or an incorporation. Then, take the leap toward becoming your own boss.

2. Go Back to School

For a lot of us, reminders of missed educational opportunities always seem to be around. Could this be the right time to go back for that certification or degree? Consider your personal and financial obligations, and go for it if the timing makes sense. Learn more about government programs and incentives that may provide financial incentives for increasing your education. You can start by visiting the federal Department of Labor website, and then research your own state to learn what might be available. From low-interest loans to other incentives, opportunities are often there if you look in the right places.

3. Do Those Things You've Always Wanted

Whether it's finally finishing that Dostoevsky novel, training for the upcoming 5K run or improving your golf swing, perhaps this free time in your life can be best utilized by doing those things you just never got around to doing. The best part is that these types of activities are usually free or low-cost. Dust off that library card and take advantage of online access, books, videos and even CDs. Many public libraries also offer free training and networking events. Contact your local branch for more information.

4. Re-evaluate Your Plans

So you're without a job. It is a stressful situation, but it is not permanent. Things will get better. Instead of focusing on the negative during this hiatus from formal work, maybe it's time to think about the bigger picture: Are you where you want to be in life? Is the job you lost something you truly loved? Now is a good time to build some new skill sets and pursue your dream job. Of course, any job is good to pay the bills, but in between sending out resumes and sticking with the status quo, teach yourself the skills you need to make the jump when you are ready.

Coming up with answers to these questions isn't the important part-but making sure to ask them, especially in these tough times, is essential.

As for Nancy Jean, the former administrative assistant, she definitely sees the upside of unemployment. "Being laid-off has given me the luxury of time to take a step back and look at what I'm really passionate about. Now, I can take the steps to move into the career I want."