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Over 40 and Laid Off?

By Craig Nathanson

The 5 most important steps you must take now...

Do nothing
Probably not the first piece of advice you would expect to get! When you are laid off, the range of emotions you feel can be overwhelming. You become your own worst critic, and you start coming up with all the reasons why you lost the job. At home, you hear more of this from your family members, although maybe not so directly.

You feel like a failure. Your self-esteem has taken a hit, and you feel depressed and a little lost. You feel angry and you're not sure what to do about it. You rush forward into a new job search, and related frantic activity....

Stop -- wrong approach.
Instead, take some time for reflection. Chances are you didn't even like this job or the work itself. Privately, you are a little excited to be free of this job prison, although you would not admit this to anyone right now.

This is the time to get away. It may be for a few days, or maybe a few weeks. Do nothing during this time except think deeply about what you want out of your life and what activities bring you the most joy. This is a rare space of time to think seriously about who you are, and where you want to make a contribution. Don't lose this opportunity.

Forget about money
Sure, your immediate concerns probably revolve around how to pay next month's bills. Ideally, you tap into other resources to buy time. After 40, we need more time than money. There is probably nothing you can do in the next two weeks that will make a difference in the short term. Instead of working on your resume, make a money plan to get you through the next 1-3 months.

This is a rare opportunity in your life to really invest the time to think. What work MUST emerge through you now? No external job description will ever get this right for you. This must come from you. Where do you most want to make a contribution in the world right now? Why is this important to you? This is the MOST important question you must answer about your life and the reason you are here.

Get educated
Once you have defined what you are really passionate about, it's time to get educated. Who is doing the work you most want to do? Read everything you can. The more you read, the more inspired you will get. Eventually, you may choose to embark on some formal education, but for now simply gather enough data to help you feel good about your choice of work.

When you are working at and learning about what you love, and what really interests you, you won't be able to tell the difference between work and play. Soon, your vocation will become a lifelong vacation. Instead, most of us just work at jobs. The difference between our jobs and the rest of our lives is very clear. Your life can be better than this!

Brand yourself
Whether you decide to work for yourself or others, the process should be the same. What are exactly your best gifts, and what do you enjoy most? What kind of services or products can you create and sell to others using your unique gifts? What are the features and benefits of what you will offer? What is the perfect niche audience for you and your products and services?

Let's say, for example, that you like to design art work. You think, "Who would buy what I love to do most?" You think a little deeper, and realize that you could design cost-effective restaurant menus that would draw people to the restaurants. Your menus would feature specials, ingredients, and customer reviews. Restaurant owners would benefit as customers would learn more about their eateries, and what they have to offer. Then another thought hits: you could write a newsletter, displaying your brand, targeted at restaurant owners giving advice on how to brand their restaurants!

You decide to call this business "Creative menus". You are off and running. This same logic works whether you love to help animals or design software. The reason we are seeing so many layoffs today in corporate America is that most organizations don't know how to develop entrepreneurial thinking or entice creativity inside their businesses.

Make a plan
Write down your vision of your perfect vocational day. Without this vision, you will have no motivation to move forward. Most people don't change anything in their lives until the pain of not changing becomes greater than the initial discomfort associated with changing.

Most people look for jobs in an illogical way. They look for them! Most jobs were not designed for you in the first place. You spend days and months networking, hoping a Job will come to you. The job probably will come to you eventually, but it will quickly look like the last job prison you were in. There is a strong tendency to go back to what we did before, ONLY because it was familiar and we were good at it. After 40, it becomes critical to avoid this trap.

First define a plan, and steps to create for what you want. Then you will know where to look, and how to start building exactly what would be perfect for you.

Laid off recently?
Congratulations! You have a unique, perhaps once in a lifetime, opportunity to get to know yourself better and to ask better questions of yourself. Be careful what you ask, because the work you choose to do can determine the kind of person you become.

Take that pink slip and run to the nearest beach for reflection and peace. This is the best gift you can give yourself now. I'll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson is a coaching expert who works with people over forty. Craig's new E-book, 'Discover and Live Your Passion 365 Days a Year,' is a workshop in a box designed to help people break free and move toward the work they love. Visit Craig's online community at The Vocational Coach.com where you can take a class, get more ideas through Craig books and CDs, get some private coaching over the phone or read stories of mid-life change and renewal. Craig lives in San Anselmo, California. You can reach him at 707-775-4020 or by email.

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