In case you are laid off

Laid off? Let’s face it, there are only so many hours a day you can spend searching for jobs and writing cover letters. While finding a new job is your first priority, you’ll be happier in the meantime if you have a secondary goal to accomplish during your time off. Many people who’ve been laid off have discovered that a respite from their routine was the excuse they needed to start their own business, spend more time with the kids or get to know a little more about the world beyond their cubicles.

Here are some ways you can make the most of your extra time:

Finish your novel: Tina Van Delden, 26, was managing corporate training programmes for an executive recruiting firm near Los Angeles when she was let go. She made a job out of editing a novel she’d finished months before and sending it out to publishers. “I’m still looking for a day job, but I feel I haven’t been wasting my time,” says Delden, who is working on short stories and a second novel.

Change careers: Valeri Davies got swept up in the Internet boom and took a dot-com job doing something completely unrelated to her education, which was in international relations and the Middle East. Davies was laid off for the second time. This time, she’s trying to put her degree to use. “The first time I was laid off I panicked and immediately searched for a job, which I found two months later,” says Davies, who is reading up sending her resume to places like the Department of Defence. “Now I’m taking the next two months and focusing on what I really want to do.”

Go back to school: With college dropouts like Michael Dell and Bill Gates as role models for the late 1990s, many people turned up their noses to higher degrees and focused on on-the-job experience. Now is probably your chance to catch up on your studies.

Volunteer: Doing good not only has altruistic benefits, but is a wonderful way to learn about other careers, network and fill gaping holes on your resume, not to mention your social life. Since being laid off, Pam Yoon, 30, volunteered with four different organisations, including a food bank, film festival, an organisation for children with disabilities and a programme that is trying to get music in elementary schools. “This is my way of figuring out what my next job might be,” Yoon says.

Spend time with family: When top executives are laid off, companies often issue press releases saying they left to spend more time with family. Taking time out to get reacquainted with your children, parents or second cousins doesn’t just have to be a euphemism for not having a job. It is a worthy goal in and of itself.

Travel: If you don’t have kids but do have e-mail and lots of free places to stay, you can roam the world while still conducting an effective job search.

Wake up and smell the coffee: Whatever you decide to do, do it with a sense of purpose, not guilt. Economies come and go, and soon enough you’ll be gainfully employed, pining for the days when you had more time.