It’s the news that no one ever wants to receive: you’re out of a job. Whether you’re out of work due to layoffs or because you were fired, the idea of not being employed can be nerve-wracking at the least and completely panic-inducing at worst. How will you pay the bills? How will you find another job? What will this do to my long-term financial goals?

While it’s true that losing your job can be devastating, it’s important to have some perspective. Although the job market still hasn’t returned to its pre-recession levels, and in some markets there is significant competition for open jobs, there’s a better-than-average chance you’ll find a new gig after a few months of looking. In the meantime, by viewing your unemployment as an opportunity rather than a setback, you might discover that losing your job was one of the best things that could have happened to you.

unemployement exceed career optionA Change in Mindset

Consider this: when you were working, how focused were you on your financial future and building your wealth? If you’re like most people, you put some money away for retirement and (hopefully) some away for a rainy day. You collected your paycheck and paid your bills and that was about it.

Experts in wealth building call that an “employee mindset,” and note that in most cases, it’s probably not going to get you where you really want to be in terms of personal wealth. Essentially, when all of your financial worth is tied to a job, you’re likely to become comfortable and complacent, and you’re not leveraging your money in the best way possible so it will make money for you and get you where you want to be.

Losing your job, then, forces out of your comfort zone. It forces you to refocus on your priorities, and if you’re like most people, start looking at the bigger picture and developing ways to avoid ever being in a financial sinkhole ever again. A period of unemployment can help spur you to leave behind the employee mindset and start thinking like someone who wants financial freedom.

Change Your Life

The first step to changing your mindset is to mourn the loss of your job, but you should soon switch your focus to a more optimistic outlook. What can you do now that you weren’t able to before when you were tied down to a job, or comfortable where you were? By exploring some new ideas and engaging in new activities, you might open doors that you never knew existed — doors that will earn you more money than you could have ever earned at your old job.

For example, unemployment is the ideal time to:

  • Engage in more aggressive networking. When you were working, you probably didn’t have time for lunches, coffee dates, golf outings or networking meetings. Now that your schedule is free, you have time for those activities. Even if a contact doesn’t have a lead on a job, you can brainstorm other ideas, gain insights into your industry and get referrals that can help you in the future.
  • Polish your skills.Was a lack time holding you back from taking a course or learning a new skill? Now is the time to sign up for that community college or online course or earn that advanced degree. Not only will you improve your skills, you’ll meet more people to grow your network, and be exposed to ideas that could change your entire career trajectory.
  • Explore your passions. You know the saying “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Why not make that true for yourself? Take time during your unemployment to explore the things you’re interested in. Your hobby could turn into a business idea, or you might even find a way to turn your passion into a career.
  • Consider entrepreneurship. The wealthiest Americans are those who started their own businesses. What’s stopping you from joining them? Unemployment is the perfect time to explore ideas for your own business. Perhaps you can turn your industry knowledge and experience into a consulting gig, or you know the perfect solution to a common problem. Losing your job might just be the kick in the pants you need to start the business you’ve always wanted.

Of course, if you’re in financial trouble, your first priority after losing a job is to find another one. If you receive severance pay and have some savings, avoid looking at your job loss as a tragedy, and look at it as the first step to a new life of financial freedom and happiness.

About the Author: After being laid off from her finance job, Allie Michaels began pursuing her passion for writing. She now has a successful career as a financial blogger and journalist.