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A layoff can be a path to a happier job

While much of the job news these days is full of gloom and doom, it could be that there is a bright spot: Laid-off workers are seeing it as a chance to re-group and to focus on finding work that makes them happy.

“I’m in a new place,” says Vivian Borek, who was recently told her job as editor of an internal newsletter for Boston University Medical Campus would be eliminated. “I know in the back of my mind it’s going to be tough, but I’m glad to be out there offering new skills. People have told me that my attitude will be a great asset going forward.”

Borek hopes to use her familiarity with and love of France, along with her enthusiasm for photography, to land a new position that combines her communications experience with her passion.

Dr. Thierry Guedj, a psychologist specializing in happiness and careers and a professor at Boston University, says that Borek is not unique in feeling optimistic about her future.

“I encourage people who lose their jobs to sit down and reassess what they’ve been doing the last 10 years. I ask them to think about their lifestyle – the big car, the expensive house – and what really matters to them. I ask them about finding the meaning of their lives,” Guedj says. “Some of them find they are actually relieved to be out of those jobs.”

Jonathan Fields, a successful entrepreneur and author of “Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love,” (Broadway, $14) agrees.

“For many people, losing their job is the opportunity they have dreamed about,” Fields says. “They look back and realize they gave up a big part of their lives and trashed personal relationships because they were working all the time. They expected to get a nice retirement from all that, but instead they’re unemployed. For those people who get a severance package or who can get by on what they have saved for a while, they’re really optimistic about taking time to find something they love.”

Borek admits that while she didn’t have “an inkling” the layoff was coming, she managed to hold it together when told the news, although “my mouth was dry” after hearing the news.

“I’ve always done work that I’ve enjoyed,” she says. “For me, that element has to be in it. I don’t see how anyone would hire you if you weren’t enthusiastic about the work.”

Guedj and Fields say that more job seekers like Borek are reassessing their careers and deciding that working strictly for the money or job security isn’t enough, since that can disappear overnight.

“There’s a resignation that if this is the way the system works, then they want out,” Guedj says. “They want more control over their own destiny because they see that they’re just a cog in the machine. One day, they’re hot stuff and the next day they’re escorted from the building with no goodbye party.”

Guedj says that those looking for work who want to concentrate on finding more career happiness should:

• Be a wise networker. “Don’t send out mass e-mails that may get you offers for jobs you don’t really want,” he says. “Message people that can help you with what you’re interested in. Describe what you’re good at, and what you want to do.”

• Save the pity party. “Sending out ‘poor me’ messages rarely work,” Guedj says. “Be positive and upbeat when telling people you’re looking for a job.”

• Consider freelance or temporary work. “This can help you pay the bills so that you can stay focused on your career goal.”

• Get support. “Have a peer group of people trying to do the same thing. Being around like-minded people is really helpful,” Guedj says.

Borek says she’s in the initial stages of looking for a new job, but knows it will be a challenge to stay optimistic as time passes. Still, she says she is staying focused on her goals of finding work that will make her happy.

“I don’t want to take whatever I can get,” Borek says. “I just hope I can stay enthusiastic about the potential out there.”

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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