How to Make Unemployment an Opportunity

We tend to think that unemployment is a bad thing.

Losing a job seems to be the height of catastrophe.  And, in some cases, it really is a huge setback.  After all, your job provides you with the income you need to survive, and unemployment benefits can rarely supply the amount you are missing.

Without your job, it can be difficult to make mortgage payments, buy food, and meet other obligations.  However, unemployment doesn’t have to be all bad.

If you plan matters right, your time unemployed can actually be of benefit to you.

Here’s how to make unemployment an opportunity:

Build New Career Skills

If you didn’t like your last job, this might be your chance to try out a new career path.  While you do need to devote some of your time looking for a new job, or perhaps working a part-time job, you don’t have to focus on finding work similar to the work you hated doing before.

Instead, think about developing new career skills that can lead to a new job. Think about how your current skills could translate to a new career, and find out what different skills you need to succeed in a career that you find more fulfilling.

Then, use some of your time on unemployment to develop those skills.

Start a Business

unemployment opportunity

Unemployment sucks, but it can also be turned into an opportunity that could change your life.

Perhaps you have been on the fence about starting a business.  Unemployment might be just the thing to push you off the fence and get going. Your unemployment might actually be the catalyst you need to turn a side hustle into a fully-fledged home business, or find the time to really develop a business idea that you have had.

Rather than looking at unemployment as a serious problem, consider it an opportunity to get things off the ground with your home business.  Many people have, in the last few years, turned unemployment into an opportunity to begin working for themselves.

Re-evaluate Your Priorities

For some people, unemployment is a wake up call that helps them re-evaluate their priorities. You might have more time to spend at home with your family, getting in some solid quality time.

Additionally, you might also be forced to make tough spending decisions, cutting out the unimportant expenses.  Learning what’s important to you can be a very real side effect of being unemployed.

It might be just the time to step back, think about what’s important to you, and adjust your spending and your time use to reflect your priorities and values.

Bottom Line

There’s nothing easy about being unemployed.  However, there are opportunities around us.

While it takes work to be positive when faced with unemployment, it is possible.  Change your mindset so that you focus more on the opportunities that come with having a little more time.

You might be able to re-prioritize your life, start something new, or even develop the skills you need to get a job that you really want.

With a little creative planning, unemployment truly can be seen as an opportunity.

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Published or updated May 11, 2014.


  1. All good ideas! It is probably a great time to add training or skills to get a job. Many start service businesses like consulting.

  2. The last part reminds me of the George Clooney movie where he fires people for a living and says that people should look at it as an opportunity. It’s true, it can be an opportunity!

  3. …or go protest at Zucotti Park with the OWS movement. 🙂

  4. Great post and while I can’t say I’ve ever been in the place where unemployment has forced me to re-evaluate my life (thankfully!) I have heard from many friends and colleagues over the years that a job loss turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to them.

    Many of the people I’ve spoken with who have been in this situation said they never realized how complacent and unhappy they had become. The initial job loss forced their hand and made them take action, and they were all the better for it!

  5. You know what, I was laid off a few years ago and was unemployed for about 6 months. I used the un-employment money to start taking some classes and certification and I also did some day trading with it. I eventually landed a way better job that I’m very happy now.

  6. They are all great ideas I believe nobody will dare contradict. Moreover, it has been known that a lot of small businesses started when the owner lost his job. A friend found the time to update his knowledge in graphic design when he got laid off. Now, he is a freelance graphic designer who earns more than his previous income.

  7. Great article with some good advice. I’d like to add that another good thing to do is to volunteer a little bit of your time, especially if you find work with an organization that involves using skills you already have or want to learn. Actively using and learning these skills in a real world setting can help you stay fresh and on top of them. As an added bonus,you get to feel good about doing some volunteer work, which can in turn help you be in a better mood for your job search, interviews etc.

  8. Nice article Miranda. I was laid off for almost 6 months during the dotcom crash and it did cause me to reevaluate my priorities. Luckily, I had money put away and wasn’t under financial duress. It was a big change of pace to have so much time to think. Normally, I spent all of that time busily working. My main revelation was to become less dependent on my employer. Since then, I have been trying to diversify my income.

  9. I often think about what I would do if I were to lose my job. It’s not something that I’m worried about but you never know. I definitely think that this post highlights the “upside” to losing a job and I know that, for me, if it were to happen, I’d take the time to learn some new skills and try to reinvent myself (career-wise).

  10. While I am employed, I am not really like what I am doing since it has been over 25 years (in IT), so I am always looking to start business in my interest areas – organic farming, organic products etc. I agree, if laid off, I will probably have to work or start something different that I like.

  11. My job will be ending in 3 or four months, so I have been trying to combat my anxiety and feelings of despair. I graduated from college in 2005 and I have had several positions in research. Though, I was able to convince myself I enjoyed my work, I knew that I was underachieving. I accepted all my posts, and the unreasonable demands, because I was afraid of homelessness, further hurting my credit health and lack of job insurance. While these are important and valid concerns, there is a part of me looking forward to having this kick in the pants. Losing my job just might build my confidence.

    My PI for my current job said that I was using inertia to limit my prospects and not taking the leap I needed. She knew I wanted to go to graduate school, whether medical or something else, and wanted to see me take on that challenge. I was not ready to heed her advice, though; I wanted to keep putting food on the table for my me and my partner. Plus, I was scared of the next step. Now, it is finally sinking in: I need to be doing more. I will have the time to find out what that more is and I won’t be able to rest on the comforts certainty of employment. It may feel like my back is against the wall, but that may be necessary for now. I want to improve my life and circumstances, therefore I have to genuinely work (pun intended) for that goal.

    Please note: I apologize for my lengthy post! Thanks for reading.

  12. Kelly Anderson says:

    Hi There!

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  13. Great article because now that I’m 50 yrs old and unemployed I am every single day trying to reinvent’s been hard because I have only a high school diploma. I’ve been contemplating furthering my education but I don’t know where to start….

  14. Yea eventually when it starts becoming long term unemployment, you feel such despair that you are unable to do anything, like nearly unable to “develop new career skills” because you just get too hopeless about anything working out, because nothing has yet. Whoever said that when one’s whole life has crashed around us is a good time to work on new goals. It might be necessary but at the same time the capacity to do so goes way down due to deep demoralization.

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