If you've been laid off recently, you've probably already read a whole bunch of cookie-cutter "coping with a layoff" articles that drone on about things like updating your resume, working your network, cleaning up your online image, and so forth.

This is not that article.

If you need that sort of advice, it's widely available. And if you've just been laid off, and you want a job just like the one you had, it might even be exactly the advice you need. But I'm betting you've already read it a dozen times or more.  

Instead, this article is written by a guy who's been there -- I got laid off in 2002, in the wake of the dot-com bust. I know what it's like to go bounding out of bed the morning after your layoff, brew the coffee, shower, get dressed and primed to dash out the door… and then realize that you have nowhere to go and nothing to do, maybe for the first time in your adult life.

So welcome to the club. It's a big one, and it's growing fast. Just in the last couple of months, dozens -- probably hundreds -- of companies have announced significant cutbacks. Look at this list, just off the top of my head:

Company

Recent layoffs announced

Citigroup (NYSE:C)

52,000

Sony (NYSE:SNE)

16,000

Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW)

5,000

Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD)

1,400

Novellus Systems (NASDAQ:NVLS)

10% of workforce (about 350)

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS)

6% of workforce (about 450)

Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE:WYN)

4,000

And yes, it's scary. But believe it or not, being laid off can be a good thing, if you look at it the right way.

The changed landscape of your life
No joke, that first day can be really hard. The temptation to spend it flailing around with the resume and the networking is enormous, because if you've never been in this spot before, odds are you're feeling something not too far from panic.

Here's tip No. 1: You have time. Lots of time. Even if you get an interview tomorrow, and an offer next week, you've got a bunch of weekday hours to fill. And there's no need to panic. Nothing bad will happen to you in those days -- you won't lose the house or go hungry today, tomorrow, or next week, either. Even if you didn't get a severance package, unemployment insurance should keep you afloat for awhile. And even the most intense job hunt won't give you enough to do to fill those hours.

Of course, there's also a temptation to sit around all day with beer or ice cream (or both) getting to know Oprah and the attractive young folks on Days of Our Lives. Take a day or two to do that if you need it, but then get down to work. You've got an interesting task ahead -- if you choose.

Yes, get signed up for unemployment benefits, update your resume, call anyone who might be helpful, and spend some time looking for a job like the one you had. But as you do all that -- here's tip No. 2 -- think about what you'd like to do instead.

Yes, instead. Instead of another job like the one you just lost. What have you got to lose?

"Embrace change" and "dare to dream" -- only for real this time
Have you ever said something like, "If I could quit my job, I'd …" What was in the blank? Going back to school? Starting a business? Something else? What would have been calling you, if you could quit your job?

Think about it, right now. Because I don't know if you've noticed yet, but your job just quit you. If you weren't doing something you absolutely loved with your work days, now's the time to rethink this whole "job" thing.

In my case, the job I've wanted since I was a kid boils down to "write about interesting stuff all day." That's exactly what I do now ... but if I hadn't been laid off, I doubt I would have ever made the leap. I'd be a vice president of marketing communications or whatever in some big company instead, spending too many hours in too many boring meetings and doing very little of the things I really love to do.

Now's your chance. The excuse that "I can't quit my job" has been pulled out from under you. What do you dream of doing?

If you don't know what you really want to do with your life, or don't think it's "realistic" or "reasonable" or "workable," get a copy of Martha Beck's Finding Your Own North Star, easily the best guide I've ever seen to getting from a life of drudgery to a job you love.

If your dream days are filled with an avocation rather than a paying gig, get a copy of Timothy Ferris's The 4-Hour Workweek, which is an excellent information resource and brainstorming aid for those who want to make a living without having a traditional job.

Heck, head to your local big-box bookstore and get both of them anyway, right now -- especially if you're tempted to send me hate mail telling me that I'm being completely unrealistic and ridiculous, and how dare I suggest people do something frivolous when the global economy is collapsing?

After all, you're unemployed. What else have you got going on today?

To read more on avoiding and dealing with layoffs:

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Fool contributor John Rosevear is not embarrassed to admit that Martha Beck is one of his heroes. He holds no position in the companies mentioned. Dow Chemical is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Electronic Arts is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy suspects that the man Sheila knows as Tony is secretly Victor's evil twin Lazlo in disguise.