A July 2009 article on Yahoo! Hot Jobs said that most out of work Americans have given up on the job search for now. Most job seekers have slowly re-focused their energy on other things, whether it's going back to school, volunteering, working a part-time job, or simply spending more time with friends and family.

I think these folks are on the right track.

Anyone who's been laid off or downsized can tell you that it's a very emotional time. Panic, sadness, fear of the future, and, yes, maybe even a sigh of relief are all common reactions to getting that pink slip. Once you get through those first few weeks of adjusting to your new schedule, you have to take stock of the situation and decide "Where do I go from here?"

Rather than dwelling on the negative and thinking of how many ways you could've handled your job differently, why not see your layoff in a slightly different light and a blessing in disguise? Perhaps you've always wanted to go to college. Maybe you've been looking for a career change for years. Or, maybe you're finally going to start your own business. This could be the chance you've been waiting for.

I'm not one to make hasty decisions, especially when it comes to something that could be life-changing. I wouldn't advise anyone to make a quick decision out of panic or fear. Once you get used to the idea of not working and having so much time on your hands, then it's time to sit down, think calmly, and carefully plot out your next steps.

First, you need to weigh your options. If you're planning to treat your layoff as your second chance to do what you'd always wanted to do with your life, now is the time to put a realistic plan into action. When you have a rough plan in mind and before you do anything else, talk to those who will be directly affected by your decision. You may have to work out a different child care schedule with your spouse and baby-sitter. You'll also be facing a new schedule for yourself. If you're going to start college, besides the time you'll be spending in class, you'll have to leave time for studying and homework and fit that in around your family's other activities. You should explain to your family (especially your children) what it is you'll be doing, why you're doing it, and most importantly, how it will affect everyone. Explain that even though things may be hectic, there will be better opportunities available for you, which will benefit the whole family. It'll take some time to get used to the new schedule. When I decided to go for my Master's degree a few years ago, I had to get used to writing papers, completing reading assignments, and just being in the classroom again. I had been out of college for five years, and it took some adjustment. But after a few weeks, it was like I'd never left campus.

If you decide to make the leap into self-employment, do plenty of homework before you fully commit. Once again, it's important to talk to your family about what you're hoping to do, how it will affect them, and the changes everyone can expect. Do some research. What kind of business are you planning to start? Do you have a business plan? Do you have a financial plan in place? Look at the market-will you be providing a service that's lacking in the area? How will you market your business? What will set you apart from your competitors? These are just some of the things you need to think about if you're planning to start your own business.

Even though it can be scary to get laid off from your job, it can also be an exciting time to reinvent yourself and start the next chapter of your life on your own terms. Are you up to the challenge?