How can people reinvent themselves after being laid off?

A person might start by asking friends for an assessment of his or her strengths, said organizational psychologist Daniel Russell of Aon Corporation, a consulting firm.

"What do people value about you that you never thought about?" he said.

Russell also warned against panic, and its paralyzing effects.

"When we're fearful, we get tunnel vision and tend to narrow our options," he said. "We lose our cognitive ability to scan the environment and evaluate options."

Experts also advise the newly unemployed to think about courses they took in college, especially liberal arts subjects they might have loved but dismissed because they didn't necessarily lead to professions.

Could a love of food, or theater, or writing - or the teaching of any of those - help a person think about a new direction?", asked Robert Chope, a San Francisco psychologist who focuses on work issues.

What about family influences?, he went on. Is there a business in the family you could work in, or coax in a new direction?

Often after a layoff, people with some capital think about starting their own businesses in areas they like, such as food, said Robert Rosania, senior career consultant with Jewish Employment and Vocational Services in Center City.

Adding a word of caution, he said that people sometimes don't consider that they might need to get business training to become an entrepreneur, and that they should consider further education.

Many people he sees also talk about becoming teachers, although, Rosania said, he's not sure how many actually follow through.

When a laid-off person, especially a professional, considers what's next, a job that helps the greater good might be rewarding, according to Marci Alboher, senior fellow at Civic Ventures, a nonprofit think tank on work and social purpose headquartered in San Francisco. It's funded by organizations such as the MetLife Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Once people get through their sulking period after losing a job, they might begin to ask themselves, 'What would I have pursued if I had not been on the track I originally followed?'"

The answer could be a job that helps others, Alboher suggested.

These are so-called "encore careers," she added, in areas that have openings and are also beneficial to society.

"In the current economy, when so many are feeling upended in their careers, it's a good time to take stock and think about values and the kind of legacy you want to leave," Alboher said.

Encore careers include jobs in the green economy, such as solar energy or other alternative energies.

There is also a rise in the need for home health-care workers as Baby Boomers age, Alboher said. This includes elder care as well as home repair for the elderly.

Nurses and physician assistants are also in demand, she added.

It's a time to be creative, Alboher believes. For example, people with banking backgrounds might consider government financial regulation, Alboher said, since the government is currently trying to figure out how to avoid economic collapses in the future.

Nonprofits need workers as well, she added, and teachers are valued at any time.

Of course, many of these encore careers require re-training and education, Alboher said. And, she added, "Right now, the number-one resource for re-education is the community college. It's an efficient and economical way of re-tooling."

Often, people who lose their jobs in the middle or toward the end of their careers jump to find something quickly to bring in income, Alboher said.

But, she added, it's worth thinking about re-training and education for a new field:

"When you think you might be living with a new career another 10 to 15 years, re-education makes more sense."

Contact staff writer Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or